On this site, I have often gone on record as both critic and a satirist of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien travesties. From letting the Catholic out of the Baggins to the dumbing down of the dialogue, Peter Jackson’s film treatments would not have received an enthusiastic reception had the creator of Middle Earth still been alive. They would have prompted, at the very least, an outraged letter from Tolkien, who would have demanded that Peter Jackson “show a little respect for the author.” (See “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien”, #210, Tolkien’s Comments on Morton Grady Zimmerman’s 1958 Film Treatment for “The Lord of the Rings”).
Even so, the film industry has wreaked literary havoc well beyond Tolkien’s Middle Earth Legendarium. From the Demi Moore adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter” to the Emma Thompson assault on “Brideshead Revisited”, the hall of shame goes ever on and on. In fact, one shudders to think of how much greater damage an even less scrupulous director might have wreaked. For this reason, I have created the following examples as a reminder, both to myself and to my fellow Tolkien purists. It could have been worse. It could have been a lot worse…
“THE DARK KNIGHT OF THE RINGS.”
A Film by Christopher Nolan.
Based on a Screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan.
With his sword ablaze, the Lord of the Nazgul rides into the Gate of Gondor, a gate which no enemy has yet passed. All flee before his face. All but one. Gandalf rides Shadowfax toward the Dark Lord’s minion, Glamdring bared.
GANDALF: You cannot enter here! Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!
All the blood drains from Gandalf’s face as a eerie, high pitched cackle escapes from the Nazgul Lord. He throws back his hood to reveal… Heath Ledger in Clown Make-Up.
THE JOKER: You’ve got nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your spells. That reminds me. Do you wanna know how I got these scars?
A Film by Francis Ford Coppola.
Based on a Screenplay by Mario Puzo.
Exterior. Fortress of Rohan. Morning. “The Godfather” Theme plays in the background.
Cut To. Interior; Grima Wormtongue’s bedroom. He awakens to find the sheets soaked with something red and sticky. Terrified, he frantically pulls the sheets up until he finds… A horse’s head. He tries to scream; but cannot. Then, at long last...
GRIMA: Ah! – Ah! – Ah! – Ah!
DISSOLVE TO: Gandalf’s face illuminated by the red light of his pipe. With dismay, he notices Aragorn and Legolas carrying a large and garish floral display with the words “Thank You” spelled out in flowers.
GANDALF: What is this nonsense?
ARAGORN: From Eomer son of Eomund. Grima Wormtongue just resigned his position and fled to Orthanc. What did you do, by the way?
GANDALF: I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“RING WARS EPISODE V: THE SHADOW STRIKES BACK.”
A Film by George Lucas.
Saruman: [Addressing Sauron’s image in the Palantir] What is thy bidding, my Master?
Sauron: There is a great disturbance in the North.
Saruman: I have felt it.
Sauron: We have a new enemy. The Ranger who dispersed the Nazgul. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Arathorn Arador’s son.
Saruman: How is that possible?
Sauron: Search your feelings, Saruman of the Many Colors. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.
Saruman: He’s just a boy. Gandalf can no longer help him.
Sauron: Iluvatar favors him. The son of Arathorn must not become the King.
Saruman: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
Sauron: [intrigued] Yes… He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Saruman: [Kneeling Down] He will join us or die, Master.
“DA GOODFELLA-SHIP O’ DA RINGS.”
A Film by Martin Scorsese.
Based on a Screenplay by Nick Pileggi.
The Fellowship are sitting around a table in ‘The Prancing Pony’ laughing hysterically at a story told by Gimli.
Aragorn: That’s funny! You’re really funny. You’re really funny!
Gimli: What do you mean I’m funny?
Aragorn: It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story. You’re a funny guy.
Gimli: (Bristling): What, do you mean the way I talk? What?
Everyone suddenly stops laughing.
Aragorn: It’s just… You know, you’re funny. It’s funny. The way you tell the story and everything
Gimli: Funny how? What’s funny about it?
Gandalf: Gimli, no. You got it all wrong.
Gimli: Yo, Gandalf. He’s a big boy, he knows what he said. (To Aragorn). Funny how?
Aragorn: Just… You know, you’re funny.
Gimli: Let me understand this, cause maybe its me, I’m a little hopped up maybe. Funny how? You mean funny like a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to amuse you. What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?
Aragorn: Just… You know, how you tell the story.
Gimli: No, no! I don’t know! You said it! You said I’m funny! How the heck am I funny?! What the heck is funny about me?! Tell me, tell me, what’s funny?!
Aragorn: Get the heck outta here, Gimli.
Gimli: You stutterin’ wimp, you! I almost had him! I almost had him! Gandalf, wasn’t he shakin’? I wonder about you sometimes, Strider. You may fold under questioning!
Freeze-Frame on a very nervous looking Aragorn.
Aragorn: (Voiceover): As far back as I can remember I’ve always dreamed of bein’ a Ranger.
Tony Bennet’s “Rags to Riches” plays over the opening credits.
“MONTY PYTHON AND THE RING OF POWER.”
A Film by Terry Gilliam.
Exterior. Fangorn Wood. Day. Foggy and Overcast. Spooky music plays. Merry and Pippin wander through heavy underbrush. Suddenly cut to EXTREME CLOSE-UP of Black-Brown Orc face.
MERRY: (Scared Stiff): Who are you?
ORC: We are the Orcs Who Say Ni!
PIPPIN: No! Not the Orcs Who Say Ni!
ORC: The same!
PIPPIN: (To Merry): Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale.
ORC: The Orcs Who Say Ni demand… a Sacrifice.
MERRY: Oh, Orcs of Ni, we are but simple travelers. We seek…
ORC: Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!
Merry and Pippin scream and writhe in agony.
ORC: We shall say Ni again to you if you do not appease us.
PIPPIN: Alright. What do you want?
ORC: We want… A shrubbery!
MERRY and PIPPIN: A what?!
ORC: (Pointing to a Nearby Shrubbery Plot): And when you have brought it back, place it right here next to this shrubbery, only a little higher so that we get this two-level effect with a little path in the middle. And then you must slay the mightiest Ent in the forest with.. A HERRING!
MERRY: We shall do no such thing. Let us pass!
ORC: (Visibly Heartbroken): Oh please!
PIPPIN: We shall do no such thing. Kill an Ent with a herring? It can’t be done!
Orcs scream and writhe in agony.
ORC: Don’t say that word.
PIPPIN: What word?
ORC: The one word the Orcs of Ni cannot hear.
MERRY and PIPPIN: (Catching on): It! It! It! It!
Orcs scream, writhe, and roll in the dust of the forest floor. “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” plays as Merry and Pippin calmly walk away.