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A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay

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Why Peter Jackson's changes, like them or not, were essential for a successful adaptation...

The One Ring

Literature is an incredible thing. The power of the pen has toppled tyrants, started revolutions, and led to sweeping social change. Whether it be a Homeric epic, timeless poetry, or a newly-printed graphic novel, great literature has at its core an important idea or moral. Great literature means something to everyone who reads it. Great literature transports you to its world and, perhaps most importantly, great literature teaches you something about yourself and the world around you. That is an author's most powerful gift to the reader - a story or message that broadens the reader's horizons and makes him or her think about something in a wonderfully new way.

I have written often of late about Hollywood's recent tendency to loot old ideas for new content, a tendency that I fear may have dire consequences for this generation's perception towards original literature. It would seem to the observant onlooker that no classic film or novel or poem is safe from a contemporary re-imagining, no matter how hallowed it may be. But to do so often presents a paradox - it can be excruciatingly and infamously difficult to adapt a novel to the screen and it is certainly a tall task for cast and crew when the original source is immensely popular and boasts millions upon millions of fans. Depending on the genre and story, sometimes the source material is so beloved that a particularly hardcore demographic of devotee emerges - the purist.

That's right - I said it. Purist. That little word may be the cause of more controversy among fans of major movie franchises than anything else. Spend enough time enjoying and studying a film's construction and message and you might perceive yourself as transcending mere fan status and becoming a purist, a staunch defender of that film's greatness, down to the script's every word. For the typical purist, the slightest change to the original source material is cause for suspicion. By no means is the purist phenomenon reserved for cinema, but is also true for all forms of art, such as the music lover who boasts that he is more than "just a fan" because he heard the world-famous band play "before they were famous".

With time, beloved films or books or programs become something more than just beloved; they become unassailable paragons of "proper" artistry. The slightest addition, subtraction, or change invites a wave of fanboy fury akin to somebody offering to add a few more brushstrokes to the Mona Lisa to get it "just right". Take Star Wars, for example. The 1997 'Special Editions' of the original trilogy, coupled with the recent prequel trilogy, sparked an angry backlash from fans who widely perceived the recent additions as inferior dilutions of the franchise's magic. "Purists" have disliked many of the recent Star Wars projects en masse, to put it mildly.

"...as a purist, it stands to reason that I should either hate the Peter Jackson films or, at the very least, be dismissive of them. But I love them."

Now, if there's one thing that Star Wars and Lord of the Rings have in common, it is their incredibly rabid fan bases, each of which are comprised of an extraordinarily healthy share of purists. Any tweak to either franchise has the hallowed "official" canon to live up to, along with millions of fans watching the proceedings with the beady-eyed glare of a prison guard. This is the atmosphere in which Peter Jackson found himself when he adapted one of the most widely-read, beloved, and hotly defended fantasy novels of all time. And when the final result was released for public consumption, the Lord of the Rings films were derided in some circles as pale shadows of the "real" story, a colossal misstep that badly misconstrued Tolkien's original vision.

There is a member of my extended family (whom I will not name) who cites Lord of the Rings as integral in seeing her through an extremely painful time in her life by allowing her a much-needed escape from reality. As a result, she is not only impressively knowledgeable in its histories and events, but is very protective of it as well; a purist in every sense of the word. For her, the novel is more than a story; it was a beacon of light in a dark place. And she has pulled no punches when it comes to her disdain of the cherished novel's theatrical "version".

Now, I do not necessarily place myself at her level, but I know the Lord of the Rings pretty well. Quite well, if I am allowed a moment of braggadocio. When the screenplay varies from the novel, I not only recognize the change, but know the differences between the two in fairly great detail. Having read the novel many times over, I was a frequent visitor to Middle-Earth long before the films were but a glint in Peter Jackson's eye. Ask me about Bullroarer Took or Quickbeam or Cirdan of the Grey Havens and I can tell you a thing or two. Same with Thranduil or Bard or Beorn in The Hobbit. Even Beren or Finwe or Gothmog in The Silmarillion. I am not just a fan of LOTR; I am a voracious compiler of Middle-Earth knowledge. I am, *drum roll*, a purist.

And as a purist, it stands to reason that I should either hate the Peter Jackson films or, at the very least, be dismissive of them. But I love them. Even with their faults and changes, I love them, because I know that Peter Jackson couldn't have realistically done any better. He couldn't have created the version that purists wanted. That's why even huge fans of the novel who hate the movies for all of their changes and mischaracterizations should respect Jackson for his efforts. I'll say it again - he couldn't have created the version that purists wanted. Period.

"The film version of Lord of the Rings that follows the novel religiously will never happen."

And why not? Mainly because films on the scale of Lord of the Rings only come to fruition through the financing of hundreds of millions of dollars via movie studios. It is an investment on their part, not a donation. Epics are not created through the goodness of somebody's heart. New Line Cinema trusted Peter Jackson with near-incalculable riches on the gamble that they would make their money back and more. Knowing this, Jackson had to make LOTR palatable for as wide an audience as possible so that the project could ultimately become a financial success. The film version of Lord of the Rings that follows the novel religiously will never happen. It is not improbable; it is impossible.

Tom BombadilConsider the mysterious Tom Bombadil. He is one of the most popular characters in the novel and yet is never seen nor referred to in the films. In Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth, Bombadil does not exist. On the surface, that is an outrageous screenwriting decision, but the inclusion of Bombadil in the films would have been nothing short of disastrous. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Tom Bombadil is a strange old man whom the hobbits encounter in the first leg of their journey to Rivendell. He lives near the borders of the Shire in the Old Forest with his wife Goldberry, saves the hobbits from danger on a couple of occasions and, at first glance, seems to be simply playing the stock role of 'friendly stranger'.

But Bombadil is far from just a friendly stranger. He is a force of nature, literally. Tolkien writes that Bombadil is 'master of wood, water, and hill', the embodiment of the natural world, and is possibly the oldest living being on all of Middle-Earth. Most astoundingly, the One Ring has no effect on him. He does not turn invisible when he puts it on and can see Frodo, while invisible, when the young hobbit puts it on himself. Later, at the Council of Elrond, the idea that the Council give Tom the ring for safekeeping is broached and then quickly dismissed. Why not give it to him? Because Tom, even if made aware of the ring's great importance, would not keep it safe. Instead, he would inevitably misplace it in favor of doting on his wife and the forest that he loves. No amount of cajoling could effectively make Tom understand what the ring means to the safety and security of the entire world. He is, for all intents and purposes, beyond power.

"Include Tom Bombadil in the film and 200 million moviegoers with only a passing knowledge of LOTR say in unison: 'what was the point of that?'"

How exactly do you put a character like that to film? You cannot. Imagine a cinematic version of Lord of the Rings that includes a side trip to Tom Bombadil's cottage. The audience meets an ancient and powerful eccentric in the guise of a happy-go-lucky gardener of sorts, a being so inexplicably mighty that he is immune to even the One Ring's power... and once the hobbits leave the Old Forest he is never seen again. Later, it is patiently explained to the hobbits that even if all the captains of Good in Middle-Earth pleaded with Tom to help them and protect the ring, he would not, because all he cares for is the trees and streams and his garden and Goldberry. Include Tom Bombadil in the film and 200 million moviegoers with only a passing knowledge of LOTR say in unison: "what was the point of that?" Tolkien created a world that was instilled with the subtle power of nature and Tom Bombadil was an allegory that spoke of nature's indifference to what humans call power. A lovely theme, but if Jackson had included him, it would have brought the main plot and tension to an absolute standstill. Purists would have been overjoyed, but everyone else would have been totally befuddled.

David Wenham as FaramirIn The Two Towers film, Faramir, brother of Boromir, captures Frodo and Sam out in the wild and nearly brings them and the One Ring to Minas Tirith before his conscience gets the best of him and he lets them go, allowing them to continue their journey to Mordor. Is this how he behaves in the novel? Not even close. Tolkien's Faramir comes across the two hobbits in the wild, correctly guesses their task, realizes that Frodo has the One Ring in his possession, briefly muses what heroic deeds he could accomplish if he held it for his own, and then tells the hobbits how he would never do such a thing and summarily wishes them good luck in their quest and bids them adieu. The differences between the two versions of Faramir aren't exactly subtle; they are as different as night and day.

Perhaps no other change has provoked as much LOTR purist rage as did Faramir's morphing from a thoughtful and wise leader of men into a grasping, bitter kidnapper with an inferiority complex. But in the eyes of the general public, portraying Faramir 'correctly' would have rendered the rest of Frodo and Sam's journey in The Two Towers nigh unwatchable. In the novel, while the rest of the now-asunder fellowship is either battling Uruk-hai at Helm's Deep or attacking Saruman at Orthanc, Frodo and Sam are...walking. To change Faramir into a divided soul, one who sometimes ignores the right thing to do in favor of finally gaining the approval of his dismissive father, lends the Frodo and Sam storyline more 'realism' for the informal fan. And, rightly or not, it certainly creates more tension than the original source material conveys at this point in the story.

Jackson's deletion of Tom Bombadil and revision of Faramir are just two examples of how the film detours from the novel. There are many more, both small and large. Ponder, if you will, the Council of Elrond scene in the Fellowship of the Ring novel - it is interminable, replete with individual stories, bits of random news from various characters, and lengthy debate regarding what the Council will do with the One Ring. Putting that to screen verbatim would have reduced a tale of adventure to a round table of epic boredom. In Tolkien's novel, the Council's ruminations and decisions plod along for an astounding 45 pages, over 11% of Fellowship of the Ring's length. A rote adaptation of such a scene would not have led to greater plot insight among casual fans; it would have led to them falling asleep in their chairs.

"Above all else, Peter Jackson's ability to effectively weave multiple narratives together so that everyone could understand Tolkien's tale was what led to the films' success."

Here's another - in the Return of the King novel, the four hobbits return home from helping save Middle-Earth to find that Hobbiton has been taken over by a band of ruffians led by the banished Saruman. Consequently, they must fight one last time for their homes and way of life, in a skirmish known as the Battle of Bywater. In print, the battle cleverly shows that, even though the war has been won, evil will forever search for a foothold, even in realms thought untouchable. In other words, Sauron is defeated but the world is still a dangerous place. In novel form, that works. On screen and for casual fans, there is no way to portray that without it being a hollow anticlimax, especially in a movie infamously and widely derided by many viewers as having 'too many endings'.

Characters' lines are spoken by other characters, scenes are rearranged or cut entirely, the crux of characters' motivations are sometimes wholly changed. But there is a single-minded purpose behind all of Peter Jackson's changes - the greater good of the story. Deviations from the novel are concocted to sharpen the narrative and lead the audience to an easily-recognizable end - the destruction of the One Ring and the banishment of evil. Gray areas are made either black or white. Mysterious characters are made to choose a side or are erased for the benefit of simplicity. All so that the general audience can easily recognize the major conflicts involved without the encumbrance of minor plot threads and distracting moral questions.

Because let's face it. Not everybody can be a 'superfan' and a lot of people don't care to be. Most people don't care to unravel Aragorn's lineage seven generations back. Most people don't care about the names of the mountain ranges surrounding Mordor. Most people just don't care. They want to see a story that makes sense without the advantage of prior knowledge. They want to see a rip-roaring tale of good vs. evil, without the entanglements of characters with dubious motives, a complicated and philosophical nature vs. industry argument, or an equally-complicated nature vs. nurture debate. Simplicity leads to digestibility, which leads to profits large enough to have made the endeavor worthwhile for all involved. And like it or not, profits are what it's all about.

Above all else, Peter Jackson's ability to effectively weave multiple narratives together so that everyone could understand Tolkien's tale was what led to the films' success. And that's what many purists just can't bring themselves to admit. A cinematic version of Lord of the Rings that properly mirrors the novel could never have been made. By default, Jackson's adaptation was the next best thing; the best thing we'll ever get. So that's got to count for something... right?

Related:

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Comments 

 
#1 There's 'being faithful'... Dave 2010-12-13 23:42
And then there's 'making stuff up from whole cloth'.

I too, am a purist of Lord of the Rings. I was impressed with 'Fellowship' and thought that Jackson did an excellent job adapting the story. He cut out extraneous scenes like Frodo moving into his new home, Tom Bombadil, and Elf Party #357 on the way to Rivendale.

Then 'Two Towers' came out. For me, this was a turning point and a kick in the gut. My favorite scene in the books is where Aragorn and Eomer draw their swords on the wall at Helm's Deep and jump down into the fray. Yet Jackson changed the narrative so that the scene would be impossible. But, lets add in more cgi shots that weren't in the books to show how dexterous Legolas is, in case people forgot about the epic archery from 'Fellowship'.

Then there was 'Return of the King', or the betrayal of the Shire. Here, Jackson cut out the entire 'Scouring of the Shire', one of the most important parts of the story, because he never liked it. 'The Scouring of the Shire' represents Tolkien's sadness of the green England of his youth being replaced by dreary industrializati on; it's the only real world symbolism in the book that Tolkien remotely admits is intentional and not just fan-projected, like the argument of the One Ring symbolizing nuclear power. But hey, Jackson doesn't like it, so out it goes. Oh, and let's add in more made up action shots of Legolas, this time swinging and jumping from mumak to mumak. Because how are we to know that Legolas is a nimble elf unless we show him doing feats of impossible dexterity?

With all that said, I am pleased with how I hear The Hobbit is going to be portrayed in terms of story, but I am still leary of things that may be added to the storyline that never existed in the name of 'jazzing the film up'.
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#2 RE: A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay AC 2010-12-14 00:00
Um, no. Many of the scenes in the extended release version were unspeakably awful - they never should have been shot, much less included in the film (these were, invariably, crap Jackson came up with himself). On the other hand, some of the stuff omitted from the movie (that was in the books), would not have been a good thing to include in the film.
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#3 My three cents Nate 2010-12-14 00:22
When I was young, I was introduced to the series by reading The Hobbit, and loved it! When I found out about the rest of the series, I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring. As an easily distracted 13 year old, I nearly quit reading the book when I got to the Council of Elrond section. It's so damn BORING!!!! Thankfully I got through it and loved the rest of the series! I was more than happy to see that section basically removed from the movie. I would have been asleep in the theater.
One other tragedy of film adaptation is the movie Contact with Jodie Foster. I LOVED that book, Carl Sagan's first novel. If the movie had been stand alone, no association to the book, it would have been sort of average. It bombed however when compared to the novel.
The book has so much better character development, back story, and better use of timing over the course of the story. Although movie focuses on Ellie, the Jodie Foster character, the book has multiple characters that weave a far more interesting story. I feel viewers are cheated by not knowing anything else about the story.
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#4 RE: A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay Filly 2010-12-14 00:59
This essay conveniently sidesteps the fact that Jackson made a multitude of changes for the film that neither advanced the story or made it more understandable for broader audiences. Some of his changes were downright baffling, for both myself (A Tolkien "purist") and my spouse (who is unfamiliar with Tolkien). Jackson and the studio unnecessarily dumbed down much of the source material not for the "single-minded purpose of the greater good of the story" but for the single minded purpose of the greater good of a Hollywood movie made by a b-movie horror film director.
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#5 Nailed it David R 2010-12-14 02:53
let's face it, if Jackson had made the movies the way you guys think they ought to have been made, there would only be one movie, not three. Look at Airbender. So messed up they have no plans to do a sequel. That's what would have happened to LOTR if they had followed the book.
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#6 I Liked the Books and Movies. suzyq 2010-12-14 04:53
I really liked both the LOTR books and movies. I am not a purist of the books or movies, although I read the books and liked them, I'm sorry to say I've forgotten a lot of the books because it was hard for me to keep track of all that was going on in them. i think Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh did a good job adapting the screenplays. I'm sure it was really difficult to decide what to leave out and what to change and still have the essence of the story remain. I'm looking forward to The Hobbit movies and was happy to hear Peter Jackson would direct and co-adapt the screenplays.
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#7 RE: A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay rubicusocon 2010-12-14 06:28
I like the extended editions of the film much better. My main complaint is that I wish there were fewer orcs attacking in Moria, and Moria should have been shot darker. I wanted to feel blind.
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#8 It’s all about the MEDIA used… René Kabis 2010-12-14 07:32
For the most part, Ruzin, your article hit the problem right on the head.

But I believe that there is another side to this coin… which involves the MEDIA being used. Being a voracious reader myself (owning over a thousand hardcovers and counting, both fantasy and sci-fi), I often recognize stories which would make awesome movies, but which contain scenes which have no hope in hell of being translated onto the big screen. And therefore, these stories would need to be rewritten to either tell the same story another way entirely, or to write it out of the movie altogether.

I have read LOTR, and consider them to be some of the finest fantasy books ever written. But lordy lord, so much of what was in them would never have worked on the big screen. I think that while there is certainly room for opinion and interpretation, I do strongly believe that Jackson’s version is probably one of the finest movie versions that could have been made while still retaining broader consumer appeal.

After all, what good is a movie if only the purists - those few percentage points of the larger population - are the only ones who like the movie enough to see it? Sure, let’s try not to dumb it down too much, but let’s also make it attractive to the vast majority of the “regular folks” out there.

Which is, after all, one of the most effective ways you have to get people interested in the source material. How many more people, I wonder, rushed out to buy the dead-tree version of LOTR once the first movie came out who wouldn’t have given the books a second look otherwise?

And that, I think, is the real metric of success for a movie, and how good it really is: how well it inspires others to read up on its source material who would have never done so on their own. In that regard, IMHO the LOTR movies were fantasy literature’s crowning moment of awesome, and should stand as a shining example of how it should be done.
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#9 Oh really? Al Harron 2010-12-14 09:30
You're entitled t your opinion, of course, but I refuse to believe that painfully false attempts at drama like Aragorn's river adventure, Merry & Pippin's nonsense with the fireworks, the pointless stair-jump, the Osgiliath detour, and the countless other unworthy additions were in any way necessary to make the film work any better than leaving difficult elements out. Leaving out the Barrow-downs results in a big plot hole (how did Merry even hurt the Witch-King when there's no indication his sword was anything special?), leaving out the Woses, the darker-skinned Gondorians and Dol Amrothians adds to the tiresome "Tolkien was racist" accusations and is replaced with a horrible Deus ex Machina, the Entmoot just doesn't make any sense with the decision reversed. All for the sake of "drama" that doesn't work, since anyone in their right mind knows that they're not going to stick. They just take up time and make the characters look like myopic idiots.

How can anyone call Frodo & Sam's story "just walking"? They're walking through enemy territory swarming with orcs, goblins, wargs and who knows what else. What, there isn't enough drama in two hobbits crawling through enemy lines, while accompanied by a mysterious figure who may or may not be trying to get them killed? If Jackson can't figure out a way to make such a tense, frightening situation compelling, then he's an idiot.

As for removing the Scouring, I understand that it would be incredibly difficult to film without feeling anti-climactic or drawn-out: but to assume it would be *impossible* is unimaginative. Easiest way to alleviate the film's ending fatigue? Trim the fat. Say, by removing all the pointless slow-mo when Frodo's reunited with everyone, that would probably cut a good minute or so.

That said, I could understand if the Scouring wasn't actually shown, but they don't just not show the Scouring: the Scouring simply doesn't happen. The four Hobbits return home to a pristine Shire, populated by the same content, fat, smug, conceited, isolationist Hobbits as when they started - completely refusing Tolkien's point that no-one can just shut themselves out from the world in times of war. It's the single biggest act of betrayal of the books.

Would it have been so hard for the Hobbits to return home to the Shire in smoking ruins, with some quick explanation about an Orc raid from Isengard or some such, and they start to rebuild, with the Hobbits using what they've learned from the outside world? It wouldn't have taken any more screen time than what we already had, and it would at least get the jist of the reason for the Scouring.

No, I am not deluded enough to think that The Lord of the Rings can be fully translated into three films, but that doesn't mean one can simply ignore the many alterations and omissions as being "necessary for the process of adaptation."
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#10 My tuppence worth Richard Cosgrove 2010-12-14 12:40
First of all, great article. I've read the trilogy a few times over the years, but I'm not familiar enough with the minutiae to consider myself a LOTR purist (Star Wars, though, that's another matter... ;-) ) but I do know enough to understand the major differences between the story in the two mediums.

The decision to excise Tom Bombadil was I think a wise one, as this is a classic example of something that works in print that would not have translated well onto the screen (and being something of a Stephen King purist as well, I've seen countless attempts and countless failures from that source material). I would, however, have like to have seen the Barrow-downs included, as i think Jackson could have pulled it off well and it would have knitted into his vision of the tale very nicely.

Given the print vs screen challenges, though, I do think Jackson and Walsh did a sterling job in crafting a respectable version of the trilogy that while not the exact, or whole, story, certain retained the essence of the tale while making it accessible enough for those who have no familiarity with the source material.

Plus, to return to King for a moment, sometimes a different vision can turn out to be an unexpected treat. Kubrick's version of The Shining is spectacularly different to the novel (one of my all time favourites, incidentally), but I think he successfully distilled the essence of the book and crafted a classic horror movie (which I rank above the Shining mini-series despite the fact that it ismuch closer to to the source material).

Plus as King once said when asked if he though Kubrick had ruined his novel - "Nope. It's still right up there on the shelf."

In conclusion, I've enjoyed the trilogy every time I've read it, and I thought the movies were fantastic, given the limitations of page vs screen, so I'm happy to accept that never the twain shall meet, and instead be thankful that I've got both!

Richard Cosgrove
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#11 RE: A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay Herman 2010-12-14 14:08
I agree with you that the movies were as good as they would have been had Jackson followed the source material word for word. Books almost never lend themselves to direct translation into film and I am content enough with what Jackson's trilogy gets right that what was omitted or plain wrong (Gandalf's encounter with the Witch King in the extended edition of The Return of the King, anyone?) can be overlooked.
However, I must disagree with you on the point that Tom Bombadil is an allegorical reference to nature. Tolkien disliked even the "smell of" allegory and flatly denied its presence in LOTR. Furthermore, I don't think he (Bombadil) can be taken quite so powerfully even if he were. He, like Melian, went out into the world and (eventually) established boundaries for himself. Fangorn himself, with whom Bombadil may be contrasted, is not oblivious or indifferent to humanity or the world at large...these are differences in character, not in symbolism or allegory.
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#12 Thanks for the comment... Gabriel_Ruzin 2010-12-14 15:58
...everyone. Glad to see that so many of you are enjoying the piece and the related debate. Figured I should go ahead and respond to a couple things, as far as how I see them anyway...

Believe it or not, there are several scenes throughout Jackson's LOTR that are really hard for me to swallow, because they're so completely unnecessary. There were no elves at Helm's Deep, and for good reason, so when they show up in the film, it's nothing short of totally ridiculous. Legolas isn't near the show-off in the books as he is in the movies. I could seriously go on and on for about 20 paragraphs and those of you who are familiar with the 'real' story know that. But we also know why Jackson made the changes that he did.

So you put in the Barrow Downs scene. What then? The scene is in the first third of Fellowship of the Ring and the payoff isn't until the end of Return of the King. That's much too long of a wait for the average viewer with little to no attention span. You adapt Faramir properly and everyone sits there wondering why he didn't take the ring from Frodo. And so on.

Movie studios execs and the general public are the same in which they have little to no interest in deconstructing a story in their heads. It has to be easy for them to understand. It's difficult to come up with a nice way to say this, but suffice it to say that if you leave in Tolkien's complexity, the majority of casual moviegoers won't have any idea what they're watching. The fact that Jackson put in 'multiple endings' (which is a ridiculous way to describe it) so that we could see what happened to most of the main characters ended up being a widespread joke among people who 'didn't get it'. Can you imagine the reactions of those same people when confronted with Tom Bombadil or a proper Faramir or a Scouring of the Shire? It would have been a financial disaster. And since box office receipts count for more than artistic integrity these days, changes were made to streamline the story for the masses.

Personally, I'd have LOVED to see a version that was more true to the source. And it could have been done fairly easily. But Jackson did what he had to do to get a 'mostly right' LOTR on the screen. He had to 'Hollywood-ize' scene after scene for the benefit of those who didn't know the story. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a film at all. I'll take a somewhat-flawed version over nothing; thus my article. hehe...
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#13 RE: A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay Meg 2011-04-01 14:02
This is the article that best sums up how I feel about LOTR both books and film. Having suffered in my college days (when I had only read the trilogy half a dozen times) thru Backshi's animated Lord of the Rings, I greatly hesitated over the films....but I was pleasantly surprised and how much was gotten into the films, how well they played, and how pleased I was with the various performances. Plus they turned my preteen son, never a reader of long books till then, into a fan of the books as well as the film, as her requested his own copy and read them through. I regard them both as masterworks in their are forms....I find that watching (or reading) one sends me to the other.
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#14 Entwives? Carsten P 2011-04-29 10:45
I think everyone has a different take on this topic. My favourite moment (in the books) comes when Treebeard has related the story about the Entwives leaving so long ago, that the Ents had long forgotten why and where they went. Then, when the hobbs relate their meeting with Tom Bombadil, Treebeard wants them to ask the old one, if he knows where the Entwives went. This very emotional storyline is sadly missing in the movies, because of the omission of Tom Bombadil. I agree that the leaving out Tom benefitted the films, I am just sad that my absolute favourite storyline is completely absent. Also, Treebeard calling someone "the old one" is truly awesome :-D

PS! I could definitely live without the 35 goodbye scenes, that wasn't in the books at all ;-)
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#15 Hey, now Baron 2011-04-29 16:49
Quoting Gabriel_Ruzin:
And since box office receipts count for more than artistic integrity these days


Well, they have to make back those 100 million dollars somehow.
And you're talking about mainstream only here. Plenty of directors care more about artistic integrity.
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#16 I disagree... Martin 2013-01-27 03:14
I'm afraid I don't find this at all persuasive.

I'm a Tolkein purist and I've tried several times to appreciate/enjoy the Jackson films but I just can't.

You've made this argument too easy for yourself. You've only dealt with the uncontraversial and obvious changes. It goes without saying that adapting a huge novel for the screen requires cuts and changes. Some stuff has to be left out. No sensible person thinks Jackson was wrong to cut Tom Bombardil (the BBC radio version did too).

I don't even care about stuff like the Scouring of the Shire. Or having Arwin rescue Frodo etc. No sensible person cares very much about stuff like that - that's not damaging the heart of the story.

So some good stuff had to be left out. But they didn't have to add their own stuff or totally change how the characters spoke. The stock Hollywood dialogue throughout the films is just banal and awful. From Galadriel's opening monologue onwards ("The chance to destroy evil forever"), everything's several notches more stupid than the Tolkein original.

The tone is just wrong. It's not strange and otherworldly like Tolkien. It's banal, ordinary, stupid - standard, flat, unimaginative Hollywood scriptwriting.

The crap "nobody tosses a dwarf" stuff and the "certain death, little chance of success, what are we waiting for" quip. Perhaps I'm uptight, but I couldn't get over lines like that. That isn't adapting someone else's words - that's making something entirely different. And I preferred the strangeness and seriousness of Tolkein's original.

Christopher Tolkein said recently that Jackson gutted the books to make films that would appeal to 15 year olds. He's right.
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#17 but one change! Carl Metcalf 2013-02-08 15:30
Missing out Dol Amroth and taking the amy of the dead to Minas Tirith.
I understand the difficulty in including a 'second mordor army' and introducing the other part of Gondor so completely ignored in the film as it is not referred to anywhere else in the narrative. BUT!!!! It makes the whole battle of Minas Tirith pointless. The ride of Rohan becomes an epic fail as they have to be rescued by some ghosts rather than battling bravely across the field to meet up with Aragorn and Dol Amroth. One of the most emotive parts of the book. They would have been better hiding up in the citadel and waiting for the ghosts to come and do it all for them. For me this change ruined the whole otherwise awesome trilogy. However cutting out the 41 page council of Elrond almost makes up for it.
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#18 Anyone who is Both a Movie Buff and Fan of Tolkien would Agree MorteImperator 2013-05-13 01:40
I started out with the Movies and I watched them so many times because I LOVED them just that much. I attempted to read the books years ago but could not get around the writing. Its only this year I even was able to finally get passed Fellowship (and was so HOOKED I practically swept through the whole story like it was nothing).

Now I am a Movie Buff. YES Movies is a PRIMARY Hobby of mine. As in I have an account at IMDB with lots of Movies on My-To Watch List and I am so much into Cinema I go outside of the Movies and study various behind-the-scenes stuff from interviews to how the fight choreography is made to set art and so forth.

I have read so many book adaptations of Movies I watched a long time ago and LOVED such as Doctor Zhivago and Gone With the Wind this year and later watched their Movie Adaptation.

I myself actually enjoy nitpicking and criticizing the things the movies changed or left out. But I REALIZE as a Movie Buff changes have to be made and I enjoy the film adaptation for what they are.

In fact Gone With the Wind is one movie adaptation I frequently attack as much as Tolkien Purists attack Jackson's Trilogy. You can find my criticisms on Yahoo Answers and Goodreads Discussion board for Gone With the Wind and you'll see how much of a Purist I am for that example. But in the end I realize that its a Movie and changes have to be made for it to be a profitable movie (IMPORTANT-Movies COST MONEY and no matter how much a fan the director and producer is, THEY HAVE to EARN BACK the money spent to make the movie). Like the author of this article and posters here commented, there are inexcusable changes made to Jackson's adaptation of LOTR, but taken as a whole its the BEST and most FAITHFUL thing we have to Lord of the Rings coming to life on screen. A few earlier adaptations actually attempted to remain more faithful to Tolkien's book (Bakshi's movie comes to mind) and what resulted were rather strange and mediocre adaptations (though in Bakshi's case in his defense he had an INCREDIBLY LIMITED BUDGET which is INSANE when you're trying to adapt an EPIC WORK as big as LOTR onscreen so he's excused).

Its been years since I watched Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy but despite finally reading the Book, I appreciate what Jackson has done and look forward to rewatching the Trilogy in the future. I will critique and criticize like everyone else here has done, but I will at the same time appreciate Jackson's works as the best he could have done and bear in mind (as a Movie Buff) that film is a totally different medium from literature that requires HUGE alterations to be good. What works in book medium is often disastrous for film and vice versa.

For example the complain where the Men of the White Mountains beaten saved the day for Pelennor Fields was a MUST for screen time purposes. Attempting to portray the remainder of the battles as in the book were the Rangers led by Aragorn aided the Riders of Rohan and Gondorian Men-At-Arms to defeat what remained of Sauron's forces would have added like an extra 15-20 minutes which would have been UNACCEPTABLE for screentime considering how long ROTK already was.

Nevermind the fact more actors needed to be hired as well as equipment needed to be produced to show the remainder of the battle as exactly like the book. One full set of arms and armor would already cost HUNDREDS of DOLLARS-there see MONEY is another factor for such decisions. As big as LOTR's budget was and despite the income earned from the firs 2 film, money is STILL EXTREMELY LIMITED. I mean the Orcs are not all fully armed like the books and were wearing scraps of Armor BECAUSE of a SHORTAGE of ORCISH costumes!

We must keep all that in mind when a Movie is being made and deviates from source material (especially for works on the scale as grand and epic as LOTR).
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#19 RE: A purist's defense of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings screenplay Sara 2013-10-03 05:36
I just want to put this out there. HBO. Long cartoon miniseries. It could be advertised as being specifically intended for purists.
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