The LOTR Movie Site
March 14, 2000

Movie vs. Books: Where to Draw the Line
David Kime

I think a lot of people who visit this site have begun to loose sight of some very important facts. First, there is no way to make an absolute faithful movie of the novel unless someone funded about 20 hours of film. Probably, no one will ever fund such a venture. Even if that happened, probably only die hard Tolkien fans would sit through it. And even for those fans, they would be disturbed to learn that probably such a venture still wouldn't completely satisfy them. Why? One reason is simply the fact that there is no way that a film director will ever create a movie that recreates readers' imaginations. Also, sometimes what makes a good book does NOT make a good movie.

Case in point....We've probably all read by now the description of the filming of part of the battle between Saruman and Gandalf in Orthanc. In the books, this scene was told to the Council of Elrond by Gandalf sometime after it had happened, and not in a lot of detail. That worked in the books. We wondered through most of Book I what happened with Gandalf. In the movies, however, we'll probably see this scene happen in real time complete with details and drama. These scene may very well serve as the "complication" of the first movie, or all three movies (you know: exposition, complication, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion). Is this a 100% faithful filming of the novel? No. Will it make the movie a good MOVIE? Absolutely it will.

Will it still be a "Lord of the Rings" movie or an imitation? In my book, it's still "Lord of the Rings." These movies not only should satisfy those who previously read LOTR, but should also attract others to read the books. This will be accomplished if the movie is seen by a wider audience, and if the movie is the best MOVIE possible, not just the novel on film. For years people have asked for a quality LOTR movie, and they are finally getting just that, and now some are asking not for a movie, but the novel on film. There's just no pleasing some!

At every step of the road, we have evidence that this film is trying to remain as true to the novels as possible and yet be a good movie. We have Ian McKellen tell us that the make-up crew started with a beard as long as described in the novel, then when it was obvious if made moving difficult and looked silly on film, they trimmed it back. The lesson from that story is: they started with what is described in the novel. We also have been told that the cast and writers negotiate between the dialogue as-is in the novel and dialogue that would be understandable to general audiences. The cast reads the chapter in the novel before they begin filming. Jackson himself says things like : he wants to make the movie much as he imagined it when he first read the novel, he would like to keep Bombadil (and is interested in filming Bombadil for use is some sort of Special Edition video), but to make a good movie, the Council of Elrond HAS to take place before halfway through the first movie not after halfway through (as it does in the novel), and most importantly, he says that he needs to enlarge the role of Arwen, but doesn't plan on straying far from the written work. All of this is evidence that they are making a LOTR movie that is going to be as true to the novel as possible. Probably truer than any other production team would do. And we should be glad for their efforts. Millions will enjoy the movies, and millions will enjoy the written work after seeing the movies.

It is unfortunate, however, that some will only be satisfied with a novelization on film.

As for Arwen, I have yet to see good evidence that she is being made into Xena. The photos of her in outfit show not a single weapon or even armor. I agree with the fact that her role needs expanding in the film, if only to illuminate Aragorn's character, the trials he is going through, and why he makes the choices he makes. Arwen finds Strider and the hobbits instead of Glorfindel, I think that's fine. Arwen rides with her brothers (or even replaces one) to meet with Aragorn after the battle of Helm's Deep and presents his banner to him in person. I think that's fine too. If they get there before the battle. That might work. Arwen stays relatively safe in Rohan as the war continues, is ordered not to go to battle by Aragorn, then after overhearing this Eowyn disguises herself and rides into battle. That might actually be an interesting twist. Arwen kills the Nazgul instead of Eowyn. Well, that's where I draw the line. If that happens, I will be disappointed.

In the meantime, I am getting ready to enjoy three of the best movies every made.