Why Books Are Always Better – TTT Review

by Dec 20, 2002Reviews

As someone who has loved the works of Tolkien since adolescence, and has read everything he ever published at least a dozen times (okay I only read “Farmer Giles of Ham” a couple of times), one might think that I would fall into the “purist” category. In a sense that is true and as such I would say to those who are diehard Tolkien purists, those who cannot bear the thought of any alterations made to the text, under no circumstances should you see this movie. Stick with what you have, that which made you a fan in the first place, the novels that are the most entertaining, enthralling, and enjoyable work of literature published in the 20th century.

But you’re going to see the movie anyway, aren’t you? Of course you are. So then you must prepare yourself for some fairly radical departures from the text. I won’t get into what those deviations are exactly, since you’ll be seeing the movie. And then you can judge for yourself how much those changes add or detract from your enjoyment of the films.

However, those of you who feel capable of judging the film on its own merits, you are in for a treat. This movie is utterly electrifying. It has action like no other film I’ve ever seen, the special effects and details are as good as everything you’ve read. If Andy Serkis does not recieve the best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of Gollum, then the Academy Awards are meaningless. Forget the CGI stuff, the Gollum I saw on the screen was real. The performance was devastating.

The depth and scope of the portrayal of Gollum does highlight some of the drawbacks of the film or I should say the media of film. In other words, with Gollum they got very close to the character that Tolkien created, but that is not the case with the other characters in the film, particularly Aragorn. Not to say that Viggo Mortensen’s performance was weak or lacking in any way. The Aragorn in the films is sort of a regular guy, charged with a leadership role that seems outside of his comfort zone. His character is torn by war, his love for a woman, and fear for the future. A good character to be sure, and Mortenson fulfils the role admirably, but that is still not the Aragorn of Tolkien. Tolkien’s Aragorn is the greatest man to walk the earth in his time, the Dunadan, wearer of the ring of Barahir, heir to Sceptre of Anuminais, direct descendant of Elros Tar Minyataur. He is “high and puissant” and reflects the nobility given to him by none other than the Valar. That the Aragorn of the films does not measure up to the Aragorn of the novel is not the fault of Jackson or Mortenson. It is just not possible to completely flesh out this massive character in a film media. This is why you should not see the film if you are a diehard purist.

Nothing on film, any film, can measure up to the character Tolkien created in your own mind. Same goes for Sauron, Sam, Faramir, and just about every other character that the writers adapted from Tolkien.

Such statements speak to the greatness of Tolkien rather than any failure of Jackson’s films. In fact, I was suprised at how much of the movie is a direct representation of the book. I also appreciated the use of so much dialog from the novel, even though it was often spoken by a different character or in a different scene. After now having seen two of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, I have no doubts that he loves the books as much as I do, and did everything he possibly could to preserve the spirit of Tolkien’s work.

One final word to purists who have seen the films and were disgusted with the “book/movie deltas.” When you get home from the theater pick up one of the books, any of them, and start reading. I think you will be pleased to find that the people, places and legends that you originally fell in love with will come flooding back. They will be exactly the same as they were before you saw the movies. Their voices and faces will be just as they were the first time you read The Lord of the Rings because they exist in your mind, and like the Silmaril in the northern sky they are untouchable, forever protected from any influence of this world.


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