Jeffrey Welles Discusses “Cornball Myth” of Lord of the Rings Films –

by Aug 2, 2001Lord of the Rings (Movies)

Once again, Jeffrey Welles risks the wrath of insulted Tolkien fans as he gives his insights on the Lord of the Rings films. Here are excerpts from his latest column.

“In Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, Blanchett plays Galadriel, the elf queen and “Lady of the Golden Wood.” This sounds like a punch-card thing to me. I’m sure Blanchett will distinguish herself and emote with great feeling, but she’s still part of a large ensemble cast in a film that appears to be mainly about cornball myth, medieval costumes, and special effects.”

However, a reader replies…

Son of Rings Rage

You’re probably getting a whole container-ship full of e-mails complaining about your Lord of the Rings comment, but I can’t sit still while you call The Fellowship of the Ring a film ‘that appears to be mainly about cornball myth, medieval costumes, and special effects.’
“Come on, Jeffrey, you’re smarter than this. You understand the eternal power of myth as well as anyone. Why does the first Star Wars film still resonate so strongly with audiences worldwide? Is it just a film about cornball myth, alien makeup, and special effects? Don’t tell me you didn’t feel a thrill the first time you saw that film — and all the makeup and special effects in the world won’t stir a person like a good solid dose of mythology.

“Here’s an idea — read The Lord of the Rings and see for yourself what us millions of Tolkien fans find so compelling about the man’s work. It wasn’t recently declared the greatest book of the 20th century because of its ‘cornball’ nature.” — James Cameron

Wells to Cameron: I got a huge thrill from the first Star Wars film, and an even bigger one from The Empire Strikes Back. And I was touched by John Boorman’s Excalibur. But I can’t shake the feeling that the whole quasi-mystical, Joseph Campbell-esque, wide-eyed young man embarking on a wondrous adventure thing has been digested by the culture so thoroughly, that it’s going to be very difficult for the Rings trilogy to impart a sense of freshness or discovery, or for some of us to watch it without snorting.

I’m not talking about director Peter Jackson’s ability to convey the richness of Tolkien’s saga, but the Rings trailers that have been showing over the past several weeks. They suggest the film has been very handsomely produced and is well-acted. I expect it’ll be a first-class ride all the way … but the medieval robes and magical-occurrences thing in a spiritual milieu has been done. It really has. I realize that Tolkien’s trilogy is the father of all this, but the likelihood is that the movie version is probably going to be processed as the caboose on a very long train.

I was going to leave this alone and just wait for the film until yesterday (Tuesday). This is when my 13-year-old son Jett said he had no interest in seeing Lord of the Rings because it looks “corny.” That threw me. I tried steering him away from this attitude, suggesting at the least that Peter Jackson’s film might reinvent or reinvigorate what seems like a familiar concoction, but he was adamant.

I believe Jett’s lack of pretentiousness and worldliness allows him to sometimes just cut through to the blunt truth of a situation, whereas those of us with a more seasoned, reasoned understanding of things can sometimes get caught up in the whys and wherefores. I don’t want to sound too knee-jerk about this, but I believe he knows — senses — the color and shape of the forest more clearly than I do sometimes. I’m not referring to the Rings movies or Tolkien’s writings, but to the color and shape of the audience awaiting (or not awaiting) this New Line release.

And sometimes Jett inspires me to look at certain core feelings and/or attitudes I’ve been keeping under wraps, or have been too chicken to express. Since nearly having my head torn off by Rings fans a few months ago over an issue I’d rather not raise again, I’ve been afraid to express my reactions to the Rings trailer(s) for fear of igniting another melodrama. For what it’s worth, to say that the trailer makes the first Rings installment “appear” to be “mainly” about cornball myth, etc., is obviously a qualified statement. It’s an honest gut reaction, in any event. I just wish I could say I had the cojones to say it without prodding from my son.

Will the movie itself be much more daring and complex than the trailer suggests? Quite possibly. A trailer will often make a film seem dumber and simpler than it actually is. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Thanks to Joram of for the tip!


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