It irritates me that in our culture a book or story isn’t truly great until Hollywood bestows upon it the highest of all honors: turning it into a movie. So before the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy came out I refused to get excited, and declared them irrelevant and unnecessary. The books are amazing and they don’t need to be legitimized by anyone, thank you very much. As far as movies go, that crappy cartoon from the 70s was enough.
Then The Fellowship of the Ring came out, I saw it five times in the theater, and the rest is history.
The movies are great (which doesn’t mean I am without criticism, but more on that later). They follow the arc of the narrative faithfully, retain an impressive amount of back story and make it easy for people to follow along who haven’t read the books. As for parts of the books that were left out of the movies, like the hobbits meeting Tom Bombadil and the scouring of the Shire, they would have just been long and confusing. They work in the books, but not in the movie, and people who bitch about that are nerds.
The action in the movies kicks-ass, and in my opinion is way more fun to watch than it is to read. Tolkien doesn’t really give blow-by-blow details during combat scenes, so it’s fun to watch every scurrying orc and stroke of the sword that the book couldn’t possibly describe. Also, I have to admit, the acting was often more dramatic than it was in my head. Scenes like Boromir’s death and Theoden rallying the Rohirrim in the book didn’t put a lump in my throat like it did in the movies. It’s the sign of a good book-to-movie translation when you don’t miss the details and history the book gives you because you are too moved by the performances and the action.
No one is ever going to make movies based on The Lord of the Rings trilogy that are any better. And having said that, there are some things that I wish they would’ve done differently in the movies, whether it was a little something they left out or some unnecessary thing they put in. Here’s a movie-by-movie blow.
The Fellowship of the Ring
What they did wrong:
Okay, so this isn’t a really complaint, but for people who don’t know, in the book Frodo is 33 when they have the big birthday party and Bilbo leaves. It is some 17 years later, when he turns 50, that Gandalf returns and the rest of the story starts. But to be fair to the movie, Frodo still looks like he is in his 20s in the book and you can’t have some middle aged dude playing him. It would just be weird. So on to the real stuff.