The LOTR Movie Site
March 14, 2000
Movie vs. Books: Where to Draw the LineDavid 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 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.