All right! “The Return of the King” didn’t include everything in the book. It included a few things which aren’t in the book. But, as a movie, it was good.
Let’s start with the major omissions — the sequence in the houses of healing, the escape of Saruman and the whole “scouring of the Shire” chapter. It would have been wonderful for us Tolkien fanatics if Peter Jackson had divided “The Lord of the Rings” into six three-hour movies instead of three, but the movie business has its realities. If you have seen a movie or TV mini-series based on a Charles Dickens novel, the plot has been condensed. We who love Tolkien chafe when any changes are made, but no movie based on great literature fully reflects the book.
Then, there are the things which are in the movie but are not in the book. Continuing the development of Arwen as a major character, Peter Jackson depicts Arwen’s final decision to become mortal and links her survival to the outcome of the quest. In the book, there are a couple of hints in the course of the novel, but Arwen’s marriage to Aragorn comes as a surprise.
So the movie is not the equivalent of the book. High school students can’t fake book reports by seeing the movie and claiming to have read the book.
But books and movies are different media. Nobody should expect a movie to be exactly like a book.
In the final analysis, the true inconsistencies between the book and the movie, throughout the movie trilogy, were mostly on minor points. The development of the relationship between Aragorn and Arwen wasn’t inconsistent with the book because it did happen in the book, even though it was kept in the background. We can fume over the real inconsistencies such as the dead sailing to Minas Tirith instead of doing their fighting in the south of Gondor — but points like that are minor.
To be sure, people who see the movie will get only a shadow of the experience they can have by reading “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Silmarillion” and “The Hobbit” and delving into Tolkien’s early drafts and unfinished works — but a shadow is all that a movie can convey.
And “The Return of the King” was good as a movie. Visually, Peter Jackson did a great job of bringing Middle Earth to life.
Peter Jackson did not maul our book. Our book is still there, in every bookstore in the country and many bookstores around the world. The chapter in the houses of healing is still in the book. The scouring of the Shire is still in the book.
And by making three great movies, Peter Jackson has assured that people will still be reading “The Lord of the Rings” many generations from now.