The great debate among speculators with respect to the Lord of the Rings movies is whether the books or the movies are better. Before I dive into that, I want to state categorically how much respect I have for J. R. R. Tolkien. As a writer, I recognize his contributions to the literary world as revolutionary. To this day Tolkien remains the exemplar for in-depth world building and immersive settings. Having spent a decade working with a colleague to build a complex setting for books, I am among a very small group of people who have first-hand experience following Tolkien’s example. Therefore, I fully appreciate his amazing work with histories, languages, maps, and back-stories. I also happily credit Tolkien as being the pivotal writer in defining the entire fantasy genre. His work has possibly inspired the setting and characters of more genre fiction and games than any other writer in history.
Despite my high esteem for Tolkien, I think the movies are better than the books.
Before you prepare a lynch mob, hear me out. The sheer volume of work and money invested in a movie exceeds that of a book (even one so laboriously produced by Tolkien) by orders of magnitude. Millions of hours by thousands of people go into the movies. They are the highest investment art in the world. It is fitting that Tolkien’s pivotal works should become the most awarded movies in history. However, the genius of Tolkien’s work isn’t really in the writing. The pace of books has increased dramatically in order to compete with so many other media forms today. Tolkien wrote for people with no such competition. If Tolkien tried to submit those books to a publisher today, they would reject him. I’m sure if he wrote today, he would produce brilliant work by today’s standards. Nevertheless, the movies benefit from almost a century of technological advancements, an amazing budget, and some of the best artistic talent in history. Peter Jackson’s work has pushed all movies to a higher standard, redefining what it means to be epic.
Luckily, we don’t have to choose between Tolkien and Jackson. They make the best team of genius artists I can think of.
…Join the debate at The Speculators’ Club.