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Features, Opinion

Jackson versus Tolkien – a long-overdue list of gripes

02.16.09 | Kunochan | 8 Comments

I was perusing Tolkien news today, and came across a “news” article, actually more of a blog post, by a writer for the Peterborough Examiner. She’s a big fan of the Peter Jackson trilogy, but only recently actually read Fellowship.

The books are not for everyone, but I strongly recommend them to anyone who enjoyed the movies. It should be noted, though, that there are some major differences, as one would expect from any movie based on literature. Quite appalling ones, actually. I have developed a slight obsession with the Lord of the Rings film trilogy and have watched the movies so many times that I can practically say the characters’ lines as they come up. I have only recently read the first book in the series and was quite shocked at how many changes the directors and producers of the movies made.

You and me both!

Let me be clear — I love the movies. Love them. I genuinely do not believe that any other filmmaker on the planet would have done as good a job as Mr. Jackson.

Some of Jackson’s changes were actually improvements. I’m sorry, but even Tolkien himself admitted Tom Bombadil had no place in that story. (Plus, removing him spared the world of an annoying Robin Williams cameo.) And I think it was a very good idea to make Arwen Evenstar a more prominent character, although I can’t buy the concept that she would give up on Aragorn, leave for Valinor, and then come back just because she foresaw they would have a son.

But here are my major gripes, as far as changes from the books.

Sauron in Mordor.

Sauron is NOT an evil lighthouse. I have no problem with playing up Sauron’s “Eye of Fire” aspect. It’s much scarier than seeing a black iron-clad figure peering out a tower window. But by the time Frodo and Sam get to Mordor, the visual metaphor becomes ridiculous. Frodo could have just said “I feel His Eye upon me,” we didn’t have to see it literally represented as a giant Klieg lamp.

It's okay, Aragorn lives to disappoint Eowyn another day.

Aragorn dies, then doesn’t, then dies, then doesn’t. In Peter Jackson’s version, Aragorn falls off of a cliff after Warg Riders attack the Rohirrim. Everyone thinks he’s dead. Then he shows up, soaking wet, at Helm’s Deep. Nothing like this occurs in the books, and I cannot even begin to imagine why Jackson added this. It serves no narrative purpose I can imagine. This is especially true since, in both versions, Aragorn travels on the Paths of the Dead, and everyone thinks he’s dead. Then he isn’t. Gandalf and Aragorn both get their “resurrection” storylines, why add another? (Also, see this.)

Look, it's Aragorn and Caspar!

The Dead win the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I have no problem with Jackson showing us Aragorn’s encounter with the King of the Dead. I have no problem with Jackson pretty much editing out the entire southern war. But when Aragorn arrives at Minas Tirith with the Army of the Dead, a huge globular mass of ghosts right out of Disney’s Haunted House proceeds to easily destroy Sauron’s Army, thereby making everything the Gondorians and Rohirrim had accomplished by that point a total waste of lives. And it was… well, I have to use the word “wacky.” Wacky in a way that had no place in this film.

And, the change I hated the most:

Frodo vs. The Ringwraith

Faramir takes the Hobbits and Gollum to Osgiliath. So let me get this straight. Following his father’s orders, Faramir takes Frodo, Sam and Gollum into custody, to deliver them to Minas Tirith. But first he goes to Osgiliath, which is under attack. During the battle, Frodo gets free, and has an encounter on a parapet with The Lord of the Nazgûl. Frodo almost gives The Ring to a Ringwraith, or almost has It taken from him. Faramir sees all this, so what does he do? Take the Ring from Frodo, to keep it safe until he gets to Minas Tirith? No. He lets Frodo, Sam and Gollum go.  Um… what???

I guess the encounter with the Ringwraith is supposed to make Faramir realize the Ring is unsafe in Mannish hands. How that’s supposed to work, though, I have no idea. It makes no sense. Any logical person would take the Ring from Frodo.

The whole episode seems to have existed solely to get in an extra battle scene, or maybe to give Faramir more of a story arc. Still, it makes no sense whatsoever.

What’s your favorite movie change to complain about? Let me know in the comments!

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