Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Nature and Industry. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts.
Over the years, I have enjoyed Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films many times. There is much to admire to them! However, there are a few changes the films made with which I do not agree. Here are a few.
Of all the changes Peter Jackson’s films make, Faramir’s characterization is my least favorite. In Tolkien’s story, Faramir serves as an image of what Bormomir might have been: a man who loves wisdom and goodness more than personal glory. Jackson, however, apparently to amp up the drama, makes Faramir into another Boromir, or perhaps something less. Because Faramir has daddy issues, he initially tries to send the Ring to Gondor to prove himself to his father, instead of doing what he knows in his heart is right–saving Gondor from itself by sending the Ring to its destruction. Faramir comes off as far more dishonorable and far less admirable in the films. But people need characters they can look up to, not only characters who show them their own weaknesses. And Boromir already did that, anyway.
Like Faramir, Treebeard is portrayed as less admirable in the films. In the book, Treebeard knows Saruman is trouble and that he must be dealt with. In the films, Treebear initially decides the Ents must leave Middle-earth to its fate, until he is tricked by Merry and Pippin into discovering that Saruman has been chopping down his forest. The film makes Treebeard look both foolish (he does not know what is happening in his own forest) and selfish.
Once again, Peter Jackson takes a character Tolkien portrays as noble and makes him conflicted in order to add more drama to the film. In Tolkien’s story, Aragorn knows he is a king and accepts his birthright. In the films, Aragorn is hesitant to take up his role and rejects the Sword That Was Broken. I do not see that this conflict adds much to the story since Aragorn accepts his kingship without much fuss in the end.
Arwen and Aragorn’s Romance
I understand Jackson probably wanted to add some romance to his story since most of this occurs in the Appendices in Tolkien’s book. But, again, he adds superfluous drama in having Aragorn break up with Arwen. She keeps appearing to him in weird dream sequences, though, which is confusing–are they still a couple or not? Then Arwen just decides to up and leave Aragorn forever by going to the Grey Havens until she has a vision, which really just makes me thing less of her.
I know many people wish Tolkien had written in more women, but Glorfindel is one of my favorite characters, so I am sad he was replaced by Arwen. Besides, the Arwen switch makes little sense when you consider how over-protective movie Elrond is. I seriously doubt he would let her leave Rivendell with Black Riders about.
Theoden Looks Incompetent
In Tolkien’s story, Theoden is a respected king who leads his people well in the end. However, in the movie, he is portrayed as incompetent and foolish. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli apparently know better than he does how to rule his people and organize his military resistance, and they are not shy about telling him to his face that going to Helm’s Deep is a stupid idea. Why they think Edoras is more defensible, however, I do not know. It certainly does not look to me like Edoras could withstand an attack by 10,000 orcs. The movie does not address this contradiction, however. It really just wants to play up the drama by having people repeatedly stress that Theoden is leading his people to doom.
The Rohirrim Can’t Tame Their Own Horses
In one random scene, the Rohirrim are shown unable to tame one of their own horses, even though they are known as Horse-masters. Aragorn, however, is perfect and therefore able to calm the horse for the Rohirrim. This makes no sense. It just feels like the film is invested by this point in making the Rohirrim look stupid so Aragorn can look awesome in contrast.
The Gondorians (and Faramir) Beat Smeagol
I find it difficult to believe that Faramir would beat up Smeagol to get information from him, or that he would allow his men to do so. They are supposed to be wise, descended from the Numenoreans. Yet, in the movie, they are shown to be comfortable with beating up defenseless, starved prisoners. It really seems like Jackson does not want audiences to like Faramir.
Sam Leaves Frodo
Sam would never leave Frodo, even if Frodo commanded it. This is just a fact.
No Scouring of the Shire
I know the movies were already pretty long and putting an ending on the ending, as it were, might have confused movie goers. But the Scouring of the Shire just feels thematically important. You can’t go home and find it all unchanged.