Today, after Sunny left for work, I decided the watch ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ for the fifteenth or sixteenth time.
As you can probably guess, The Lord of the Rings movies are some of my favorites of all time…but it suddenly struck me as I was watching that the Lord of the Rings movies are unique in that they are the only movies I’ve ever preferred over the books.
There’s a reason the books are always better. When you read a story, you’re getting the version that’s been made specifically for you by your own brain. It’s one of the things I remember from my writing classes at university, don’t be too specific with your descriptions so the reader can fill in the blanks.
For example, if I read a book where the main character is described as a stunningly beautiful brunette, my imagination creates that character to fit my definition of beauty. You could read exactly the same book and have a totally different idea of what that character looks like.
Then the movie comes out, and that character is played by Megan Fox who, in my opinion, looks like a total skank, and has all the acting ability of a breeze block.
Long story short, you have a picture in your head that is your ‘perfect’ version of the story, which means you’re going to spend the movie picking out the differences between the version in your head and the version on the screen.
So what makes The Lord of the Rings movies different?
I’ll tell you, and I’m sure I’m going to enrage a lot of geeks by saying this…but the Lord of the Rings books pretty much sucked.
J.R.R. Tolkien is one of those writers who is incredibly creative, has amazing ideas and the actual plot to The Lord of the Rings trilogy is awesome…but he is one fucking awful storyteller. You get the feeling he just sat behind his typewriter and made up the story as he went along, and never went back and changed or removed anything, regardless of how irrelevant anything became. It’s a weird, meandering read where thousands of words of exposition come to complete dead ends, and you have to wade through pages and pages of irrelevant and pointless information when all you want to do is get back to the main plot.
He starts the Fellowship of the Ring with a 10 page treatise of Hobbits, including the types of homes they live in, their farming habits and tons of other stuff we just don’t need to know. All I need to know about Hobbits is they’re a small, peaceful people who dislike excitement and change, that make’s Frodo’s journey much more interesting as we know he’s not a stereotypical adventurer. What I don’t need to know is their entire history, including their architecture style and farming habits.
I wish I was joking about that. Despite the fact he already covered it in ‘The Hobbit’, he spends around 15 pages at the start of Fellowship of the Ring going into excruciating detail about Hobbit Culture.
Later on, he spends God knows how many pages introducing Tom Bombadil, a character who talks like a lunatic, serves no purpose and then vanishes completely from the story.
Imagine reading a novelization of The Matrix, only just after Morpheus contacts Neo, Neo goes to visit his neighbor who talks about his planned fishing trip for thirty pages and the girl he wants to ask out…and then is never mentioned again.
Remember the Battle of Minas Tirith? The epic battle at the end of The Return of the King? He spent maybe three pages on the battle, then 20 or 30 describing Aragorn running around the woods to find some Kingsfoil plant to help heal someone’s wounds.
However, my favorite part was after the battle, after the One Ring is cast into the fires of Mount Doom and Sauron is destroyed once and for all, the Hobbits return to the Shire. End of story, right?
Well, no. we get about another 30-40 more pages of bullshit where it turns out Saruman has changed his name to ‘Sharkey’ and has hired some thugs to terrorize the Shire…and then gets defeated in an extremely boring and anti-climactic way. Not only is this pointless fluff, but we’ve spent three books hearing about what an all-powerful badass Saruman is. It’s like adding an extra 40 minute scene at the end of Return of the Jedi where we discoverer the Emperor survived and has taken up shoplifting.
Basically, The Lord of the Rings movies were great because they weren’t like the books.
I won’t deny that Tolkien is a genius. The guy basically invented the fantasy genre…he’s just an awful storyteller.