Spoilers Massacre of the Text – Changes for the Worst

by Dec 22, 2002Reviews

I am not a total purist, I don’t think. Film is a very different medium from literature and things that work on the page may or may not function on the screen. In fact there have been some changes in the LOTR films that I thought were worth making, or at least necessary.

For example, while Tom Bombadil is an awesome character because he is so happy and content with his life that the Ring can give him nothing, so it holds no power over him. But he also does not turn up after Book I and therefore needed to be omitted. Arwen is and should be a minor character, but I understand why her part had to be increased. In Tolkien’s work, references are often made to times past or random characters, although the missing links can be found in indexes, appendices, or in other works (which shows that Tolkien himself had worked out EVERYTHING, which is the reason I love his work). Readers can tolerate this uncertainty, filmgoers cannot and require explanation. When, In TTT, Eowyn falls for Aragorn and he cannot love her, filmgoers may need a concrete explanation: he loves Arwen. That’s why her part must be extended.

However, the good changes stop right there. Everything else took away from what Tolkien wrote. Firstly, Theoden’s part was all wrong, since he is supposed to be much more kingly than that and not stupid enough to take all his women and children to Helm’s Deep-the go straight to the mountain passes. And his healing scene was all wrong, since MAGIC IN TOLKIEN IS NON-VIOLENT-there is no abracadabra involved. Secondly, Eomer: he never got banished, he was just put in prison and released when Theoden is healed. I think having him disappear was a silly change because it didn’t give anything to the movie, and took away the development of a very strong character, who demonstrates loyalty to his uncle, his sister and to Aragorn. That brings me to Aragorn: how about that falling-in-the-river business? That made no sense at all, and was a waste of screen time. Okay, flash to Merry and Pippin with Treebeard. I feared that they would make the Ents into cutsey talking trees, when they are so much more. But the worst part was that they didn’t have Entmoot go right at all, and then Merry gives some garbage speech to convince Treebeard. It just drove me mad. Finally, all the Gollum-Sam-Frodo bits: the Sam/Frodo relationship will always be wrong in the movies, because Tolkien was a conservative man, who wrote in a very strong master-servant feeling between those two, that PJ doesn’t consider politically correct or whatever. Also, Faramir: this is where I really lost it in the theater and started cursing at the screen. Faramir is my favorite character, and he is supposed to be a foil to his brother. But instead he was worse. Comepletely changing the plot of the book is NOT a legitimate change. And then of course, half the book is missing. If its supposed to be the Two Towers, how come they never got to Orthanc or Barad-dûr? The scenes with Saruman are Tolkien’s best. I think and Theoden really shows character in that speech (“We will have peace, when you and all your works have perished and those of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men’s hearts. You hold out your hand to me and I percieve only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and Cold!”-I memorized it for a school decalmationc ontest in 7th grade. Oh yeah and Helm’s Deep was not supposed to be a big action sequence, nor was Haldir supposed to show up.

There were a few places that the film was faithful, though. I think Eowyn was the way she ought to have been and I’m glad that the “What do you fear, lady?” dialogue got in there. I think Gollum’s slinker/stinker debate was perfect. Also I liked Gandalf’s return scene (although I don’t think we should have seen the Balrog, just like we shouldn’ t have seen Sauron in the first movie).

Anyhow, I just needed to vent. If you went through and read this whole thing, I’m sorry.


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