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Star Wars vs. LotR - I am the fountain of affection
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September 2016
Mon, Mar. 25th, 2002 01:45 pm
Star Wars vs. LotR

I'm definitely late to the party, but in my post-Oscar explorations I came across Salon's version of the inevitable comparison:

"Lord of the Rings" vs. "Star Wars": Peter Jackson's glorified video game doesn't hold up to the grandly human epic that defined a generation.

I dunno. Maybe I'm too close to the books to tell. I didn't think
Gandalf or Aragorn were inconsistent--I thought they were multifaceted.

On page 2 of the article:

That image is hardly the only thing getting in the way of the story. "LOTR" is an epic; it's as macrocosmic as "Star Wars" (a fairy tale intimately involved with its good guys) is microcosmic. And the existence of a well-read, well-loved book handicaps "LOTR." The book is a vehicle that allows shortcuts: Although Jackson compacts "The Hobbit" admirably in a few fact-bulging minutes for those who haven't read it, the missing background nevertheless leaves fundamental loopholes. For example, who are these wizards and why do they care? Where does Frodo go when he puts the ring on? How is it that Cate Blanchett can read everyone's mind? And what makes an orc inherently bad, aside from the fact that it's ugly?

This is a very odd paragraph. What sort of question is "where does Frodo go...?" And as for the rest, well, they're questions the book doesn't address either, so I don't see how the movie can be said to be making shortcuts in leaving out their answers. The audience encounters these things as the hobbits do--as facts of life in Middle-Earth. If some of the questions are addressed in other of Tolkien's writings, well, that's neither here nor there as far as LotR is concerned.

Beyond that, I think the chief problem comes in comparing LotR with an epic trilogy, for LotR is not one, however convenient it may be to publish it in that format. One cannot expect character transformations for the whole party now, a mere third of the way through the story!

I will agree that Star Wars is contemporary, more like our world. But this doesn't necessarily put it ahead of LotR. There *is* an antique feel to Middle-Earth, but I for one find it welcoming rather than alienating... it sets Fellowship in the mythic past, where we can all claim kinship if we like. (Not that it doesn't have specific forbears--Tolkien's then-unmatched knowledge of Anglo-Saxon myth and language played no small part in shaping his created world, and all the created languages have roots in languages he studied as a philologist.) If the author of that article finds Fellowship videogame-like (I presume in a Final Fantasy, episodic quest way), then what shall we say of the cockpit-shooter, asteroid-dodger action of Star Wars? But this does justice to neither--the richness of each is in the character interactions and the personal transformations that have the potential to revolutionize the world.

Which again means "wait and see" for the whole of LotR before making judgements of this sort. I can't wait!

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
Current Music: elvish choirs in my head


Some Dude
Mon, Mar. 25th, 2002 03:07 pm (UTC)

I prefer to think of it not so much as an 'antique feel' as much as a more hand-crafted aesthetic. Sw had some of this, to some extent, with the highest of the high technology gadgets being artifacts invested with the talents and experiences of the creator, simply because the manufacturing processes involved, for reasons not sufficiently explained, seem to be something of an arcane cottage industry. Light sabres and droids being prime examples. LotR is the same way, talking of arcane sorts of things that are not so far out of our collective experience as to be unrecognizeable, but that are either no longer practiced at all, or are so amazingly industrialized in production and practice as to be nearly unrecognizable and certainly not at all something befitting a romantic figure.
I guess a good example of that sort of thing is shaving one's face, as a man. These days, you can use a brand spanking new Gillette Mach 3 razor, with all the charm and character of a cellophane wrapper, but once upon a time, a shave was a big deal, with a certain set of implements that were meant for it, and that have no real meaning or use without it. Lather mugs, the straightrazor, the strop. A considerable amount of craftsmanship went into these things, and it was easy to tell this was the case.
LotR FEELS that way. I guess that's what you mean by antique feel. I LOVE that feeling.