Sometimes making a book into a movie works; sometimes it doesn’t. The range of opinion on this is huge – your love is my hate. So, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, here is my hate: The Lord of the Rings movies.
First I want to acknowledge the good parts of the movies. The visuals were stunning, and I think captured the descriptions in the book well. In accordance with my licence to niggle I would say that the Elves were a little too Arts and Crafts and showed no signs of stunning artistic ability. But the buildings, the landscapes, the clothing, the armour – all were convincing and that was the part I enjoyed most. The acting ranged from competent to excellent. The standout was Andy Serkis as Gollum.
The movies fell down with the script. Some of the changes from the book were fair enough, such as the elimination of the conspiracy of Merry, Pippin, Sam and Fredegar Bolger when Frodo leaves Bag End. It would take far too much time to properly develop this plot point, although its elimination means that Merry and Pippin in particular lose out in character development. Then there were the additions such as the teeter-totter escape from Moria, which was just silly. Those examples were from The Fellowship of the Ring, the least objectionable of the three movies.
The last two movies lost me altogether. Dwarf tossing jokes, dumbing down the Ents, the sad twisting of Faramir and his father Denethor: all combined to push me right out of the story. The moment of no return was in The Two Towers, when Aragorn is knocked unconscious and falls into a deep river while wearing a mail coat. So he drowned. But somehow he washed up downstream (wearing a mail coat?), was kissed by his horse and rode away to further adventures. Unfortunately, since people who fall into rivers while unconscious and wearing heavy clothes drown, I found it impossible to take the rest of the movies seriously. ZombieAragorn is not a good addition to the story.
Many people do not find these issues a problem. It’s only a movie, they say, and seem to be able to ignore heaps of bad things in favour of the spectacular moment. I can’t manage turning off my critical brain, and the more I need to, the less I can enjoy the movie.
So there you have it: thumbs down to The Lord of the Rings movies. I really wanted the movies to be good and I’m really sad that I can’t enjoy them as much as I would like. It was a massive achievement to film the book at all of course,
Tell us your favourite book-to-movie fails!
Need inspiration? Check out the library’s page on Books into film & television. More film stuff on our Film webpage and Read the Book — then see the film.