Peter Jackson in Perspective
The Power Behind Cinema's The Lord of the Rings
A Book by Greg Wright

This page was created on September 9, 2004
This page was last updated on October 29, 2006

Endorsements
Reviews
The Author
Excerpt
Ordering Info
Hollywood Jesus LOTR Coverage


THE BOOK

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Hollywood Jesus Books has released a new book by Hollywood Jesus Senior Editor Greg Wright titled, Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema's The Lord of the Rings. This volume brings under one cover the dozens of essays and lectures that first began appearing at Hollywood Jesus in December of 2001. Since then, Greg Wright has analyzed and anticipated the cinematic choices of director Peter Jackson with almost prophetic critical insight. He rightly attributes the success of Jackson's trilogy to the power of film itself, the power of Jackson's artistry and the original power of J. R. R. Tolkien's literary masterwork. In so doing, Wright provides an educational, entertaining and respectful look at the process of bringing a much-loved novel to the screen.

Wright's first book, Tolkien in Perspective (VMI, 2003), provided an in-depth critical analysis of the spiritual and literary intent behind The Lord of the Rings. It also offered a critique of the Christian response to Tolkien's novel. In the midst of the "confusion of voices" offering conflicting approaches to Middle-earth, Wright stepped forward as a "moderating and non-reactionary guide."

In assembling a comprehensive and engaging discussion of Peter Jackson's award-winning adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, Wright now moves to the front of the pack. Nowhere else in print is there to be found such an extensive examination of the spiritual and artistic implications of the 21st Century's first cinematic masterwork.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien set the standard for literary fantasy, Jackson has now set the standard for movies. Greg Wright explains how, and why.

Like a sculptor of words and ideas, Jackson has pared away pieces of Tolkien's fanstastic epic to reveal both the essence of Tolkien and something entirely new, something uniquely his own. The essays in this volume are an invaluable guide to understanding both Jackson and Tolkien.

ENDORSEMENTS

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy has created a renaissance in epic filmmaking. Through a series of thought-provoking essays, Greg Wright captures the filmmaker's own journey to Mordor and back in Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema's The Lord of the Rings. This book is a must-read for Peter Jackson fans and film enthusiasts.

Michael Regina (AKA 'Xoanon'),
Editor in Chief, TheOneRing.net

This book of essays is your lembas bread for the cinematic journey that is The Lord of the Rings. True to form, even a nibble of Wright's delicious writing will satisfy.

Amazing stuff.

—Cliff Vaughn, Culture Editor,
Ethics Daily

The "power" of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is the power of story. Greg Wright demonstrates that the greatest stories gain much of their strength from how they resonate in our lives, depicting our virtues and foibles at the religious, spiritual or moral levels. Wright brings to his critique a vast knowledge of Tolkien extending far beyond the adapted work, yet he is also sensitive to the demands of film craft-and from this perspective probes the decisions Jackson made in bringing the novel to his medium. The critic rightly points out that the greatest departures from the novel's Christian spirit occur at junctures such as Aragorn's "no mercy" cry at Helm's Deep rather than through the more obvious changes to Tolkien's story.

As the majority of these essays were originally posted on the highly popular HollywoodJesus.com website, Peter Jackson in Perspective is also a fascinating record of the dynamics of web criticism.

—Christopher Garbowski, Author,
Maria Curie-Sklodowska University

Greg Wright understands Tolkien, and he understands the power and nature of film. He writes with unmatched insight about the ways that Peter Jackson's movie trilogy alternately amplifies, mutes, and reworks Tolkien's literary tale. Wright approaches each medium with both the reverence of an enthusiast and the critical eye of an investigator. What emerges is a collection of essays that cuts to the heart of Jackson's grand interpretation. Peter Jackson in Perspective is an important contribution to the cultural conversation about Tolkien and film, and nobody with an interest in The Lord of the Rings or the intersection of faith, storytelling, and cinema should miss it.

Best commentary on the films I have read, hands-down.

—Andy Rau, Managing Editor,
Internet for Christians

A thorough and insightful piece of work that should enrich anyone's enjoyment and understanding of both the films and the books.

—Jeffrey Overstreet, Film Forum Columnist,
Christianity Today

Terrific and insightful!

—Steve Beard, Editor,
Good News Magazine

REVIEWS AND ARTICLES
Click on the links below to read the complete articles. Also see amazon.com for other reader reviews.

Wright, who holds degrees in theology, English literature and computer science, makes a terrific guide for these films. Many people can enjoy the films; not all can write about them with Wright's expertise, clarity and insight. His fascination with Tolkien goes back to the 1970s, so he brings several decades of knowledge to his assignment. ... Wright is both sympathetic to Jackson on account of the Herculean task he attempted and critical of the filmmaker and his co-writers for at times appearing as if they "hadn't done their homework." ... Though the filmmakers sometimes overlooked the spiritual significance of the story in their hands, Wright does not...
—Cliff Vaughn, Ethics Daily, 12/14/04


I have no misgivings about recommending this book to anyone who would like to deepen their understanding of the spiritual nature of Tolkien's writings, Jackson's films, and the relationship between the two. ... While the films definitely retain much of Tolkien's original themes, such as faith, hope, love, faithfulness, sacrifice, and redemption, the way these themes are altered from page to screen definitely bears closer examination-something that Wright offers in spades.
—Kevin Miller, Hollywood Jesus, 9/22/04
Clarion Journal, 9/30/04
Christianity.ca, 10/27/04


Jackson is more of a cinematic classicist, in much the same way that Tolkien was a literary classicist. So Jackson follows most of the classic structural conventions of film, such as basic visual composition, montage techniques and narrative compression. Because he's a classicist, however, he also eschews much of today's industry "conventional wisdom" about what modern audiences will embrace. So first and foremost, running times are longer. This in turn allows Jackson to abandon the kind of shorthand character-development that directors like Spielberg have perfected. He also abandons the easy, rousing endings that are obvious in films like Rocky or The Return of the Jedi—which is a very apt and relevant comparison. The net effect is that Jackson's films have a resonance that few films in the last twenty years have mustered.
—Greg Wright, Interview with Andy Rau,
Internet for Christians, 9/29/04


Mr. Wright—who says he became a "bona fide Tolkien fanatic" in his early teens—has compiled his essays in two books: Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter and Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind the Cinema's The Lord of the Rings. The two books present in-depth, tough and critical looks at The Lord of the Rings and its appeal. Both pose a challenge for readers not steeped in Tolkien's mythology. Tolkien in Perspective, issued in 2003 by VMI Publishers, explores possible biblical allusions in the Roman Catholic author's masterpiece. Mr. Wright gives his interpretation of how Tolkien's Christian faith seeped into his works, and offers a few alternative views. The Jackson book, published last fall by Hollywood Jesus Books, features Mr. Wright's analysis of Mr. Jackson's films and earlier attempts by animators to bring the tale to the screen.
—Feature Article by Bill Fentum
Reporter Interactive, 1/21/05


Greg Wright of HollywoodJesus.com asked Peter Jackson how members of his team handled this in their movie trilogy. When they wrote the scene in which the one ring of power is destroyed, did they discuss Tolkien's theory of "eucatastrophe"? "No," replied Jackson. "What's it mean?" It wasn't a normal Hollywood question, but Wright wasn't involved in normal press-tour interviews. In 2002 and 2003, Jackson and other artists behind the films sat down for roundtable discussions with religion-news specialists and critics from religious media. The questions ranged from the nature of evil to computer-generated monsters, from salvation to elvish poetry.
—Feature Article by Terry Mattingly
Scripps Howard News Service, 1/19/05


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

greg_book.jpg - 5120 BytesGreg Wright is the author of Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter and Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema's The Lord of the Rings.

Writer in Residence at Puget Sound Christian College in Everett, Washington, Greg was a contributing editor at Hollywood Jesus from January, 2000 through May 2006, and during that time he contributed dozens of reviews and features related to The Lord of the Rings books and movies. His work on Tolkien has been translated into Spanish, German and Swedish and has won many accolades in the web-publishing world. Greg is an ordained pastor who holds degrees in English Literature, Computer Science and Theology, and his study of Tolkien now stretches back over 25 years. Greg is now Managing Editor of Past the Popcorn.

EXCERPT

More than once, Peter Jackson has rather famously remarked, "We made a real decision at the beginning that we weren't going to introduce any new themes of our own into The Lord of the Rings. We wanted to make a film that was based on what Tolkien was passionate about."

Talking directly with Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh yields tremendous insight into what they feel Tolkien was passionate about. If Jackson, Boyens and Walsh are the cinematic guardians of the "Spirit of Tolkien," as expressed in The Lord of the Rings, what is their take on that spirit?

During the Academy Awards telecast in February 2004, and the Golden Globe awards, Fran Walsh made rather cryptic references to Cameron Duncan. In interviews conducted in tandem with Philippa Boyens in December 2003, she said:

It's a curious thing we've been going through this year. We lost a young and dear friend, a young boy, to cancer, and watching him face his mortality, at seventeen, and watching him come to terms with the knowledge of his impending death, and how he and his family dealt with that. We were part of that as we finished this film, and I felt very strongly that, in the film, death—when Frodo crosses over—that it's not a negative thing. And I felt that for Cameron, too. Because he was so ravaged and ill, that it, you know, it freed him. And it released him. And I feel that in the film, too. I feel that something lifts from Frodo, when he turns and looks back at the Hobbits... And I really liked that the film shows it in that way. Because often it's such a thing of fear, and dread, you know—that in films it's portrayed in that way, and yet there is another way to view it. And we saw it play out, you know, in our own lives with Cameron. And to see it in the film, too, I really liked that about the movie.

Boyens added, "It's definitely deliberately done. But what I loved is that Ian McKellen made you feel good about it."

So obviously, death is one of the central issues in The Lord of the Rings. And Boyens and Walsh are certainly right that death is one of the things that Tolkien is writing about. It is part of that "spirit of Tolkien." But it's perhaps troublesome to consider Jackson's assertion that they didn't want to bring their own baggage to The Lord of the Rings, because even in connection to the subject of death Jackson doesn't agree with Boyens or Fran Walsh, the mother of his children. If they can't agree among themselves about such key issues, how can they agree about how to interpret and present Tolkien's ideas?

Boyens and Walsh, though, tend to play off each other like peas in a pod in interviews. They will complete each other's ideas and thoughts, and appear completely in sync with the other's ideas and attitudes. Yet while the two of them can be very encouraged by the depiction of death in The Return of the King, Peter Jackson has very different things to say:

We looked upon the ending, really, as being a metaphor for Frodo passing the shore, that he—that you were 'fare-welling' somebody who was, who seemed to be dying. I mean, he was going to this blessed land, and he—we do certainly feel that Tolkien regarded that as being a visualization of somebody's death. He said, well, you get on a ship and you sail out into the harbor, and farewell them into this light—but it's fairly obvious what Tolkien was really referring to. And we tried to honor that—we tried to give it that sense of sadness. I feel it's extremely poignant that Frodo is ultimately effectively killed at the end of the story; I mean, he does ultimately die in the film; he can't live. And, yeah—it just makes it very sad.

That's a very surprising comment from Peter Jackson. I doubt most audience members come away from The Return of the King thinking that Frodo is dead, and that his is some incredibly sad fate. So where does this come from? How does Peter Jackson, as the maker of the film, view such a central element so differently from Boyens and Walsh? Let's turn to Tolkien for some insight...

From Section 7, "The Spirit of Tolkien"

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Peter Jackson in Perspective: ISBN 0-975-9577-0-8
Publisher: Hollywood Jesus Books
Distributor: Ingram / Spring Arbor

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