THE "BOOKS VS. FILMS" ISSUE FROM A NON-TOLKIEN PURIST POINT OF VIEW - THE "BOOKS VS. FILMS" ISSUE FROM A NON-TOLKIEN PURIST POINT OF VIEW
Well, anyways, here's a little something I wrote about an interesting conversation I had with my twin sister, Sheri. We were sitting around the kitchen table discussing various topics about the LOTR films and we came into a few disagreements on certain "films vs. books" issues. Don't get me wrong--we both love and adore the LOTR movies (they're our favorite movies of all time!), but, we butted heads a few times during the discussion. First of all, she thought it was a real shame that Tom Bombadil was not in FOTR, because he and Goldberry were such delightful and whimsical characters. I agreed that Tom Bombadil and Goldberry were really great characters, but then I stated that if Jackson had placed them into the film they actually would have slowed down the flow of the movie. As awesome and endearing as they were, a segment of Tom and Goldberry would have taken up way too much valuable time and would have delayed the quest more than anything. Although Tom and Goldberry were two of the best characters in the books, it's certainly understandable why Jackson had to leave them out of the film--even if the decision was a little disappointing. Besides, Treebeard got to do a "Tom Bombadil" scene with Merry and Pippin in TTT extended edition DVD, and that was better than nothing.
Another subject we butted heads over, was the death of Haldir. My sister said that Haldir's death was unnecessary in TTT, because he never died in the books. She said it was foolish for Jackson to kill Haldir in the movie. I claimed that the situation could easily go either way. It would have been nice if Haldir had lived, yet, it's not that big of a deal that he didn't. Don't misunderstand me--I love Haldir as much as the next person (I thought Craig Parker made a really cool Haldir!), but his untimely death in TTT gave the Battle at Helm's Deep a lot more drama and emotion. I was very shocked and sad when he died (I liked him), but I also have to admit that it was a great moment for the epic battle scene. It not only intensified the traumatic event to the fullest extent, but it also enabled Haldir to go down in a blaze of glory! He got to die with honor and in sacrifice, what more could a brave warrior ask for? It was indeed an honorable death, even if it didn't happen that way in the original books. Sheri also commented that the elves were never at Helm's Deep to begin with, but I shot back by claiming that Jackson's surprise of sending the elves to Rohan's aid was a brilliant concept. I personally think the Battle at Helm's Deep in the movie is so much better than in the books simply because the elves WERE there. Having the elves fight alongside the humans was a lot more exciting, and it made the whole battle more phenomenal.
However, the biggest argument we got into was over Arwen and Aragorn. She agrees with the Tolkien-purists about Arwen's expanded role in the films. She said, "Well, although Liv Tyler did a good job playing Arwen, I think it was stupid for Jackson to give her a bigger part because she was never supposed to have a major role in the story to begin with! Tolkien never meant for Arwen to be a main character in the story, so I don't understand why Jackson felt he had to give her such a major role in the films. Aragorn and Arwen's romance in the book was never a big deal to begin with. Liv Tyler's expanded role was completely unnecessary and it just made no sense. Jackson should have left out all the love scenes with Arwen and Aragorn, and showed more characterization between all the other main characters." I couldn't help but totally disagree with her 100%! I said, "I know a lot of Tolkien-purists hated Arwen's added scenes in the films, but Jackson did the right thing. Expanding her character's role was a logical and practical move on Jackson's part. Making her a main character was not a waste of time at all, it was actually brilliant! Think about it, in Tolkien's original story Arwen only popped up at the end of ROTK when she married Aragorn. She made a banner for him, gave up her immortality, they had a son--and that was it! She was barely in the story any other time, in fact, you don't really find out that Aragorn is in love with her until the very end. That never would have worked in the films, not in a million years! You can't have the audience witnessing Aragorn's long journey throughout all three movies, and then watch him marry some strange, dark-haired elf girl in the end that no one has ever seen before." Everyone in the audience would have been asking, "Wait a minute, what's going on? Who is she? Why is Aragorn marrying some unknown elf girl?" Trust me, it would have been a total disaster if Jackson had done Arwen in the films like Tolkien did in the books. If we're tagging along with Aragorn throughout the movies, then by golly we had better get to see more of Arwen and Aragorn's relationship on the big screen--especially if they're going to get married in the end and spend the rest of their lives together. That makes a lot more sense. Therefore, Jackson's expanded version of Arwen on the big screen was far better and more appropriate than the "little-known" Arwen in the books. Jackson turned a "nothing" character into one of the most popular female characters ever! Besides, Liv Tyler only got a total screen-time of fifteen minutes in each of the films anyway, so what's the big deal? And you've got to admit, Liv Tyler and Viggo Mortensen have great chemistry together, so their relationship was very believable and it worked out perfectly. Well, no matter how hard I tried to convince Sheri that Arwen's expanded role was a smart move and worked the best for the films, she still refused to accept it. But on a good note, there were several things that we did agree on. One of the things we agreed on was the changes in Faramir's character. We both prefer the movie version of Faramir--rather than the goody-goody version in the books. Faramir in the original books was a nice guy and all, but he really wasn't that interesting. Jackson's version of Faramir is much better than Tolkien's. David Wenham is a superb actor who did a wonderful job playing Faramir, plus, we also loved the more intense drama that was added to his character. We agreed that Faramir's desperation to fill Bormir's shoes and save Gondor from total destruction was more captivating and emotional. You could really feel Faramir's pain and struggling in the films, and his hopeless relationship with his bitter father, Denethor, was heart-wrenching. You had to feel sorry for poor Faramir, no matter how hard he tried he just couldn't get a break! Plus, David Wenham's portrayal of Faramir suited the darker mood of the story. His pain and desperation blended much better with the storyline, rather than the Faramir in the book. It was another genius move on Jackson's part! We also liked Jackson's twist of showing Frodo getting possessed by the evil ring in TTT and ROTK. Showing Frodo's mind slowly being controlled and influenced by Sauron's ring made more sense in the story, as opposed to the book. It works much better to see Frodo being possessed by the dark power of the ring, that way it's more understandable as to why he refuses to toss the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom at the very end. We also support Jackson's decision to make Gollum frame Sam so Frodo would send him away, as opposed to Sam simply getting lost in Shelob's Lair. Sam being sent away gave Sean Astin an excellent opportunity to really show off his amazing acting skills, plus, it added even more drama to Sam's suffering character. And thank God Jackson had Frodo finally do something right for a change by fighting Gollum and throwing him over the edge into Mt. Doom! It was refreshing to see him actually take part in the destruction of the ring. I was glad that Jackson made more of a hero out of Frodo--rather than have Gollum be the one to destroy the ring by accidently stumbling backwards off the cliff (like it happened in the book). Frodo fighting Gollum and throwing him over the edge was a lot more exciting, than the original book's ending.
Although me and Sheri might differ in opinion, we both definitely agree that Jackson's LOTR films are much better than the books in certain ways. Perhaps Tolkien-purists will always complain about the small changes, but the changes work out a lot better for the films. Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyens did an outstanding job bringing the epic story to the big screen. Even the characterization in the movies are more intriguing and enjoyable than in the books--at least in my opinion. There was nothing remotely likable about Gollum in the books, yet, Jackson and Andy Serkis managed to turn the unlikable creature into one of the most celebrated and favored characters of all time! Arwen was nothing in the books, yet, Liv Tyler made her one of the most notable female characters around. It's the same situation with Galadriel. Even Frodo (who was really boring in the books) was more likable, Elijah Wood gave the bland character Frodo a more favored boost as well. Christopher Lee's version of Saruman is ten-times better in the films than in the books, too. Jackson turned Saruman's character into a much better villian on the big screen. I sincerely mean no disrespect to Tolkien or the Tolkien-purists, but in some ways Jackson's LOTR movies are better than the original LOTR books--and this is a fact that me and my sister can both agree on. The LOTR films are not a travesty to Tolkien's work, they're a masterpiece. And besides, J.R.R. Tolkien himself even bluntly replied once in an interview, that if his LOTR books were ever to be made into movies, he would grant full permission and support to the individual creative vision of the directors and producers. Tolkien clearly stated that he would accept the director's individual creativity and interpretation on however they wanted to bring his imaginary world of Middle-earth to life on the big screen--and that's exactly what's happened with Jackson. Peter Jackson is not only one of the greatest mastermind directors of our time, but he's also the only director who possesses the true vision to bring Middle-earth to life on film and do Tolkien's story proper justice. The slight changes and alterations in the films are minor, and everything still worked out perfectly fine in the end. Jackson never ruined the story, he only brought it to life in an exceptional way! No doubt, Tolkien would be pleased with Jackson's genius work. I think Tolkien-society should give credit where credit is due, after all, it was the brilliance of Peter Jackson who introduced Tolkien's books to a whole new generation. You would be surprised at how many people had never read "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings" books before, but now (thanks to Jackson) everyone and their grandma is reading them! Even lesser-known, Tolkien-related books (such as "The Simarillion" who have never received any recognition or fans have become very popular. The LOTR films have even put fantasy films on the map and have allowed fantasy in general to be widely appreciated and taken more seriously. The films have opened new doors and opportunities in the movie industry and for the fantasy realm of literature. After all, they're starting to make all kinds of exciting fantasy film projects coming in the near future--such as, "The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Last Unicorn", and many others. Do you honestly think that Hollywood would be making all these wonderful fantasy-oriented films if it wasn't for the success of the LOTR movies? Face it, Jackson's films have contributed a lot to society, and they've also done great justice to Tolkien's work as well. Regardless of how you look at it, I suppose in the end everyone is entitled to their own opinion. There's no really right or wrong way to see the picture, it all just depends on which side of the line you're standing. But no matter which side you may be on, we're all fans of Middle-earth in one way or another--and in the end, that's all that really counts. Hooray for Tolkien, and hooray for Peter Jackson!