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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Tolkien vs Peter Jackson: Five Things the Books Did Better Than the Films
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mcmojo
Bree

Sep 6, 3:00pm

Post #1 of 32 (1127 views)
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Tolkien vs Peter Jackson: Five Things the Books Did Better Than the Films Can't Post

You can read the article here.


I would love some feedback. What did I get right? Is there anything with which you disagree? Thanks for reading.


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 7, 12:43pm

Post #2 of 32 (952 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

Just five?


squire
Half-elven


Sep 7, 9:28pm

Post #3 of 32 (885 views)
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Just five. [In reply to] Can't Post

As Lytle writes: "I’m sure I could come up with many more but I don’t want to overstay my welcome. Plus, it is not particularly thrilling for me to be criticizing my favorite films of all time."

It is refreshing to read a piece putting down the films in favor of the books, written by a dedicated fan of the films. Usually it's just my side vs their side on this debate.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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Paulo Gabriel
Rivendell

Sep 9, 2:16am

Post #4 of 32 (683 views)
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And what would your side be? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


(This post was edited by Paulo Gabriel on Sep 9, 2:17am)


mcmojo
Bree

Sep 9, 12:30pm

Post #5 of 32 (633 views)
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Yes, just five [In reply to] Can't Post

As "squire" pointed out - from the article. I could come up with more but the website I write for does a Friday Five so I obviously kept the list to five things.


Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan


Sep 9, 6:42pm

Post #6 of 32 (591 views)
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Interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree on most points, save that I've always loved Elijah Wood's portrayal of Frodo probably just as much as book Frodo. But the other points on the list are definite: Beorn, Faramir, Gandalf vs The Witch King, Shelob's Lair - all better in the books: which is not to say that in the movies, they were handled poorly, just differently.

I myself would have included two things, though: firstly, Jackson's treatment of the Ents, especially their motivation for joining the war against Saruman. Being deceived by Pippin may have seemed like a good way for the hobbits to be involved in the action, but the books handled it perfectly: in the book, Merry & Pippin are still the chief motivation for Treebeard's decision, but, at least in my opinion, for a very different reason - they restore Treebeard's hope in the outside world, and show him that there are still people in Middle-earth who care for nature: people who are worth fighting and dying for. That's how I've always read it, and that's why, I think, Tolkien spends so much time explaining Treebeard's wonder and amazement at never having heard of hobbits before - Treebeard believed that "nobody was altogether on his side" because he had watched the Elves abandon the fate of the world to others, to Men, who care little for nature: he had been betrayed by the Istari. In Hobbits he found a kindred spirit and a reason to defend the world. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I see it, and I believe portraying it that way could have helped to reinforce the themes that Jackson was already going for in Two Towers.

Also, Merry. This one is less for a philosophical reason, and more because I've always been infuriated at the way Jackson chose to combine Merry and Pippin into one personality - Merry's leadership qualities are lost, as are most of his defining character traits from the book: his curious nature, the way he acts like an older brother to Pippin - I enjoy that in the extended edition, some mention was made of his knowledge of the history of pipe-weed, but besides that, very little of Meriadoc Brandybuck from Tolkien's novel shines through in the movie.

"It is my duty to fight" - Mulan


Thor 'n' Oakenshield
Rohan


Sep 9, 6:53pm

Post #7 of 32 (592 views)
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Good point! [In reply to] Can't Post

I would also be interested in reading what a dedicated fan of the books would have to say about things that the films did better? I would be hard-pressed to come up with five, but I could possibly suggest:

1: showing, not telling, the Treason of Isengard.
2: The Gollum character arc in Two Towers (not in ROTK, with the silly "go home, Sam" argument and all that)
3: including the Tale of Aragorn & Arwen (not at all necessary, but it would have been nice to see more of it in the actual book: then again, Jackson's invention of Arwen's life being tied to the fate of the Ring was rather questionable)
4: more Galadriel - because Galadriel is always a win.
5: hmm...I can't think of a fifth off the top of my head! Perhaps I would include the change Jackson made in Fellowship, having Frodo briefly interact with Aragorn, Merry and Pippin before leaving. I always cry while watching those scenes: they're beautifully realized, and Merry and Pippin's heroic, almost self-sacrificial choice to distract the Uruks from Frodo is heartbreaking.

All these are just ideas, of course, for what could be on such a list. I'd be interested if there's any particular thing (maybe not five) that you think Jackson either did better than the books, or expanded upon in a very good way?
(or perhaps a question like this deserves its own thread?)

"It is my duty to fight" - Mulan


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 9, 7:54pm

Post #8 of 32 (584 views)
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Besides [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien's Frodo being an active protagonist, not passive luggage, both the script and the casting of Wood took away another of Frodo's defining characteristics: he was older and wiser than the other hobbits, indeed remarkably wise for any hobbit (and better-educated than any save Bilbo).

We can go round and round about hobbit maturation rates and what they really looked like at thirty-three; but apparent age notwithstanding Frodo was really fifty and had fifty years of life experience. The script made him a naif, and casting a teenager then completely buried book-Frodo's maturity.

FWIW, here is Wood in his early 30s:




(This post was edited by Solicitr on Sep 9, 8:02pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 9, 8:06pm

Post #9 of 32 (578 views)
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Yes, and no. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien's Frodo being an active protagonist, not passive luggage, both the script and the casting of Wood took away another of Frodo's defining characteristics: he was older and wiser than the other hobbits, indeed remarkably wise for any hobbit (and better-educated than any save Bilbo).

We can go round and round about hobbit maturation rates and what they really looked like at thirty-three; but apparent age notwithstanding Frodo was really fifty and had fifty years of life experience. The script made him a naif, and casting a teenager then completely buried book-Frodo's maturity.


Yes, in book-canon Frodo was fifty years old when he left the Shire with the Ring. On the other hand, Bilbo's farewell party also celebrated Frodo's thirty-third birthday and his coming of age. So, in the films Frodo is probably aged no more than thirty-four when he and Sam set out for Rivendell. By Hobbit standards he really was still a young adult, equivalent to one of the Big Folk in their early twenties.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 9, 8:08pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 9, 9:21pm

Post #10 of 32 (566 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Tolkien's Frodo being an active protagonist, not passive luggage, both the script and the casting of Wood took away another of Frodo's defining characteristics: he was older and wiser than the other hobbits, indeed remarkably wise for any hobbit (and better-educated than any save Bilbo).

We can go round and round about hobbit maturation rates and what they really looked like at thirty-three; but apparent age notwithstanding Frodo was really fifty and had fifty years of life experience. The script made him a naif, and casting a teenager then completely buried book-Frodo's maturity.


Yes, in book-canon Frodo was fifty years old when he left the Shire with the Ring. On the other hand, Bilbo's farewell party also celebrated Frodo's thirty-third birthday and his coming of age. So, in the films Frodo is probably aged no more than thirty-four when he and Sam set out for Rivendell. By Hobbit standards he really was still a young adult, equivalent to one of the Big Folk in their early twenties.


Yes, that's the "going round and round" bit I alluded to, an old argument as hoary as Balrog wings. It starts with a given datum: that once Frodo received the ring on his 33rd birthday he stopped physically aging.

One camp can be called the "evenly stretched lifespan" school; if hobbits live on average to 100 as opposed to the Big Folks' 70, this means that every stage in a hobbit's aging takes 40% longer, which puts hobbit 33 at an equivalent human age of 23.

The other school (which includes Christopher Tolkien) holds that hobbits don't age any more slowly than men, that their average life expectancy is a function of disease resistance, general toughness and a healthy lifestyle; "coming of age" at 33 was (besides being a convenient number for T's "gross" joke), a droll observation by the university professor that young people in their irresponsible twenties wouldn't be considered anything like adults by a society as sensible as the Shire's. (Note that Aragorn, with a life expectancy double that of any hobbit, nonetheless came of age at 21).

Whichever school one adheres to, casting a seventeen-year-old actor (and one who was rather doll-faced even for that age) did nothing but reinforce the notion that Frodo was a complete tyro, wide-eyed and clueless.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Sep 9, 9:27pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 9, 9:52pm

Post #11 of 32 (562 views)
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Actually, no. That's not it. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Yes, that's the "going round and round" bit I alluded to, an old argument as hoary as Balrog wings. It starts with a given datum: that once Frodo received the ring on his 33rd birthday he stopped physically aging.


That's not what I meant at all (okay, just a little). There isn't a seventeen year gap in the films between Bilbo's party (on September 22, 3000 as per FotR-EE) and Frodo's departure from the Shire. It is probably no more than a gap of one year, with Frodo reaching the Ford of Bruinen on 20 October, 3001. Frodo was physically much younger when he left the Shire in the films than he was in Tolkien's legendarium. The timeline of the movies is all messed up.

Still, strictly in terms of age, I have to agree that Elijah Wood would have been better cast as Pippin who, in the book, was the youngest member of the company. I can't fully agree with Christopher Tolkien, though, on the subject of hobbit maturity rates. I can't think of any human society, no matter how highly structured, where a man's coming of age wasn't recognized until he had reached his thirties. I am convinced that J.R.R. Tolkien's intent was that hobbits reached physical maturity around the time of their thirty-third year. On the other hand, there is no reason to think that this had to be extended as well to the Dúnedain.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 9, 10:04pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Sep 9, 11:12pm

Post #12 of 32 (545 views)
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FWIW [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo's parting birthday gifts to the Gaffer, who was 75 at the time, included ointment for creaking joints, which to my mind also argues for aging at essentially a human rate.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 9, 11:56pm

Post #13 of 32 (538 views)
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Room for Doubt [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Bilbo's parting birthday gifts to the Gaffer, who was 75 at the time, included ointment for creaking joints, which to my mind also argues for aging at essentially a human rate.


That's not convincing. A hard-working hobbit gardener by his seventy-fifth year could very well have developed a condition such as either rheumatism or arthritis. You would have done better to cite young Meriadoc Brandybuck who seemed quite mature for his age of not yet twenty years in T.A. 3001. Pippin at that time couldn't have been more than eleven years old (though the films bumped both of their ages up for Bilbo's party).

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Sep 9, 11:58pm)


StingingFly
Lorien


Sep 10, 12:25am

Post #14 of 32 (530 views)
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I agree... [In reply to] Can't Post

...with the points that you made. I would add,

the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. I really like how the book showed the gathering of the armies, in particular the knights of Dol Amroth. Gondor is outmatched, but not pathetic. The 'army of the dead' in the movie was a poor addition and made the ending feel anti-climactic.
also
The Scouring of the Shire. When I was a teen reading the books I found this tedious, probably due to reading fatigue. Now, this is my favorite part of the story. It not only shows the growth of our dear hobbits, but it encourages us to make a difference in the community that we live in. Showing that ordinary citizens can be heroes if they stand up for what is right.


mcmojo
Bree

Tue, 12:28pm

Post #15 of 32 (454 views)
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I did write an article like that! [In reply to] Can't Post

You can read it here. Thanks for the comments.


I do feel Merry still plays the role of "older brother" to Pippin in the films, but he did lose his leadership/planner characteristics. His early planning really helped put the mission in motion for Frodo in the books.


Solicitr
Rohan

Tue, 4:37pm

Post #16 of 32 (430 views)
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How [In reply to] Can't Post

...many people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis at 53?


In Reply To

In Reply To
Bilbo's parting birthday gifts to the Gaffer, who was 75 at the time, included ointment for creaking joints, which to my mind also argues for aging at essentially a human rate.


That's not convincing. A hard-working hobbit gardener by his seventy-fifth year could very well have developed a condition such as either rheumatism or arthritis. You would have done better to cite young Meriadoc Brandybuck who seemed quite mature for his age of not yet twenty years in T.A. 3001. Pippin at that time couldn't have been more than eleven years old (though the films bumped both of their ages up for Bilbo's party).



Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Tue, 4:50pm

Post #17 of 32 (430 views)
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Does it matter? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
...many people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis at 53?


Even if it's uncommon, that doesn't make it impossible or even unreasonable, especially for someone who makes his living with his hands. Besides, I'm not saying that the analogy works 100% across the board. Generally speaking, I do continue to believe that the Hobbit life cycle is notably slower than that of the common Man. I think we should be able to see this evidenced in Bree where Hobbits and the Big Folk coexist.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


jlj93byu
Rivendell

Tue, 8:44pm

Post #18 of 32 (407 views)
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Theoden. [In reply to] Can't Post

King Theoden is one of my favorite characters. Granted, when I saw the films I hadn't read the books, and Bernard Hill's excellent portrayal is one thing that sold me on the character. When I finally read the books, I read about Theoden and about fell off my chair--he was the EXACT OPPOSITE of how he was portrayed in Two Towers. Fortunately, he got his redemption in ROTK, but man, he was a weak leader in TTT whereas in the book he was not. Heck, in the film's he's chastised for fleeing to Helm's Deep and not riding out to meet Saruman head on, whereas in the book that's EXACTLY what he wants to do but it's Gandalf who then counsels him to seek refuge at Helm's Deep (ironically, Gandalf is the very one in the film who criticizes Theoden for fleeing to the place that in the book Gandalf recommended he flee to).

I understand their explanation for the changes, but don't buy them. I mean, Theoden was going to be dead anyway before Aragorn took the throne, so while they said they didn't want another strong kingly figure to compete with Aragorn, there would be no competition. I may be remembering wrong, but I thought that was ultimately their explanation (similar to the one for Faramir), they basically had to weaken any otherwise strong characters so that our heroes stood out in contrast all the greater. If Theoden had been a strong king from the beginning, it would have lessened Aragorn's role at Helm's Deep. At least that's the impression I got from their explanation of things.


(This post was edited by jlj93byu on Tue, 8:44pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Tue, 10:01pm

Post #19 of 32 (396 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

Gaffer - the name itself says it - is always presented as an old man. Already in Chapter 1 we see that he has to rely on Sam to get his job done; and he hangs out at The Ivy Bush with "Daddy" Twofoot and other old men.


Quote
"No one had a more attentive audience than old Ham Gamgee, commonly known as the Gaffer...he had tended the garden at Bag End for forty years...Now that he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee"




In Reply To

In Reply To
...many people suffer from rheumatoid arthritis at 53?


Even if it's uncommon, that doesn't make it impossible or even unreasonable, especially for someone who makes his living with his hands. Besides, I'm not saying that the analogy works 100% across the board. Generally speaking, I do continue to believe that the Hobbit life cycle is notably slower than that of the common Man. I think we should be able to see this evidenced in Bree where Hobbits and the Big Folk coexist.



Solicitr
Rohan

Tue, 10:10pm

Post #20 of 32 (395 views)
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Part [In reply to] Can't Post

of the problem was Boyens screenwriting-by-numbers conviction that every character had to have an "arc;" she couldn't conceive of characters who are (noble) archetypes, or who are not 'growing' within the confines of the story because they have already had their "character arc." Ergo Theoden has to be made weak, even after his cure by Gandalf, simply so that later he can appear somewhat resolute - after a moment's waffling and Aragorn's implied pressure - when the beacons flare. Farmir has to be weak and succumb to the Ring's temptation and Osgiliate just so he can have a cheap turnaround moment (one of the most implausible bits in the movies: Faramir suddenly decides "Well, I was going to drag you and this immensely dangerous weapon to Minas Tirith, but now that I see you have only a tenuous grip on your sanity and are likely to offer it to the first Evil Minion you run across, I guess I'll change my mind and just let you go to Minas Morgul.")


Paulo Gabriel
Rivendell

Wed, 5:49am

Post #21 of 32 (355 views)
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That reminds me of this quote... [In reply to] Can't Post

''Not every story is, or should be, a Bildungsroman. There are other forms of narrative out there. Some of them are even stronger than the Bildungsroman convention, in terms of dramatic power. (Such as, to name only one, the mature individual suddenly forced to confront challenges to their beliefs, or overwhelming odds, or even both at once, as when overwhelming odds destroy apparently-justified faith in one's own competence. I seem to recall something of the sort in those static old flops, King Lear and Oedipus Rex: obviously J/B/W can do better than Shakespeare and Sophocles at storytelling.) The story of a young man growing up is only one of many, many possible human (or other) experiences; it is not the only possible story, and it is really a story that requires a focus on one character, introspectively, where events are only important as they impact the focal character, over a fairly protracted length of time — not multiple characters in an event-driven plot which mostly takes place in a quite brief amount of time. Trying to force an "arc" (with "arc" defined in a very simplistic manner) on each and every character results in implausible personalities, bizarre behavior, and irrational plots''.


Paulo Gabriel
Rivendell

Wed, 5:53am

Post #22 of 32 (348 views)
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And about Frodo... [In reply to] Can't Post

''Elijah Wood — hoo boy. Frodo is supposed to be a mature, responsible, introspective individual, the oldest and most educated of the Hobbit gang, and though not without his lighter moments (as have we all), still, a very strong character with more self-possession than otherwise, when the Quest begins. It isn't EW's fault that PJ chooses to let the camera linger so much on his welling blue eyes and trembling chin, any more than his odd jawline is his fault (and there is less of this the second film) — but he plays Frodo as the embodiment of youthful gormlessness, someone swept along by events and impulses alike, not as someone who has some idea — more than the others, at least, from all his years of reading and listening to foreign news and information — of what he is getting himself into, and does so in a very deliberate, methodical and rational way, not stampeded into it moment by moment, as in the movies''.


Paulo Gabriel
Rivendell

Wed, 6:21am

Post #23 of 32 (347 views)
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And about Frodo (there was a formatting error in the previous post) [In reply to] Can't Post

''Elijah Wood -- hoo boy. Frodo is supposed to be a mature, responsible, introspective individual, the oldest and most educated of the Hobbit gang, and though not without his lighter moments (as have we all), still, a very strong character with more self-possession than otherwise, when the Quest begins. It isn't EW's fault that PJ chooses to let the camera linger so much on his welling blue eyes and trembling chin, any more than his odd jawline is his fault (and there is less of this the second film); but he plays Frodo as the embodiment of youthful gormlessness, someone swept along by events and impulses alike, not as someone who has some idea -- more than the others, at least, from all his years of reading and listening to foreign news and information of what he is getting himself into, and does so in a very deliberate, methodical and rational way, not stampeded into it moment by moment, as in the movies''.


Solicitr
Rohan

Wed, 2:44pm

Post #24 of 32 (301 views)
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Hear, hear! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
''Not every story is, or should be, a Bildungsroman. There are other forms of narrative out there. Some of them are even stronger than the Bildungsroman convention, in terms of dramatic power. (Such as, to name only one, the mature individual suddenly forced to confront challenges to their beliefs, or overwhelming odds, or even both at once, as when overwhelming odds destroy apparently-justified faith in one's own competence. I seem to recall something of the sort in those static old flops, King Lear and Oedipus Rex: obviously J/B/W can do better than Shakespeare and Sophocles at storytelling.) The story of a young man growing up is only one of many, many possible human (or other) experiences; it is not the only possible story, and it is really a story that requires a focus on one character, introspectively, where events are only important as they impact the focal character, over a fairly protracted length of time — not multiple characters in an event-driven plot which mostly takes place in a quite brief amount of time. Trying to force an "arc" (with "arc" defined in a very simplistic manner) on each and every character results in implausible personalities, bizarre behavior, and irrational plots''.



squire
Half-elven


Wed, 9:49pm

Post #25 of 32 (259 views)
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Who wrote that? [In reply to] Can't Post

And when?

Thanks for the clarification, if you have it.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.

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