Christopher Tolkien, JRR Tolkien's last surviving son and the man who has spent the last few decades putting order to the late professor's writings on Middle Earth (including completing and publishing The Silmarillion and a 12 volume History of Middle Earth), does not like the Lord of the RIngs films. At all. He kind of vigorously hates them. But until now we've only heard this second hand, as Tolkien has given no interviews in the 40 years since his father's death.
He has spoken with Le Monde, who published a long and fascinating profile of the man. It explores Tolkien's life and his obsession with completing his father's works, with fleshing out the world of Middle Earth. And while some may look at Tolkien's quotes and sniff (due to their own affection for the Lord of the Rings movies), I find his attitude refreshing in a time when crass commercialization is not only expected, it's essentially demanded. There is no purity to anything anymore, and fans demand endless waves of tie-in products to sate their desire to own a piece of their favorite book, movie or TV show. There's a place for that, but does everything have to become dolls and sticker albums and Coke cans and video games?
From Le Monde:
"Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time," Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. "The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away."
"They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25," Christopher says regretfully. "And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film."
There's a lot of room for discussion here. The core works remain the core works, and the article notes that the original Lord of the Rings books saw a massive uptick in sales after the release of the movies. Tolkien's ambitious 12 volume history has sold half a million copies, a feat surely aided by increased awareness brought on by the movies.
But at the same time can a property be diluted in a fundamental way? Did all of those copies of Lord of the Rings get read, or did people throw them aside in boredom? Is dumbing something down a legitimate way to bring new people into it? That's the core of my struggle as a Trekkie with the new Star Trek films - yes, the franchise is going on, but at what cost?
Luckily the originals will always exist. Christopher Tolkien does what little he can to maintain the legacy of his father - recently he forced Warner Bros to stop making Lord of the Rings slot machines, and the article mentions he's been able to stop an amusement park - but he's old and one wonders if he'll even be around when the third Hobbit movie comes out. After he goes, after the last guardian of the legacy is gone, what happens next?
Thanks to @KaMeek for the link.