Simplistic Armitage

I’m back. At least for a minute. And yeah, not to talk about how gorgeous Richard is, although boyfriend has been working it on this PR tour. Nope, I’m here to pick a bone with the guy.

I know you’re probably wondering what in the world I could have to be annoyed by. So let me tell you: it’s his simplistic division of those who will see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I’ve watched two interviews* with him so far where he divides viewers into those who are just along for the ride and those who only want to see the simple book brought to life just as it is from the page.

I get that this is probably a little thing, but as someone who has been a Tolkien fan for much longer than an Armitage fan, it doesn’t sit well with me. The guy has a movie to sell, that’s his whole role in the PR blitz. I get that. But were I not already his fan, it would not endear him to me. Because here’s the thing, it way too simplistic. It basically puts all the blame on the fans who love the books if they dislike parts of the movie, rather than putting any of that responsibility on the filmmakers for possibly having fucked up a beloved story. Oops. Did I just say fuck? Yes, yes I did.

This probably gets to me more, because I was and still am excited about some of the changes we were told early on were going to happen. Tying in parts of the Appendices to make the films more cohesive with LOTRs? Bring it on! Reintroduce Legolas, since the elvenking was his father? Awesome! Most Tolkien fans I know felt that way too.

But then we get reviews from people like  Quickbeam that indicate major changes to the plot. Some of Quickbeam’s spoilers sound like PJ and company decided they’d just substitute fanfic for Tolkien’s work in this expensive flick. Changes like he’s talking about are not something that only diehard purists are going to be upset by. Even those of us who are willing to see the story stretched and expanded upon aren’t going to be cool with such changes.

So yeah, Richard’s simplification of the types of people who will see the film and what their reactions will be is frustrating. And his seemingly dismissive attitude towards purists is to be honest, obnoxious.

Dude, I get you only have a few minutes with these interviewers, so you have to condense your thoughts. But give the book fans a little more respect. They aren’t all already your fans like I am.

*I didn’t save the links for these interview and couldn’t even begin to tell you which ones they are. If anyone knows feel free to drop me a line.

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27 thoughts on “Simplistic Armitage

  1. Christine

    Hooray for this!! I have to admit, I am getting a bit more worried with each review I read (even the glowing ones) and each deviation I hear about. I’m sooooo hoping that my fears will be washed away once I’m in the theater. So hoping. Because if PJ desecrates one of my most important personal mythologies, I will be beyond disgusted. Beyond. M.E. is pretty much sacred to me, and… well.

    On the other hand, just read this review and really really enjoyed it. Think you might as well:

    I love Emil’s work on the LotR Project, so to see his comments in the review above confirm my worries and forebodings… well. I’m still going to enjoy the movie. But I agree, I would rather have seen less razzmatazz and more “could we really just shoot the actual book “The Hobbit”, maybe?”


    • I’m off to read that review! I intentionally haven’t read the book again since not long after RA’s casting was announced. My hope is that since the book isn’t fresh in my mind, I won’t be quite so frustrated when I see the movie.

      Although I’m going to the marathon, so I might be so tired by the time DoS starts that I don’t have it in me to care about the changes. 😉

    • Oh yikes. I just finished reading that review. “It’s not Tolkien’s Middle Earth anymore.” That is probably my biggest fear in regards to these movies. Even RA and a few other actors I quite like won’t be able to compensate for that.

      • Christine

        Well… I think that phrase was chosen because it’s got a neat turn to it. In the same review he also praises the fact that Middle Earth in DoS actually is a fair representation, when you look at Mirkwood, the Elvenking’s halls, etc. I think it’s just the Hobbit’s storyline they messed with.

        And honestly, I go back and forth on that. :} When I wrote my comments, I was feeling quite peppery. But now I feel like, hey, it’s not the Silmarillion, it’s the Hobbit… I’ll have to wait and see how bad the deviations are. The Hobbit was never my favorite anyway.

        However, this DEFINITELY makes me VERY happy PJ isn’t making the Silmarillion. Beren Halfhand would become Beren Wholehand and Luthien Tinuviel would suddenly become a circus performer who can actually shoot lasers from her eyes and God only knows what else. Oh, yeah. The Silmarils would probably be some sort of giant uber-weapon gemstones borne by huge Elvish female warrior spiders who are actually a rock band in their spare time. “Wild Wild West” meets “Buckaroo Banzai” meets “Flashdance” meets “The Hobbit”.


        • I interpreted the comment about not being Tolkien’s Middle Earth anymore to be about the story. The one area PJ and company have never failed is the stunning visuals of M.E.

          The Hobbit isn’t my favorite Tolkien work either. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to more or less see the story Tolkien wrote, with additions that just make it a fuller story, than to go see a story that is fanfic on an epic scale. Which it sounds like we are probably going to get here.

          Totally agree with you about being relieved PJ isn’t doing The Silmarillion. I don’t think he can be trusted at this point.

          • Christine

            “Fanfic on an epic scale” – Right! Because it sounds like if they were to bring fanfic to the screen, there’s certainly better fanfic. I won’t even tell you my personal pet peeve because it’s a spoiler, but it’s just making the top of my head boil with rage because it’s a repeat flout of Tolkien cannon AND A HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE CLANKER from the LotR films. So to see it come back here? Not only unnecessary but also exceedingly self-indulgent, PJ.

            BADLY DONE. But again, I haven’t seen it. Perhaps report is a very liar and it doesn’t go down the way reported. I hope!! (but I doubt)

            • I’m hugging you, because I feel your pain. It sounds like some of the spoilers that are super frustrating to you are the same ones that had me rolling my eyes and saying, “please no!”

        • truthfully, The Silmarillion was really hard for me to read; it was like the Middle-Earth bible, all chopped into different stories that didn’t flow cohesively. so if it were to be filmed, by anyone, I would think that it would have to be changed quite a bit to appeal to a mass audience (not that I expect that everyone is like me 😉 but I have heard similar complaints from others about the book)
          if someone wanted to risk making an independent movie geared towards Tolkien fans, that would be wonderful, but then the special effects would suffer. it’s a balancing act 😦

          • Christine

            Most of the time when I’ve heard thoughts about the Silm. being made into a movie (which dead on about the ME bible), it’s about the tale of Beren and Luthien, or some other relatively self-contained story.

            Of course it would end up being 3 movies, and someone *else* inappropriate would freaking end up saying “Athelas? Kingsfoil? Aye, it’s a weed!” BECAUSE APPARENTLY WRITING *NEW* INCORRECT LINES FOR THE WRONG CHARACTER TO SAY IS PASSÉ and I would have to go on a mad rampage much like Godzilla and stamp out the movie offices of PJ.

            Criminey. I’m sorry. Truly. My rage came out. I’m sorry.

  2. maybe he’s trying to simplify it *because* of the expected dissent. Plus he’s trying to promote it as a family film, something you can take your kids to over the Holidays; don’t be scared away because of the controversy, etc. 🙂

    • Interesting idea. And to be honest a really unsatisfactory one. Not because I think you’re wrong, but because it would make his comments all the more frustrating to me. It’s basically, “Let’s alienate Tolkien’s fans to make sure we get other butts in the seats.”

      • by saying you are either new to the story thru the movie, or already a fan of the book is alienating? (I just had this type of conversation with my husband, the purist, last night 😉 )
        I’m looking at it from a marketing point of view, which is unfortunately what PJ (and by extension, the actors on this promo tour) has to do to sell a movie of this magnitude/expense. you try to target those who are not familiar with the story because odds are that those who are already fans of the book will come, either in support, or to see where he screwed up 😕

        • This is a great example of over simplification here. He pretty much divided those who will see the films into two camps as you point out. 1. Those who don’t know the books and will enjoy the movies for what they are. 2. Those who love the books and will have problems. But that’s not what I’m saying is alienating. The alienation comes in with the way he was kind of dismissive of the second group. He kind of shrugged it off, like an “oh well, it’s bound to happen.” So yeah, I find that alienating. Because again, it puts all the responsibility for why the film won’t be fully enjoyable on the fans and doesn’t share it with the filmmakers.

          I will say that I’m reading into his nonverbals here. And I’ve spoken with other Tolkien fans who felt the same way I did. But I could see where those who are RA fans first wouldn’t necessarily have picked up on the same things I did.

          I understand how PR works, and I did point out in the main post that I know RA isn’t really an actor right now. He’s basically in salesman mode. And unfortunately his salesman techniques don’t work for me in all instances. 🙂

          • I enjoy Tolkien but I’m not a purist. I’m not arguing *against* your frustration, just trying to understand it 🙂 I think I’ve watched most of the interviews that have become available but what he’s been saying did not seem as negative to me as it did to you.
            when a well-loved book is brought to screen, there will be those who are unhappy *shrugs* and when that book has such a devoted following, like the Tolkien works do, the unhappiness will most likely turn into controversy (like it has with EL’s character) I think maybe Richard just wanted to downplay that, or perhaps he doesn’t have anything productive to add to either end because he’s stuck in the middle? I have no clue.
            I hope it doesn’t bias your opinion of the film too much before you’re able to see it 😦 I’m trying not to read the film reviews until I can see & decide for myself; I’m stubborn 🙂

            • I didn’t think you were arguing against my frustration, but perhaps misreading what exactly said frustration was over. I think not being a purist, you are unlikely to see what I viewed as negative in the interviews. We’ll all pick up on different things that speak to us, whether positive or negative . And there have been a lot of really great interviews this go round. 🙂

              I’m looking forward to the movie and hope I enjoy it. I’ve tried to keep an open mind (which meant I had to stop watching Evangeline Lilly’s interviews, but that’s a different story). I do however fear that this film will be like The Two Towers for me. It took a couple of years before I could watch that movie and enjoy it as something separate from the book. The changes were just too drastic in that one.

  3. Servetus

    I’m glad you’re back 🙂 For a minute or however long you’re back.

    I respect the point of view of the Tolkien purist, but / and I’m probably not in the group of people who are heavily sympathetic to your point of view — so take this for what it’s worth. I read The Hobbit when I was 12 and thought, meh. I never would have made it through the LOTR books without having seen Jackson’s films first. I am not a big fan of Jackson the human being, but from my perspective, one thing he does absolutely have is artistic vision. It was Jackson — not Tolkien — who got me to read these books and recognize them for the true works of literature that they are. Some or many viewers of the films may not like Jackson’s vision and it may not be perfect but it is legitimate as a vision, an interpretation, a reading and it speaks to a lot of people.

    I’ve tried to talk several times with students of mine who are Tolkien purists about this, and with one exception, they are completely unsympathetic to my point of view. I think there must be some kind of emotional or spiritual allegiance to Tolkien that I just can’t bring myself to feel — and my failure to feel that means that I’m unsympathetic to those people. There is just *nothing* I can say to them. I’ve tried to have the conversation so many times about Jackson’s vision and never gotten a sympathetic hearing. Now if you multiply that problem by the number of times Jackson and/or Armitage have heard it, probably thousands more times than I am — I can understand fatigue setting in. I agree that perhaps what he said doesn’t sound sympathetic. Then again, I can imagine very easily why he might sound that way. And I don’t see how he can avoid the question — because so many interviewers ask it in various versions or others.

    This is why I’m waiting for the film to see the next piece of the vision, before I let others tell me that I should be bothered ahead of time. Incidentally, I experience a variation of this problem: is Tauriel, whom I see as a cynical addition to the script from start to finish — and absolutely not because I’m a Tolkien purist, but because everything I’ve read about the character and a lot of what I’ve seen of her (not everything; I just heard something about her parenting that impressed me) sets off my personal feminist radar. But maybe it will be okay. Like I said, I’m waiting.

    • Hey Serv!

      Based on conversations we’ve had in the past about Tolkien and his fans your stance is pretty much what I would have expected.

      I agree with you to a certain point. And I’m certainly not an absolute purist. I think small tweaks here and there as well as additions that fit the story are perfectly acceptable. But in a lot of ways I disagree with the idea that Peter Jackson’s vision and interpretation are legitimate. I think there is a distinct difference between interpretation and totally changing certain plot points. If that was being done in fanfiction I would be fine with it, but it’s not. It’s being done in blockbuster movies that are probably never going to be remade. I can only go off of reviews of this movie, but from the LOTRs trilogy, I know that PJ and the other screen writers have gone too far in the past.

      I’m sure it does get tiring for all of them hearing people dissect their work. So I can see your point about why Richard might not seem very sympathetic. Maybe it makes me hardhearted, but I am not very sympathetic to PJ, RA or anyone involved in the film in that regard. Peter Jackson and his fellow writers knew what they were in for after the LOTRs and the actors who signed on for these films should have gone into this knowing what was likely to come. I also think that in the case of RA, who has called himself a purist (although I think he and I differ in our definition) needs to keep something else in mind. He’s had time to come to terms with any changes to the story that he may not have cared for. Fans of the book are just now learning about these deviations.

      Don’t even get me started on Tauriel! 😉 I’ve never believed in the necessity of her character and now that info about her storyline has tricked out I’m even less likely to find her a necessary or even a worthwhile addition to the story. I was trying to keep an open mind, fairly unsuccessfully.

  4. jazzbaby1

    The swear jar takes Visa, thankfully. 😉

    In all honesty, I think he has stock answers for these questions though whether he writes them himself or they’re PR approved is anyone’s guess. The problem is that while those answer the question they’re not very specific.

    • *Hides the Visa* 😉

      I could see the stock answer thing, but that still doesn’t explain the nonverbals he was giving off. I’m definitely with you on the issue of the answers not being specific enough.

  5. Snickers' Mom

    Per Lee Pace “They’re experts on this subject – Phillipa [Boyens] and Fran [Walsh] and Pete. They have immersed themselves in this world so they’re able to crack open parts of the story that aren’t explicitly written on the page. Like at the end of the last movie that warg fight in this book is a page long and Peter turns it into this incredibly climactic rich thing full of character moments. He is a masterful showman and will squeeze every drop out of that stone.” From clickonline. Yes, he squeezes every drop and then pees on it for good measure.

    Seriously though, I’m not thrilled about this movie because I did just recently re-read the parts coming up. I’m really disappointed with how I think Beorn is going to play out, along with a laundry list of other complaints. I personally have doubted how much of a purist RA is, but who am to know what he knows/doesn’t know. Perhaps being an actor he finds the ability to change stories and create characters fascinating and would prefer that freedom professionally as well as on a personal level. I honestly don’t know. I just know I will have to see the movie to cement my complaints. Also, I’d rather be forewarned to the madness then to go in blind.

    • “Yes, he squeezes every drop and then pees on it for good measure.” Yes!!! Big hugs to you, my friend for that accurate and hysterical commentary! I’m also in total agreement with you about wanting to be forewarned about the madness. I’d rather not get super pissy in the movie theater while surrounded by strangers. 😉

  6. Servetus

    Musing, here: I guess I wonder what Armitage could say that would be good enough or acceptable. He’s not going to say, you’re right. PJ’s vision sucks. I’m sorry I spent three years of my life on this lousy perversion of a Tolkien novel. And I doubt he thinks that. As much as that would please some people. He’s also not going to say, wow, absolutely everything about it is super fantastic! People who disagree with PJ are cranks! That would alienate the fans who are still “along for the ride.” How are you and everyone else supposed to agree on what constitutes a “minor tweak”? That seems impossible. I may be on the relaxed side in terms of the definition of vision / interpretation, in that I also think there are very few boundaries to such terms, but I have to say, the first film anyway was recognizable to me as an adaptation of the book, which I’ve reread a few times now. It’s not like it was totally different or unrecognizable.

    It seems the best Armitage could say would be something like, PJ has a vision, some will like it, some will not. Which is kind of what he is saying. People kind of have to decide what they’re willing to put up with.

    The strictest of literalists is never going to be convinced by a project like this. When Armitage called himself a “purist,” my guess is that he meant, there are some changes I like / can accept, and others I don’t care for. But it would beyond unprofessional for him to list those in public or discuss them in detail with an interviewer, especially at this point. Like Jazz, I assume that what he is saying is PR approved. PJ is his boss. I also don’t discuss for the press the decisions of my boss that I don’t care for (although admittedly, no one ever calls to ask…)

    • Your opening question doesn’t really seem like the right one to me. It isn’t a matter of RA saying something good enough or acceptable. He can say whatever he wants (or is permitted to say). My dislike of what he said (really the nonverbal cues that accompanied what he said) doesn’t validate or invalidate his opinions. Do I wish he’d not come across, to me at least, as dismissing book fans and their frustrations? Sure. But that doesn’t mean I expect him to up and change his opinions and what he says to please me.

      I can’t think of anyone, myself included would suggest that RA throw PJ and the films under the bus. For starters as you say, it would be unprofessional. Plus, I seriously doubt he feels such a way that would warrant that. I think you hit the nail on the head about what the best Armitage could say is. I just think we disagree on what he was basically saying. Again, this is where those pesky, easily to misinterpret nonverbals come into play. Could I be misreading him? Absolutely. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t a big deal. RA certainly isn’t going to lose sleep because he said something that annoyed me. 😉

      As for the first movie of this trilogy. It’s not a good example of when PJ goes wrong for purists, at least those like me. With the exception of an Orc that was long dead in Tolkien’s stories being resurrected, it was pretty darn faithful to the book. From what I’ve read so far and even seen in some previews, the second movie doesn’t follow suit. That doesn’t really surprise me given some of the deviations that were taken in LOTRs.

      • Servetus

        Hmmm. I think I’ll bow out now. We obviously are not going to agree on what constitutes a legitimate adaptation of an original work. I don’t like the idea of Tauriel, so far, for instance, but to me that doesn’t make the adaptation or the vision that created it illegitimate. It’s just not mine. (A parallel — I just started reading The Red Tent. Wow, is that ever not the Book of Genesis. It’s also not something else entirely as it uses characters from the OT and adds some and fleshes out others in ways that have nothing to do either with Genesis or the many Jewish commentaries on it. It makes me feeling uncomfortable reading it, both as a former Christian and now as a Jew. But it’s not illegitimate. And I care a lot more about Genesis than I ever will about Tolkien, with all due respect to Tolkien and those who love his work 🙂 ) It feels to me, rereading this conversation, as if your problems stem from that problem, not from what Armitage said, didn’t say, or intimated or didn’t intimate with his body language.

        • I almost deleted this comment because I find the end offensive/condescending. But I don’t want to become one of those bloggers who can’t handle what people say/think about her. I will however say this, you would have done well to bow out prior to telling me where my problems stem from, even if you did couch it in “it feels” language.

          • Servetus

            I think I’m in the same place as I perceive Armitage to be: nothing I could say. Feel free to delete. I wasn’t condescending, but if you feel that way, you feel that way.

  7. Further conversation is probably futile, so let me just say this. Thank you for reminding me why I didn’t want to do this anymore.

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