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Thread: LOTR was unfilmable?

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Even the author said it was unfilmable as they have tried over the years, in 1969 the Beatles wanted to be the hobbits when United Artist got the rights and Kubrick was to direct but he stated it was unfilmable. Then Bakshi made an attempt in 1978 which only covered the first 2 books but didn't finish as Rankin-Bass made a prequel the year before based on Hobbit which was a good adaptation then came the final of the loose animated trilogy Return of the King in 1980. But i'm glad in 1996 New Line got the rights for a LOTR movie trilogy and Peter Jackson did the right task of filming an unfilmable book series into masterpieces.
Peter Jackson proved that Lord of the Rings was unfilmable. Joking of course- but I think others here will take this view! Well, being a huge Beatles fan, Beatles performing LOTR (my other love) would have been absolutely perfect! :lol:
I suppose it depends what is meant by unfilmable. Or at least which aspects. In Tolkiens day the sheer visual side could not have been easily portrayed, they could have done the landscape but not so easily the Balrogs, Minas Tirith and the like. PJ proved that with todays technology if an author can imagine it chances are it can be put on the screen, so there is no restriction there anymore. However PJ also proved perhaps that the story cannot be filmed so easily. Its hard to tell from the films as the Coven didn't really try very hard to write a script of the book so much as their own altered version, but from listening to the BBC radio plays I would say that it possible, but difficult, to get close to the text of the book in a dramatic format. Just not in PJ's case. My dream would be for someone to animate the radio plays as a 13 part tv series- now that would be the best of both worlds.
PJ certainly did prove some things, as Petty points out, but I'm not sure an adaptation that didn't make some of the same structural changes that PJ did would fare (I've not listened to the radio play so I can't comment on that). I can't see a three-film adaptation working if they kept the Book III/IV split of [i:ys9xsm74]The Two Towers[/i:ys9xsm74], for instance, as opposed to the intercutting that PJ had. There are other structural changes too, including bringing a lot of elements out of flashback and into the main narrative, that would probably not work on screen as well as they did in the book.
I comletely agree Eldo. The radio plays intercut the two books as well, its reasonable concession to the form of film. And Aragorn would be a hard sell to a studio as he is in the books, where he can seem arrogant and can be a bit master race (which he sort of is afterall but its not very fashionable and hard to sell). He's not very easy for a modern audience to sympathise with if you just lift his dialogue from the page and give it to an actor. You have to bring in the Arwen side to his life to soften him for film and to create a romantic lead. I don't agree with PJ's handling of this problem but I do agree of all the changes made to characters, Aragorns is one that is almost unavoidably necessary. He works on the page, but not as well on film.

LOTR is unfilmable.

Although I think that PJ made the best adaptation that could be made and I even can understand why Tom Bombadil was omitted. as The journey from Hobbiton to the Prancing Pony would have been a movie in itself. I have always maintained that LOTR book and films cannot be compared they are both masterpieces of their media types.

I have always maintained that LOTR book and films cannot be compared they are both masterpieces of their media types. 



I don't think the films are anywhere near masterpieces, but that aside, I think both works can be compared as far as faithfulness goes.

A literal version of TLOTR's would be a total disaster, it would be around 30 hours long, cost around a billion $'s and would be universally hated by critics and basically destroy Tolkiens wonderful name as a writer.  Its unfortunate but true.  I of course as well as most book fans would love it.  Its not unfilmable because of effects etc, its unfilmable because of the structure of the actual story.  Simply to write a script as its laid out in the book would be impossible.  Tolkien skips over very important material which we know about because of the various other works and appendices. 

Brego, I doubt even the most ardent 'purist' has ever asked for, and ever expected such a slavish approach to making an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. 

 I rather think Tolkien fans want a good film that is faithful to the source material.

Not at all Galin.  I am simply stating that the book is unfilmable, which is what this post is all about.  Im highlighting that however 1 person or a group visualizes a written story is going to displease fans of the original work.

I for one would love to see a book fan made film of the book word for word, however Im stating that it would be filmatic suicide to do so...

Well then I'm not sure what the point is of stating that the book filmed in such a very strict fashion wouldn't work.


No filmmaker simply uses a long book (like the one under discussion) as a script, word for word, and makes a thirty hour, slavish marathon. Who will disagree that that wouldn't work in theaters?

Yes some filmakers have tried and failed because it very very rarely works and when it does its usually only people who are already going to love the work because it is word for word from the fount of the origin, they are called fans. 

Really? What long book has been made into a word for word marathon film?

But it's this sort of (to my mind) exaggeration that I am wary about as an implied strawman -- in other words, I'm wary about the implication (even if unintended) that those who don't like Jackson's films don't like them because they are being way too unrealistic about the process of adaptation.

Galin, I bow to you and give up Im afraid, you are preaching to the converted!

I could list some "Long Books"  which have been made in to film but alas Im sure you would reply again...


I could list some "Long Books"  which have been made in to film ...


I didn't ask for long books that were made into films in any case -- but examples of word for word, very long film adaptations.

back in tolkiens time they could not have imagined what special effects wouold have been capable of. im glad they did make it into a movie. LOTR is what got me into sci-fi. I would like to see peter jackson do "the children of hurin" next. He might be too tired however. i thought i heard him say he was not going to touch the hobbit originally.... but then he changed his mind.....  maybe we can get togather and start convincing him that there is a huge fan base out here that would like him to keep going with Tolkien stuff. The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and more. I don't want the films to ever stop. "make haste!"

Well, I know some don't like to hear this, but no one currently has the right to film any Silmarillion or Children of Hurin, as copyright belongs to the Tolkien Estate.

These works were compiled and published by Christopher Tolkien of course, well after Tolkien sold the film rights to other works. 

How much did they sell the rights for?

I don't know how much money was involved, but a deal was struck with United Artists in 1969 for the rights to The Lord of the Rings, who also secured the rights to The Hobbit. In 1976 Saul Zaentz Company acquired the film rights to both, in a deal also involving Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

There must have been something in the contract allowing for the future, as the Tolkien Trust and publisher HarperCollins brought a lawsuit against New Line Cinema, and won (noting they were not alone with respect to suing New Line for money claimed to be owed).

As for the contract, Rayner Unwin wrote in his memoirs (with respect to the original deal made when JRRT was alive): 'A negotiation of nearly two years’ duration that was eventually consummated in a fifty-page contract, the complexities and uncertainties of which have dogged the publishers and the author’s estate ever since.'

And if interested about some film prospects that came about when JRRT was alive, see the thread linked below. 

Thank you Galin. DId you like the movies?

Was it unfilmable? This is a very good question. I agree with those who said that it all depends on how you understand the "unfilmable" thing. Probably some years ago it would be really, technically & economically unfilmable, but CGI made it possible to film it. The thing is... I believe the story still is unfilmable in a way - there always will be something that the filmmakers won't be able to show - in the case with P. Jackson's movies is that there's a couple of events and characters that we didn't see there at all. And we should because they are a part of the book - with smaller or bigger impact on the story, everyone knows what I'm talking about. With movies there is a limitation when it comes to time (even if the Trilogy was split up into 3 separate parts) because most of the regular viewers won't remember the plot if you're going to split the story up and broadcast with some year long breaks. Peter Jackson tried it - and yes, he achieved it, but still didn't film the whole story.

Oh, by the way - I'm new here, so hello everyone! Wink Smilie

Hello and welcome Indis! 

Hello Brego! Smile Smilie

I forgot to say that English isn't my first language, so I should warn you before I'll make some silly mistakes.