Category Archives: Lord of the Rings

A few changes in the works, and a thought on literary time-bombs

I am in the process of changing a few things about my blog, mainly in terms of appearance, starting with the title. “Doug Daniel’s Writing Blog” is what I slapped on this thing two years ago, for lack of anything more creative, when I wasn’t sure what blogging involved or what I wanted to do with it. Well, now I’ve got a much better idea what I’m doing, and the old title is pretty, well, blah. “On Writing, and other forms of suffering” seems a much more appropriate title, although I may try some others on for size. I may work on the themes and other items as well. But it will still be me, worrying and whining about something.

Meanwhile, some of you may recall that in my last post I implied that I might occasionally doodle away at my epic fantasy while focusing on Princess of Fire. Well, Sunday I doodled, and doodled, and doodled, to the tune of more than 2000 words. I finally had to force myself to stop. I really enjoy writing the main character. Mankin is morose, suffering, meaner than a tax auditor on April 16th (when he’s riled), but also smart, compassionate, funny, and humble. And he is a deadly, deadly swordsman. Anyone who is part of the Three Musketeers/Captain Blood demographic would get this character.

But doodling this much on the epic reminded me quite pointedly of one of the main problems with the story line I created for him– there isn’t much there. Mankin has always been something of a character in search of a plot. In his earliest incarnations, he really did little more than wander around and have adventures, like Conan the Barbarian with musical talent (oh, did I mention that?). Even now, after years of noodling about him, I realize that he would be under-motivated for the story I have created. Most especially, there is no sense of a ticking time-bomb– the urgent danger that necessitates him, and others, risking life and limb, and even more, to stop the bomb from going off.

In most dramatic literature, you need that time-bomb, ticking away in the background. In Lord of the Rings the time-bomb is will Frodo and Sam make it to Mount Doom (without getting caught) before Sauron conquers everything and/or Gollum stabs them in the back? Even realistic fiction has versions of this– in Hamlet the time-bomb is will Hamlet freaking make up his mind before his uncle knocks him off first? In most drama, you need some impetus against which the protagonist has to struggle to his utmost. There’s a reason why stories involving literal ticking bombs are usually so dramatic.

So my little diversion with this story did have one benefit– when I do return to it in a serious way, I will need to thoroughly rethink the story, so that Mankin is given something real and important to strive against, as well something good to achieve. In the meantime, bud, sorry, but it’s back in the drawer with you. I have to go help Kathy out. Who, by the way, does have a serious time-bomb on her hands. Simply mountainous….

My disappointment with Peter Jackson

I am back to making progress on Princess of Fire, although I discovered that trying to write in any serious way on Christmas Day is problematic at best. I hope to begin really cranking on Fire tomorrow.

Sometime back I suggested that I would not be going to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, assuming that it would be the same sort of bloated disappointment as the first installment (An Unexpected Journey).

But some friends of mine saw Desolation and liked it a great deal, and reviews have been generally more favorable than An Unexpected Journey, it’s a Christmas tradition in our family to see a movie Christmas day (last year it was Les Miserables), and so I broke down and went to see it today.

Why, Mr. Jackson? Why?


I mean it. Spoilers. Really.

Desolation is not as miserably expository as An Unexpected Journey, much of the movie works as an action piece, the world creation is good, the movie’s pace overall is a good deal better, and there are genuinely funny moments. Evangeline Lilly does a good job as the elf woman Tauriel– but as a non-canonical character, she is completely unnecessary, as is her budding (and doubtless doomed) relationship with Kili, one of Thorin Oakenshield’s dwarven followers. This is where I basically choked on Jackson’s adaptation– he has introduced too many unneeded elements, both canonical and non-canonical, apparently in the interest of making The Hobbit into a solid prequel for The Lord of the Rings (which the book never was), and to pad the material so as to fill out three long movies. The pace is better, but by the last thirty minutes I was once again wondering how much longer this thing was going to go on. It didn’t help that at about that point in the movie the action began to, once again, look like a Disney theme-park ride. The outlandish physics of the final action sequence finally made my suspension of disbelief go spung. And while Smaug is huge, powerful, and terrifying, he’s absolute crap at killing anybody, as he spends long minutes chasing Bilbo and the dwarves around the inside of the Lonely Mountain without nailing a single one of them. The whole sequence is just a contrived mechanism to get Smaug out the door and off to fry Laketown– which is where the movie ends. When I saw the movie there were audible groans in the audience when people realized they’d have to wait a year for the next segment.

Sigh. I’ve seen suggestions that the studios made Jackson pad the material, so they could improve their profit margin. If so, the studio suits need to be exiled to the Moon. Or maybe Neptune. Whoever’s at fault, they have basically ruined this adaptation. The original book is about 95,000 words, a quarter of the length of The Lord of the Rings. Bloating the Hobbit movies out to the same length as the LOTR films destroys the spirit and sense of the book, and takes the story places I don’t believe Tolkien would have approved. Frankly, you could take out the non-canonical elements inserted into this film and make a whole extra movie out of them, and both movies would be better than what we got.

Doing an adaptation of a book into a movie is never easy. It is an act of translation from one form to another, and a lot can go awry. But it really seems as if Jackson, his screenwriters, and/or the studio bosses have completely disregarded the spirit of The Hobbit to create something with the same name, but lacking its charm, its language and its clean, tight structure, in pursuit of a bogus epic. All-in-all, another severe disappointment.

And, once again, no one consulted me. Somebody needs to give me a call. Seriously.