I can really empathize with Henry

Actually, unlike Henry, I did see one superhero film that was in the Avengers series because I was curious as to what all the fuss was about. It did not persuade me to see any more. I also watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy because so many people I know loved the books so I watched the films to see if I might want to read them. The answer is no.

(Pearls Before Swine)


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    I also watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy because so many people I know loved the books so I watched the films to see if I might want to read them. The answer is no.

    Bloody hell, you could have read at least one of the books in that time.

    I hope I would never let a movie influence my decision about reading a book. Luckily, that didn’t come up with LotR, because I read the books 30 years before the films were made. And watching the movies certainly wouldn’t have been a recommendation to me. The best thing about them was the end-credit song “Into The West“, which is lovely, and partly based on a passage from The Return of the King which I found quite moving in context.

    When I’ve told lovers of the films about my lack of enthusiasm, many of them jumped to the conclusion that I objected to the films’ departures from strict adherence to the books. Nothing could be further from the truth. From book to film, changes are almost always necessary, and Jackson could have radically changed far more than he did while still maintaining the appeal of the story (to me, of course. de gustibus…). To me, his aim seemed to be to make the story as utterly vapid as possible.

    Shorter; it’s possible to find a film utterly unappealing while loving the book. And vice versa.

  2. ionopachys says

    Listen to Grigjanis. Jackson’s story is not the same as Tolkien’s. Like Grigjanis I’m not a purist who wept about missing episodes or condensed dialogue, but Jackson changed most of the characters’ personalities and motivations, and made a thoroughly modern story. One interesting thing about the novel is the contrast between the Great Men who are heroes because they are Great Men, and Frodo and Sam who just want to save their home. Tolkien basically put modern and classical protagonists into the same story. I guess Jackson thought current audiences couldn’t accept classic Great Men heroes, or maybe he thought the original characters were too bland and he wanted to give them “development,” or he thought they needed to be made into cowards because they diminished Frodo’s heroism.

    Anyway, you really, really shouldn’t judge the book by the films. You might honestly not like the novel. It is long and wordy. Many people find it boring, and I think some people are turned off by the style. It is not like most sword and sorcery fantasy, and it is a sort of blend of medieval Arthurian romance by way of nineteenth century romanticism and twentieth century modernism. If you’re thinking D&D, it’s not that at all.

  3. invivoMark says

    Henry is a dick.

    Don’t dump on what other people like. There’s a huge variety in media and entertainment these days and of course most people are going to be into something different from what you’re into. That should be cause for celebration, not insults. Variety gives future creators more to draw from to inspire new and interesting stories.

    It’s better to take time to learn about things that others like, and why they like it, rather than insulting their tastes and upbraiding them for not liking what you like instead. There is value in appreciating different things, just as there is value in sharing what you appreciate about things that you like.

    Henry is a dick, and nobody should like Henry or want to be like Henry.

  4. cafebabe says

    Well, Henry may be a dick for sounding off at the party, but I share his distaste for all of the movies mentioned. I have not seen any of the super-hero movies because I think the premise is absurd and very often hides a neo-fascist notion that we must all rely on some uber-mensch for survival. I did go to see the first of the Tolkien movies that Peter Jackson made, and, yes, I had already read one of the books. Hated both. A pity, because I enjoyed all of Jackson’s low budget first three movies -- what’s not to like about a bunch of deranged muppetts in Meet the Feebles. I am at one with the member of Tolkien’s literary circle, who, supposedly, when Tolkien was explaining his latest book plot exploded “no more fucking elves!”

    I am very happy that lots of people find all these movies to be enjoyable, but I’m with Mano on this one.

  5. John Morales says


    Henry is a dick.

    Don’t dump on what other people like.

    See, people like you are why I’m like Henry.

    Henry is expressing his personal opinion, having been asked.

    Just like YOU did just now; so… don’t be a dick, and don’t dump on the Henrys of this world. And don’t be so clueless as to not realise you’re doing exactly what you’re condemning.


    And, just to be on-topic, that’s exactly what my partying and pubbing days were like.
    Down to my wife going out and me staying home.

  6. says

    See, people like you are why I’m like Henry.
    Henry is expressing his personal opinion, having been asked.

    I mirror this, with a reservation below.

    If you think it’s bad for someone to honestly express their opinion when it differs from yours, don’t ask anyone their opinion. If you ask someone their opinion, be ready to actually hear it.

    That said, it’s true that in this particular comic the other characters didn’t expressly ask Henry’s opinion on the state of cinema. They just badgered Henry over and over about what Henry had or hadn’t seen. I think that even this, while not explicitly asking, “What is your opinion on current cinema?” is plenty good enough justification to believe that it’s appropriate to state one’s opinion out loud.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    @cafebabe, 4:

    I share his distaste for all of the movies mentioned. I have not seen any of the super-hero movies

    … and are therefore disqualified from having an opinion on them. Especially opinions like:

    the premise is absurd and very often hides a neo-fascist notion that we must all rely on some uber-mensch for survival

    And you know this how? Certainly not from actually watching the films as you’ve already admitted. Did someone tell you this, and you simply thought “that sounds about right, I’ll believe that and present it as my own opinion”?

    At least Mano had the intellectual curiosity to check one out before dismissing it. One thing I would say though is that while there is definitely a house style and a common thread, there is a level of variety to the MCU movies: e.g. Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man are straight up comedies, Captain America is a period piece, The Winter Soldier is a conspiracy thriller, and Civil War is like that thing you do where you empty your toybox onto the floor and mash all your action figures together while making “pew pew, aaargh” noises (which is not to say it’s not fun to watch, but if that was the one Scorsese (or Mano) watched I can understand the dismissal).

    People who dismiss a film or TV show -- or even more egregiously an entire genre -- without bothering to see it are the worst. They’re the people who made “Jerry Springer The Opera” the most complained about programme on the BBC before it was broadcast. They’re the people who picketed “Life of Brian”. They are UK Minister for Child Protection Beverley Hughes, who went on television to condemn the show “Brass Eye” as, and I quote, “unspeakably sick”, and was then made to look like a moron when she was forced to admit she hadn’t seen it.

    Henry could have calmly shared his opinion with the person nearest to him. He could simply have said “Actually I prefer French new wave. Have you seen A Bout de Souffle?” And when inevitably his interlocutor demurred, he could rattle off a few more and express surprise they hadn’t seen any of Truffaut’s work. Or whatever. Insert your genre of choice.

    But no. Instead of talking about what he likes (and he’s not completely anhedonic, he DOES like movies, that is established) he SHOUTED and silenced everyone in the room with his opinion that their tastes depress him. He’s a dick.

  8. Ridana says

    Henry did not want to be at that party. He made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested in conversation with his one syllable replies, rather than, “No, have you seen X? I really liked that one.” When they continued to pile on, he answered the question they were implying: “What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you seen any of these movies?” And never had to go to another party he didn’t want to be at. Exactly as planned. (Death Note reference 🙂 )

  9. John Morales says

    sonofrojblake to cafebabe:

    And you know this how?

    Um, the premise of a superhero movie is that it’s about superheroes; the rest follows.

    (Is the premise of a ‘slasher’ genre movie equally opaque to you?)

  10. sonofrojblake says

    There’s a bit of a problem with the “Henry the Unsocial Hermit” story. His spouse insisted.. He’s not THAT unsocial, then. He was, at some point, social enough to get married, assuming it’s safe to infer from the choice of ink for fleshtones that the marriage was not arranged. He just didn’t want to do something his wife wanted to do (assuming its safe to infer genders from hairstyles), and in order to achieve his preference he embarrassed her in front of her friends. I agree, that’s a very common way for guys to get their way, exactly as planned, but that doesn’t make it acceptable behaviour, particularly towards your spouse if not their friends (assuming you hate all their friends).

    the premise of a superhero movie is that it’s about superheroes

    Well yes, if your analysis of film rises only to the level of analysis reached by a five year old, then “superhero movie” means “movie about superheroes”.

    Adults would, one would hope, be relied upon to realise that what a movie is about is something a little more complex. If you think that because they’ve both got superheroes in them that “Shazam” is about the same themes dealt with in “Logan”, there’s really not much anyone can tell you about films. One might as well show a dog a card trick. (You’re the dog in that scenario, in case that’s unclear to you.)

    Re: slashers: Can you discern no qualitative or thematic difference between “Psycho”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Scream”?

  11. says

    I liked Tolkien’s LOTR books as well as Jackson’s movie trilogy based on them. I have never read a superhero comics book, but I have watched many Marvel superhero movies and I have enjoyed them, some more than others.

    I utterly dislike poetry, I do not understand what people see in saying simple things in the most convoluted and unnatural way imaginable, but I do not go out of my way to diss poets and those who enjoy their work.

    And what I really hate with passion are people who insist that there is an objective way to do and/or enjoy art, and that is theirs.

  12. springa73 says

    I actually generally enjoy watching superhero and fantasy-themed movies, but part of that is probably because I like escapist fiction more than serious, realist, make-you-think-hard kind of fiction. In my case, when I want something that’s serious and makes me think hard, I turn to non-fiction. I think a lot of disagreements come down to the fact that different people are looking for very different things in their movies/tv/online entertainment.

  13. mnb0 says

    Ha, I never have seen any superhero movie in my life (I’ve always thought the comics dull). And I’ve seen only The Fellowship of the Ring and more or less by accident the second half of Two Towers.
    But I’ve read the books several times. So you may guess what’s coming.

    “I watched the films to see if I might want to read them.”
    Terrible method. Borrowing the first book and reading the first chapter would
    a) have been more reliable;
    b) taken far less time.

    @1 RobG: “many of them jumped to the conclusion that I objected to the films’ departures from strict adherence to the books”
    I’ve had the same experience. However there is one short scene (Gimli being insulted by elves in Lothlorien) I liked so much that my memory falsely told me that it was in the book. It wasn’t. Also there are several examples of movies I liked much better than the original books, whether I read them first or afterwards. Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man is a fine example; I enjoyed the book very much, but could not reread it after I had seen the movie.

    @2 Iono: “Jackson changed most of the characters’ personalities and motivations”
    Spot on. Especially what he did with Boromir is unforgivable imo. Also one of the Great Men, Aragorn, started out as a scary hobo in the book, but not in the movie.

    @7 Sonof: “And you know this how?”
    Ever heard of reviews? Praise by fans? And since when is the choice not to see anything from a genre of movie (or book, mutatis mutandis) a matter of decency? Are you saying that Mano is an indecent person for refusing to read anything by Tolkien?
    Don’t think so.
    It would be silly.
    As silly as you are now.

    @11 Charlie: “There is an objective way to do and/or enjoy art”
    There might be one; I don’t think there is anyone who thinks the music of Salieri better than Mozart’s (not even Salieri himself) or the music of The Monkeys better than the Beatles’ (not even the members of The Monkeys themselves).
    For the sake of clarity: I don’t own any record by The Beatles and almost never listen to my CDs with Mozart’s music (I inherited them). My taste starts with Deep Purple and Tchaikovsky. But I do recognize the quality of The Beatles and Mozart.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    There can also be huge differences in different film adaptations of the same book.

    In the late 80s, I saw a brilliant Dutch/French film, The Vanishing, directed by George Sluizer, and based on a Dutch novella, English title The Golden Egg, by Tim Krabbé. It made me want to read the book (I haven’t yet, but still want to).

    A few years later, Sluizer remade the film in Hollywood, and it was utter shit.

  15. consciousness razor says

    It’s hard for me to even draw a comparison between the MCU movies (or DC, or any superhero movies I’ve ever seen) and the LOTR trilogy. Just not in the same ballpark.

    Even if (like me) you didn’t like all of the choices, the LOTR films did a whole lot that was right. Generally speaking, it’s just a very well-crafted set of movies. A good script, good acting, good directing. Not perfect, but way above average. And I don’t know of anyone who hates Howard Shore’s music or the visual elements in general (sets/locations, costumes, special/practical effects, cinematography, etc.)…. It’s hard to imagine where serious complaints about that stuff could even come from. Just on those technical levels at least, I’d say they’re three of the most beautiful films that were made in the last several decades. So, if you don’t care about Frodo or Middle-earth or whatever, you still have an experience that’s very enjoyable for a lot of reasons.

    I think they’re too heavy on the action…. It’s sort of understandable why they did it, but I guess I do prefer more of a focus on storytelling, characters, themes, and all sorts of quieter (and less violent) things like that in a movie. But on the other hand, they’ve got a giant pile of money to spend, and they don’t want it to be “boring.”

    The Hobbit trilogy? Well, that’s definitely a mess. It helps a lot that Tolkien knew how to write, so it doesn’t turn into something like the Star Wars sequel trilogy. But watching the Hobbit movies, it feels like they put you on some ride at Disney World, which to me seems totally wrong for that story. On the bright side, at least they didn’t turn it into a slasher flick, a gritty detective story, or something even less appropriate…. But honestly, the fact that in places it flirted so much with being a romantic comedy (of all things) is still baffling to me. It really doesn’t have to be the same as the novel, but I don’t get how you can read that and want to adapt it to film and then start making choices like that.

    I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies, mainly because some friends were interested in them…. Eventually, I was mildly curious how they’d resolve the nonsense about the infinity stones. But then I wasn’t happy with Endgame, so that was pretty disappointing after so many movies. Going all the way back to Iron Man, though, I usually left the theater with the feeling that I lost a precious little part of my life that I’ll never get back. What’s a good way to put it? They’re less trashy than a Michael Bay movie, but still trashy. That sounds about right — tough, but fair — although I’m sure it would upset a bunch of people. If you really like that sort of thing, well then you’re not me.

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @15:

    I don’t know of anyone who hates Howard Shore’s music

    You do now.

  17. cafebabe says

    Ok, so I have chosen not to bother to see any superhero movies. I didn’t express any opinion on whether they are good movies or not. I made this choice based on my prior exposure to the comic book genre in which these movies are grounded. I read them, I hated them. I am happy to defend my objections to the whole concept of the superhero genre in whatever medium. Clearly others find that their mileage varies.

  18. Allison says

    I have seen some superhero movies, mostly because my son loves them and it’s something we can do together.

    My reaction is “meh.” I find long drawn-out over-the-top fight scenes boring. Also, it seems like each movie, and often each scene in a movie, has to involve visibly greater powers and superpowers. The villains have to have some power that is greater than the superpowers that the hero used in the previous movie so that it looks credible that the heroes might lose, because without some such challenge, there is no movie. But then the heroes have to pull out some greater-than-ever-before super-power of their own, or they just lose, and you still have no movie.. At some point, the super-duper-colossalness becomes absurd and pointless, “Infinity War” being a prime example. The only parts that make them bearable are the parts where there is some halfway human human interaction.

    As for Lord of the Rings: I read and reread the books. I only saw the first movie, and was so disappointed, I didn’t bother to see any of the others. There’s a strong moral subtext in the books, which seems to go right over the heads of most of the LotR fandom as well as the people who made the movies. It ends up being all about the cool creatures and magical events and epic quests and drawn-out overdone battle scenes. It has all the moral tension of a Magic The Gathering competition.

  19. consciousness razor says

    Rob, #16:
    In case you don’t know, “Into the West” was co-written by Shore, along with Annie Lennox and Fran Walsh. I don’t exactly know what their writing process was like, but they shared the various awards it received (an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Grammy, and a World Soundtrack Award). You evidently didn’t hate it when you wrote #1, and I figure that probably hasn’t changed.

    I’d be interested to hear why you hate any of his other music from LOTR.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @20: I know Shore co-wrote the music for the song, and credit where it’s due. Shit, there’s even some Mozart that I like!

    I found the soundtrack to the action of the film repetitive and annoying; there’s the sequence (you’d know the technical term) of 7-8 notes that I’d happily never hear again. One of the most tedious soundtracks ever. For me it has much the same effect as Monty Python’s “I Like Traffic Lights“. If someone says they love the music, I have no issue with that. But if someone says they don’t know anyone who hates it, I’ll put my hand up.

    Works both ways, of course. The Third Man has been one of my favourite (I mean top three at least) films* for a long time. And I think the soundtrack (Anton Karas on the zither) is not just brilliant, but integral to the film. But I’ve met quite a few people for whom the soundtrack makes the film unwatchable. Go figure.

    *And it has for my money the most beautiful movie ending.

  21. Ridana says

    10) sonofrojblake says

    There’s a bit of a problem with the “Henry the Unsocial Hermit” story. His spouse insisted.. He’s not THAT unsocial, then. He was, at some point, social enough to get married

    People change. That he was once at least social enough to find (or be found by) and marry one person does not mean he remains so.

  22. John Morales says

    Don’t even need to change; I’ve always found it nice to hang around with friends or long-term co-workers (they know what I’m like), and I’ve always found it stressful and uncomfortable having to mingle and make nice with strangers/shallow acquaintances.
    I mean, I can do it, but it’s generally hard and unpleasant and stressful for me.

  23. Holms says

    #7 sonof

    People who dismiss a film or TV show — or even more egregiously an entire genre — without bothering to see it are the worst. They’re the people who made “Jerry Springer The Opera” the most complained about programme on the BBC before it was broadcast. They’re the people who picketed “Life of Brian”.

    Did you just equate people disliking a genre and avoiding it with… protesting it? What the hell. For my part, I have avoided the blitz of Hollywood superhero movies because the Hollywood take on how to do an action action movie has been awful for years. All sorts of flashy cg superhero / monster / killer robot rubber doll fighting, no real skill in the fighting nor risk to the fighters. The hero gets punched into the ground hard enough to crater? No problem, he just gets back up while giving the impression of being in pain for the next 15 seconds or so. Then it just… goes away.

    <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1PCtIaM_GQ"This explains another angle. Hollywood just does not know how to do action that is interesting, so, fuck ’em.

    #10 sonof

    There’s a bit of a problem with the “Henry the Unsocial Hermit” story. His spouse insisted.. He’s not THAT unsocial, then.

    Oh come on. He has a wife, therefore… he’s lying when he says he doesn’t want to socialise this time? Weird take, man. He was there under protest and then he aired his views when pestered. He’s just not a party kinda guy.


    Regarding the LOTR stuff… The plot changes were a bit of a mix, but they weren’t the big issue. I’d have been thrilled with the movies if they had not fucked so many characters over.

    Fangorn was made into a timid idiot so that Merry and Pippin could have a moment to shine by tricking him into getting angry. So much for the anguish of loss becoming anger in a slow boil, nope, turns out he just didn’t realise the extent of the logging.
    Faramir had his wisdom and judgement of character stripped from him, making him a totally generic Gondor Guy, all so that the hobbits would have another drama moment. So much for Gandalf’s advice to look for friends in unexpected places.
    Gimli lost any skill he had at anything and became Mr. Fat Short Guy, comic relief, while Legolas became seemingly picked up all the competence Gimli dropped and became a swashbuckler / ninja / sniper /acrobat with no multiclass penalties. In fact, dwarves in general lost most of their coolness, becoming belching idiots, while elves in general became superbeings.
    Denethor, oh my god the poor guy. His aloof, stern demeanor became gluttony and callousness, and the hidden depths he had -- raging against the dying of the light, mentally battling with Sauron himself via the Palantir, until his collapse into despair -- all gone; he’s just an arsehole noble apparently.
    And of course Boromir. Nealy twenty years after the release of the movies and I’m still annoyed. In the books, he was a soldier’s soldier, selfless in the risks he took in the rising war against Sauron, and the ring had to tempt him via his noble intentions. In the movies, he lusted after it from the start, and was just kind of loutish. He also no longer took Aragorn to be his king, but resented him for it.

    This subject brought up some stuff, I can tell you.

  24. John Morales says

    Holms, !

    I shared each and everyone of those gripes about LotR myself. And probably more 🙂

    A bigger one for me was erasing Glorfindel and replacing the mighty Elf-Lord (one of the first-born!) with Arwen (a mere half-Elf) as the rescuer — totally changing the story. Not to mention that in the book it was Elrond who magicked the river (using a Ring of Power to do so!), and that Frodo made it across on his own.

    (Also, the casting of Elrond was shit — Elves are supposed to be pulchritudinous, and however good an actor Sam Neill may be, remarkable beauty is not one of his physical attributes)

    All that said, I actually enjoyed the three movies quite a bit — one has to remember the epic scale of the tale and all previous efforts at putting it on film. And I thought the music was pretty good, too.

  25. John Morales says

    One more: Faramir was shamefully depicted in the movie, even worse than Boromir.

  26. John Morales says

    Rob, yeah, him. Always get them mixed up. Same thing, though.
    (And Holms did mention Faramir, but that one really got to me. Utterly changing a character is almost as bad as replacing one with another)

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    John, I really don’t get your obsession with Glorfindel, or your implication that ‘Half-Elven’ somehow implies ‘lesser’. I never got the impression that Tolkien meant anything like that. Whatever impressive backstory Tolkien gave to Glorfindel, he’s a really minor character in the trilogy, and eminently replaceable. But if you’re talking bloodlines, Arwen has Maia in hers. Glorfindel doesn’t.

    And ‘pulchritudinous’? Are you an expert on standards of beauty in the Third Age?

  28. Rob Grigjanis says

    I do agree with you and Holms on the hatchet job that Jackson did on the major characters in the story. Among my major beefs are the miscasting/misinterpretation of Frodo and Aragorn.

  29. Holms says

    Oh wow, if you want to get into casting, how could you not start with Frodo? Elijah Wood would have made an excellent elf child rather than a hobbit. Contrastingly, Bilbo and Sam were goddamn perfectly cast.

  30. Rob Grigjanis says

    Holms @32: Agreed on Sam, and although you might mean Ian Holm as the older Bilbo, my first thought on seeing Martin Freeman in The Hobbit was “he shoulda been Frodo”.

  31. John Morales says

    Rob @30, since Tolkien invented them, I’ll just quote him:
    “The Elves were the fairest creatures in Arda, a far more beautiful race than Men, and generally tall. Among them, those who had gone to Valinor were the fairest and had the greatest skill of body. “

  32. John Morales says

    PS As for Glorfindel, if you don’t think that eliding him from the film version and replacing him with Arwen (nevermind the stupid thingy about her somehow transferring some of her life force to Frodo) is an egregious and pointless rewriting of the story being depicted, then nothing I say will help you understand my perspective.

  33. John Morales says


    But if you’re talking bloodlines, Arwen has Maia in hers. Glorfindel doesn’t.

    Glorfindel was an emissary of the Valar, Arwen wasn’t.

  34. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @35: Our perspectives probably are mutually unintelligible.

    I was far more bothered (although not too bothered) by the omission of Bombadil. And I think Dawn French would have been perfect for the part.

  35. John Morales says

    I was also bothered by the omission of the Scouring of the Shire, which showed how the protagonists had “levelled-up”.

    But, all that said, I quite enjoyed those movies.

    (Shame about his version of the Hobbit, but — that was just a money-grab IMO)

  36. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @38: Yes, The Scouring was a huge omission. Perhaps the biggest.

    I actually thought The Hobbit the better of the two film series, with far better casting, and more leeway for departure from the book. If you cut out a lot of the ridiculously overlong and physically unlikely combat scenes (especially the goblin battle and the barrels in the river bit) and some other nonsense, you’d have a decent couple of films. Unlike many people, I thought the Tauriel-Kili romance a nice touch. And Billy Connolly as Dáin? Brilliant.

  37. Holms says

    Yes, I mean old Bilbo in particular. Bilbold if you will. And I found The Hobbit unwatchable. One of my favourite books warped out of all recognition in so many ways, but especially in its mood. The book was a romp with glimpses of the ancient world, while the movies were turgid and overly serious.

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