Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lord of the Rings

*Disclaimer: I am sure that all of this has been discussed better and more in depth elsewhere. I am no LOTR expert or enthusiast. These are all just my opinions.*

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had just finished reading The Lord of the Rings. After I finished each book, Thomas and I then watched the corresponding movie.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I tend to have a big problem with movies adapted from books. I'll just never understand what's fun about watching a mutilated, choppy version of a good story. However, the LOTR movies were always safe from the unadulterated hatred I feel for, say, the Harry Potter movies, by virtue of the facts that 1) I saw the movies before I read the books and I liked them, and 2) they are not among my most favorite books.

In some ways, I actually like the movies better. Main reason: Chronology. I hated that the books are so segmented. By the time I finished the first half of The Two Towers, it had been so long since I had read about Frodo and Sam that I'd almost stopped caring, and it was frustrating to know I wouldn't read another word about Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, etc until I got to the next book. This happened over and over. The movies took care of that by toggling back and forth between the story lines, so I like their structure better. This did have one funny effect: The story lines aren't given an equal amount of material in the books, so almost all of the Frodo-and-Sam section in the movie of Return of the King is actually from the book The Two Towers.

The other reason I prefer the movies: Character development. I am all about character development. It's why I usually prefer TV shows to movies and is one of my main problems with most book-adapted movies. When I was reading the books, I didn't feel like character development was on the forefront of Tolkien's mind. I think he was a lot more interested in the mythology, and that's what mostly got cut out from the movies. More time on characters and less time on random Celtic mythology is okay by me.

So what did I dislike about the movies this time through? Not much, but a few things stuck out. Somehow, they all seemed to come from The Two Towers.

When a movie is made from a book, the biggest change is usually that some material gets left out. That can be annoying if they cut parts you love or think are important, but even with a 4 hour movie, there's no way you can include everything from books of this length. I think LOTR handles cuts pretty well. The movies abridge an awful lot, but that allowed them to focus on important scenes and to have a good flow, rather than jumping from scene to scene in an effort to cram in as much material as possible. I hate that choppy feeling, and these movies thankfully didn't have it. Thomas hates that they cut the scouring of the Shire at the end, but I actually didn't like that part of the book, so I didn't miss it.

What I hate the most is when movies change stuff for no good reason. This is where all the problems come from:

Faramir.  Why did Faramir have to become all creepy and try to take the ring for Gondor? He was pretty universally awesome in the books. This has always been one of Thomas's biggest complaints, and I totally agree.

Helm's Deep.  Make the Battle of Helm's Deep the climax of the movie, sure, but why why why did the elves show up? What was wrong with Men defending themselves?

The Ents.  First of all, Treebeard was waaaay too hasty for my taste. More importantly, though, why did they initially decide not to help defeat Saruman? I loved the Ents in the books but not so much in the movies.

One last change that really irritated me happened in the movie Return of the King but would have been in The Two Towers - if it had actually happened, that is. I hated the scene when Gollum tricks Frodo into thinking Sam ate all the lembas and Frodo then tells Sam to leave and go home. I didn't think it was true to Frodo and Sam's relationship at all, even when Frodo was being taken over by the ring. Totally lame.

There were plenty of other changes, but these particularly bothered me.

In conclusion:
  • I enjoyed reading the books, but I doubt I'll do it again any time soon.
  • I still really enjoy the movies too but like Return of the King and Fellowship a lot better than Two Towers.
  • And I definitely think it's about time we planned a trip to New Zealand.


  1. Good analysis, I feel like you were nicely balanced in your views. I would have to agree with most of your gripes, even though I didn't remember some of them till you mentioned them. Right now might be a good time to go to New Zealand, as you could crash the filming of The Hobbit.

  2. I am feeling a little cheated that there aren't more posts about bread and jam.