The Chink in Peter Jackson’s Armor – Michael Martinez Clarifies His Objections to the Films

by Nov 21, 2000Lord of the Rings (Movies)

I first became aware of Michael Martinez’s objections to Lord of the Rings warriors wearing full plate armor through the webring, of which I am a subscriber.

Yesterday, while preparing an article about Michael’s latest Suite101 Tolkien essay, I came across two more articles he wrote explaining his reaction to the Evening Post photograph.

However, I did not decide to share his opinions with our readers until I found myself answering several questions about Michael posted on our Messageboard. Given Michael’s work as a Tolkien scholar and his two years of supporting Peter Jackson’s films, I felt that a report on his reversal on the films would be a newsworthy addition to our site, which is intended to be a forum for many voices and many opinions about all things Tolkien.

While I anticipated that few fans would share Michael’s reaction to the plate armor, I was nevertheless surprised by the overwhelming negative reaction to the article.

Although Michael has since written that he has nothing more to say about the issue and just wants to let it die, I learned that he was tired when he first wrote his objections. He failed to make it clear that his concerns had to do with Peter Jackson now saying that he was being more faithful to Tolkien — the plate armor just happened to be the latest evidence that the films continue to depart from the books. Since the films are no longer touted as being just an interpretation, Michael feels that attacks for such unfaithfulness are now justified.

Therefore, I asked Michael to write a clarification, and he graciously agreed to give Tolkien Online his final public word on the matter.

People don’t understand what upset me because I didn’t explain myself well. I will say this, as I made the point to someone who emailed me yesterday asking why I was so bugged about the plate armor. As soon as Peter Jackson made the claim of increasing faithfulness to the book, he invited all the comment and criticism which I have until now felt was unjustified. I was never told the movie was trying to be faithful to the book. I was told it was just an interpretation, someone else’s retelling. That is how I have presented the movies: on my Web sites, on mailing lists, in news groups, to the media who have interviewed me, and at Dragoncon.

I am certain that Peter’s comments (such as “there will be a time for controversy later” and “this is just an interpretation” and “these movies are not authorized by the Tolkien Estate”) were intended for people he felt were going to come out of the woodwork. I may or may not be one of those people in his mind, but I have certainly made myself one of those people in action. I believe Peter had no one specific in mind when he said these things. I believe he was just bracing for the storm ahead.

As long as he was NOT claiming to be faithful to the book, and went to pains to explain that he wasn’t, I felt his departures from Tolkien were defensible (even the ones I disagreed with) or at least forgiveable. But if he’s going to stand before the world and say he’s being more faithful to the book NOW (with his plate-armored soldiers in Minas Tirith) than he was a year ago (with his Frodo-on-the-wagon scene) then I’m not going to support him any more. I’ve been ridiculed and attacked for supporting him across the Internet. If people want to ridicule and attack me for changing my mind, or not making my issue clear, that is their prerogative. But at least let people stop ragging on me for supporting the movies.

If Peter wants to come to Dragoncon next September and talk about his movies he’s more than welcome. I won’t say anything bad about him, I’ll give him prime scheduling consideration, and he’ll more than likely be showcased in the main programming track as well. But if he doesn’t want to stand before 20,000 fans and bask in the glow of appreciation (and most of them, I think, would be supportive of his project) or won’t have the time next year, well, that’s fine, too. No hard feelings on this end.

Life goes on. I have other fish to fry. I’m sure Peter does, too.


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