Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lord of the Rings - Book vs Movie Showdown

I tried to read J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" back in high school but by the time I was done with "Fellowship of the Ring" I was so bored out of my mind that I could read no further. Having seen all three movies, I thought I would try it again and I am glad I did. It took me almost two weeks to read, but now that I had seen the movies I could understand a lot more of what happened which was otherwise dull and incomprehensible (battle scenes and geography primarily). Tolkien's purpose in writing these books was to tell a history, and so the books really read as history books, full of endless details, long dialogs, little foreshadowing or simultaneous story lines and few proper climaxes. Overall I felt that the movies followed the books very faithfully, omitting little and adding the action, emotion and crescendos that make a movie palatable.

Some things that I thought were better covered in the book than the movie:

- Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are two very fascinating characters in the book that are entirely absent from the movie. Though I see how it would have slowed the movie down I would have dearly liked to have seen the portrayal of the River daughter and the man who is Master of the land.

- Theoden King of Rohan was far less fearful and confused in the book, riding out against Isengard instead of 'hiding out' in Helm's Deep, so even though the battle still took place, he did not cower and his spirit was never in doubt.

- For dramatic effect the movie made a great deal out of the wear and tear on Frodo from the Ring, which was much more subdued in the book. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that Frodo never sent Sam away but that they had entered Shelob's layer hand in hand.

- Faramir was super cool in the book, cooler even in some ways than Aragon. He rejected the Ring right away, was wise and brave, and his love affair with Eowyn was one of the high points of the story in my opinion (seeing how she is the only woman really involved in the book at all).

- The book finally explained to me what the heck that stick and banner was that Arwen was hiding behind at the coronation (though such a scene never took place in the book it always pissed me off as I watched wondering why she is holding a stupid flag). I think it was supposed to be the standard of Aragorn's royal house or whatnot, with which in the book he commands the army of the dead.

Some things that were better off in the movie than in the book:

- By far the best part of the movies for me (I am a girl afterall) was the love story of Arwen and Aragorn, which was barely mentioned in the appendix of the third book. Aragorn himself was much more admirable in the movie in my opinion, especially in his treatment of Arwen but mostly because it is impossible to resists the charms of Viggo Mortensen

- Just about all the battles, which were actually climactic and followed some sort of interesting pattern, especially the battle of Helm's Deep.

I am ambivalent about the chapter in which the Shire is besieged by Saruman who is then driven out by the four hobbits upon their return. It was an interesting side story and certainly made sure that they got a lot more respect from their fellow Shire-folk for their deeds than they seemed to in the movie.

So that's my two cents.


maeverin said...

i have always wanted to read the books, but alas, my attention span is somewhat lacking. i am glad to here that the movies didn't screw with the story too much. so far, i only know of one instance where the movie was better than the book (Howl's Moving Castle), so in your opinion, can you say which you thought was better?

Paulina said...

I think in this instance I would recommend the movie over the book, because as I mentioned the book is often incomprehensible. But! If you have read the book or are able to afterwards, you will discover that they are quite equal in value, in my opinion.
I've often found that the favorite is the one you get to know first, though in some cases, if the other is superb, the can become equals. An example of where the movie and the book were quite different but both spectacular is Bridget Jones's diary. It's like have four books instead of two because the stories vary so much.

Anonymous said...

I felt tom Bombadil was a character that could be omitted. Also they just made gandalf so much better in the movies. (Mostly he was scared of moria and knew what was in there)

Paulina said...

If they had to omit someone, I agree, Bombadil does nothing for the overall story line.