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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:47 am 
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I’ve recently re-read the book and watched the films (LotR, that is, I don’t have any urge to watch the Hobbit films again). I’m still basically a purist, as I always was, but over time I’ve come to appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses in Tolkien’s writing more and more, and as I’ve become more used to the films, I’m less-bothered by changes from the book purely because they’re changes.

So, for something we haven’t discussed, at least for a long while, I’ve started putting together a list of things where I think the filmmakers improved on the source material. Not just things which needed to be changed by the demands of film adaptation, but places where the filmmakers genuinely took an opportunity that Tolkien himself missed. In other words, things that would have improved the books had they worked their way backwards from the film.

My list would be:
1. Boromir. Tolkien’s Boromir is implied to be a noble man with many admirers, but I’ve always found him a bit flat. I don’t really know of anyone who finds book-Boromir to be a particularly engaging and sympathetic character. The film, by contrast, makes him both far more likeable (through his relationship with the younger hobbits, for example) and his motivations more comprehensible. As a result, his fall and redemption are both very powerful. It’s a textbook example of using limited script and screen-time to create a great character arc.
2. The faster start. I think the first two chapters of LotR are great and contain some of Tolkien’s best writing, both his affectionate social satire and his glimpses of a dark and magnificent past that draw in the reader. But the book meanders after that, and Tolkien only really seems to find his way again at Bree. Frodo takes an awfully long time to get going, even once it's clear he has a dangerous magical object in his hole that needs to be removed from the Shire. The Old Forest nicely foreshadows the Ents, but I find both Bombadil and Goldberry to be dull and poorly-executed characters, and the entire diversion through the Forest and the Downs has almost no bearing on the later plot. It would had been different had Bombadil showed up at the Battle of the Black Gate like Beorn in the pivotal scene of the Hobbit, but then Bombadil doesn’t seem to belong in the Middle Earth depicted in RotK. It’s also very long – by comparison, it takes fewer words for the heroes to heal Théoden, rally the Rohirrim and win the Battle of Helm’s Deep than it does for them to get from the High Hay to the road outside Bree. I think the story is improved without it.
3. The more-powerful and more-consistent Ring. The One Ring is one of Tolkien’s most brilliant creations, an object that turns good intentions into evil deeds, but I feel that he never really used it to its full potential. Its effects are also a bit inconsistent. Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, Boromir and Denethor are drawn to its power; Elrond, Aragorn, Faramir, Legolas and Gimli are seemingly unaffected by it. The filmmakers were not able to completely resolve these inconsistencies, but they clarified that it has its strongest appeal to men, and then actually showed it working on Aragorn and Faramir (although I dislike the whole Osgilliath diversion). It would have been interesting to take this further and see the Ring working one-by-one on every member of the Fellowship based on their own desires; something Tolkien never did.
4. More distant and otherworldly Elves (at least in FotR). In my view, Tolkien never quite got a handle on either the Elves or the Orcs. His Elves always seem to swing a little bit between the Alfar of Germanic legends or the Fair Folk of Welsh mythology, who are potent and dangerous to mortals and do not live in the same world as us, and the playful wood-elves of English folklore. In LotR, I find that the Elves come across as normal people without anything to really suggest that they are fading, tired with the problems of the world and leaving Middle-Earth. I actually like the fact that the Elves of the films, particularly in Lórien, have a slightly sinister and remote edge. This is one of the many things undermined by having the Elves at Helm’s Deep in TTT. And I think that neither the book nor the film really get a handle on Legolas, who basically shows up and goes on a trip with a bunch of mortals without seeming to give it any thought.
5. Having the Orcs created out of the “subterranean heats and slime”, like in the original Book of Lost Tales. I know the Orc-pods are controversial, but having the Orcs reproduce like Elves and Men (as Tolkien later stated) creates a whole swathe of moral and practical problems which Tolkien was never able to even remotely resolve (How do irredeemably evil creatures care for their young? Is it acceptable to massacre Orc children or could they be raised and taught differently?). Having the Orcs created artificially resolves these issues, and also plays up to the theme that the antagonists of the story have usurped the power of creation and corrupted the natural order. It also explains how they could assemble armies of Orcs relatively-quickly. The Orcs were still left with their risible cockney dialogue, however.
6. Moving the Aragorn - Arwen material into the main story. The Hobbit-centric narrative makes this difficult, but it's significant to Aragorn's character and makes Arwen come accross as much less of a prize.

That’s enough for now – there’s some other small things. Most of those I have listed relate to FotR, which might explain why I still think it’s the best of the three films. I’m open to suggestions on the Hobbit films as well.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:12 am 
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of Vinyamar
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Túrin Turambar wrote:
Frodo takes an awfully long time to get going, even once it's clear he has a dangerous magical object in his hole that needs to be removed


Sorry, but my inner 10 year old got this far and I've been giggling ever since....

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:02 pm 
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Happy as a clam at high tide (when reading)
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I didn't even catch on to that!

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