Film adaptations are strange beasts -- they hardly ever satisfy everyone. While some adaptations are made entirely in the spirit of the original story, many attempt to translate a story for one group of fans into a movie for another. Now, depending on who you ask, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy may fall into either group here. For those who are intimately familiar with the original texts, the film trilogy is something altogether different from the books.
It might not be a stretch to suggest that the true story of LOTR is impossible to film properly -- after all, J.R.R. Tolkien himself and many fans long decried any film adaptations. Yet, what Jackson did is incredible. He brought this magnificent story, albeit altered, to a new generation of fans, many of whom became fans of the books as well. Did Jackson get some things wrong along the way? Absolutely, but few of them are unforgivable.
While there are those who trash Jackson's LOTR trilogy for changing elements of the story, there are many more who celebrate it despite these alterations. To make these films, Jackson needed to omit some things and add others, which led us to weigh those decisions.
Here are 8 Things Peter Jackson Got Wrong About The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (And 8 He Got Right).
Call them the Oathbreakers, or the Men of Dunharrow, but don't you dare call them a smart move. The issues with the film versions of the Oathbreakers are plain to see, but the explanations for them are not. There are reports that Jackson disliked the Oathbreakers, but kept them in to appease fans. Why then expand their role to such extremes? The ghosts never went to Minas Tirith nor were they a deus ex machina.
Originally, the Oathbreakers served great purpose: defeating the Black Númenóreans — the Corsairs.
Sauron sent these forces to attack from the sea. Gondor, therefore, positioned a section of its army to defend the shore. Aragorn summoned the Oathbreakers to overcome these evil ships. With no Corsairs left to fight, Gondor's shoreline army joined the fray on the Pelennor Fields, attacking the enemy forces from behind.
The makeup, prosthetics, and character creations are, no doubt, some of the finest work in the film trilogy -- and the foulest creatures are the best of all. Perhaps no other character exudes evil and vileness like the Mouth of Sauron. In the book, his description read: "A tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse… The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man ... his name is remembered in no tale, for he himself had forgotten it."
When Jackson sat down to portray this character, he settled upon an almost man-monster hybrid; a creature whose enormous, CGI-aided and diseased mouth seemingly ripped to allow it to open wider. Sauron's eyes were covered by his helm, suggesting he doesn’t need them. Jackson's creative vision turned the Mouth into one of the most memorable character designs in the trilogy.
While the Mouth of Sauron is one of the strongest character designs in the movies, the interaction between he and Aragorn may be one of Jackson's biggest missteps. When Aragorn takes the head off the Mouth, he looks like a total hero. Fans roar and beat their chests -- but is it true to the character?
Sure, Aragorn's nobility and honor are downplayed in the films compared to the books, but he's still king, and he is still one of the Dúnedain, a long and noble bloodline. He also understands that emissaries, no matter how rude or offensive, are to be treated with respect.
The manner in which Aragorn and his company conduct themselves is meant to stand in stark contrast to the forces of evil on the other side.
Aragorn attacking in anger, while showing honesty and emotion, also shows weakness.
Though some purists believe that Tom Bombadil was necessary, if only to show the degrees of power that exist in Middle-earth, it makes better sense to omit him completely. Bombadil is an intentional enigma: he may be one of the Ainur or he may be some being not properly described. Some even thought him to be God, though Tolkien denied that. He walked Middle-earth before the elves came, before the first raindrop and the first acorn -- he is timeless.
Cutting Bombadil needed to be done. He is too powerful and creates more problems than he resolves. For instance, Bombadil is not only unaffected by the power of Ring, but he even makes the Ring vanish with sleight-of-hand. He can also see Frodo when the Hobbit wears it, which would cause too many questions, and therefore, it was better to omit him entirely.
Leaving the Rangers of the North, the Grey Company led by Halbarad, out of the films is a crime.
In the books, when Aragorn walks the Path, he is accompanied by the Grey Company: a host of 31 Rangers of the North and the sons of Elrond.
It is this force, as well as some others they meet along the way, that march on Minas Tirith. Though 31 is an awfully low number, they are a mighty force. When King Théoden hears that this group of Rangers is coming to meet Aragorn, he says, "It is well! If these kinsmen be in any way like yourself, my Lord Aragorn, thirty such knights will be a strength that cannot be counted by heads."
Thinking about what could have been leaves us feeling like Sam as he watched the Elves walk to the Grey Havens.
Beside the fact that there are few strong female characters in the LOTR, providing reasoning for Jackson to replace the character of Glorfindel with Arwen, there are other good reasons for this switch. For one, after the Council of Elrond, Glorfindel is essentially useless. By giving Arwen Glorfindel's role in saving Frodo, Jackson is able to boost up Arwen's character. She plays a much larger role, as love interest to Aragorn and daughter to Elrond.
Maybe the best reason to omit the golden-haired elf is that Glorfindel is just too powerful to do nothing. Sure, many powerful elves sit back and do nothing, but Glorfindel is no ordinary elf -- he is one of the very few to be returned from passing away. He also destroyed a Balrog by himself; not a dormant Balrog either, a battle-tested monster of a Balrog. In other words, Glorfindel is overpowered.
Since Jackson's omission of Tom Bombadil is applauded, his omission of the Barrow-wights is as well. The decision to take the Barrow-blades from the Hobbits', however, is no good. The swords play two very important roles: one is on Weathertop, where the Hobbits' Barrow-blades serve them well, especially Frodo. The other important moment is when Merry attacks the Witch-king with his Barrow-blade, thus breaking the spell and enabling the Witch-king to be bested by Éowyn. The Barrow-blades are extremely powerful.
They were forged by the Men of Westernesse long ago to fight the Witch-king's forces, each bore ancient spells to weaken their foes.
Just because the Hobbits didn't see the Barrow-downs doesn't mean they couldn't get the Barrow-blades. After all, Weathertop is an old fortress once held by Arthedain, home to the same men who forged those swords.
Few fans would argue that, in Jackson's films, Andy Serkis' Gollum is king. The performance is remarkable, a stunning look into the twisted mind of a largely misunderstood character. While Gollum demonstrated moments of split personality in the books, particularly in the Passage of the Marshes, the division between Gollum and Sméagol is more apparent in the films, if only because we see it for ourselves.
The major change between worlds is the "casting out" of Gollum; that part in the films where Sméagol orders Gollum to leave and never come back. This is important because it shows Sméagol as a victim rather than a villain. While it can be argued that Sméagol should not have the power to cast out Gollum or the influence of the Precious in the films, this scene is still both incredibly effective and moving.
Going back to the scene on Weathertop, we'll take a look at how Aragorn defeated the Ringwraiths with ease. Though it is beautifully shot and looked epic, it sets up Aragorn as being far too powerful, too early on. Yes, Aragorn with torch and sword helps drive off the Nazgûl in the book, but there is more to it than fire and man's might.
Aragorn is tough, but defeating five Ringwraiths in darkness? Never.
Here's what really happened. Remember how Frodo's Barrow-blade is enriched with ancient Angmar-fighting spells? When the Hobbits are attacked, Frodo does two things: first, he lunges at the Witch-king with the Barrow-blade, second, he yells out "Elbereth," another name for Varda, essentially the queen of the Valar. This combination of events makes the Witch-king miss its final blow on Frodo, which also makes it seem that Frodo and the Hobbits are too powerful.
There is actually some debate about whether the Eye of Sauron is a physical presence in the book. Many point to a passage from "The Land of Shadow", which reads: "One moment only it stared out, but as from some great window immeasurably high there stabbed northward a flame of red, the flicker of a piercing Eye."
Though Frodo seems to see the Eye of Sauron as we do in the films, it may simply be that Frodo perceives Sauron's gaze as an eye.
When Frodo sat on the Seat of Seeing on Amon Hen, he detected something similar. This passage, however, stated that "he felt the eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep." Notice the words "felt" and "in." The concept of a great lidless and fiery eye is not Jackson's creation, but the eye as a physical spotlight bears his signature.
The scene in which Gandalf's staff is broken by the Witch-king of Angmar is epic but not accurate, at least not according to the books. Let's put aside what we think might happen based on their relative strengths and the order of beings in Middle-earth and look only at the text.
As in the movies, Gandalf rode out to meet the Witch-king, and even delivered the same line, more or less. But that's as far as the comparisons go. They only get interrupted, with no battle where Gandalf is defeated or insulted as in the movies.
Later in the book, Denethor questions if Gandalf is the weaker of the two, saying, "Then, Mithrandir, you had a foe to match you… Can it be that you have withdrawn because you are overmatched?" To this, Gandalf responds humbly, "It might be so… But our trial of strength is not yet come..." Let's call it a draw.
Even though the events surrounding Éomer didn't need changing to create similar circumstances, Jackson's decisions around Karl Urban's character were smart. For one, Théoden and/or Wormtongue didn't banish Éomer in the books, he is only imprisoned afterward.
In addition to providing more character development for Éomer, Théoden, and Wormtongue, Éomer's banishment in the film creates great tension in Rohan before the remaining fellowship even get to Meduseld.
The banishment of Éomer allows for his group of Rohirrim, his Éored, to be the ones that surprise Saruman's forces at Helm's Deep.
In the book, the culminating moment that ends that battle is a little out of the blue, which might cheapen such a large on-screen battle.
Despite hinting at it very briefly in the movies, the Palantír of Minas Tirith is essentially inconsequential in Jackson's interpretation, which greatly impacts Denethor. Rather than being driven to madness through depression and grief over Boromir, Denethor is corrupted by the Palantír, or more specifically, by Sauron via the Palantír.
It makes little sense for Jackson to eliminate the Palantír of Minas Tirith completely.
After all, Saruman's Palantír is introduced at length and plays a large role in the movie. It wouldn’t be hard to show Denethor's manipulation in more detail -- a quick scene with him and the Palantír would suffice.
Without this, Denethor seems totally incompetent, a bumbling madman who could never successfully lead Gondor. Yet, he did lead Gondor and did it quite well, but in the films he's a shell of what he is in the books.
Jackson's instincts are strong -- he took the broken sword of Narsil and turned it into a symbol and a rallying point. In the books, the elves reforge the sword into Andúril early on, Aragorn actually carries it with him for most of the journey. In the films, however, the elves don't reforge the sword until The Return of the King.
Elrond delivers it to him personally, and aside from this being an emotional moment, it also stands in as a metaphor for Aragorn accepting his bloodline and kingship.
Because Elrond delivers the sword to him, it also allows Jackson to give Arwen some more substance. This is when Aragorn learns that Arwen is fading, and also represents Elrond accepting Aragorn, settling a divide that, admittedly, didn't exist in the books but worked well in the films.
When the fellowship is accosted passing over the mountain Caradhras, in the film, it is Saruman who is behind the assault. In the books, however, the attack on Caradhras is much more ambiguous -- the mountain may even be sentient, making it much more interesting.
After Boromir says, "Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us." Aragorn responds, "I do call it the wind… But that does not make what you say untrue. There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he."
Later, Gimli thinks he knows the culprit, saying, "It was no ordinary storm. It is the ill will of Caradhras."
Say what you will about the drawn-out finish to the film and badmouth the extended battle scenes, but Jackson and his team surely did a bang-up job manipulating the books into three complete distinct films. Bringing Boromir's passing into the first film, as opposed to the second, and playing it out on screen was outstanding. Also, moving the events with Shelob into The Return of the King instead of The Two Towers as in the books worked extremely well.
Maybe Jackson's best move of all was simply shortening the length of time for which Frodo kept the ring secret in The Fellowship of the Ring.
It is often overlooked, but after Bilbo left the ring to Frodo, life carried on in the Shire for the Hobbits for 17 years. Eliminating this and most of the events in Crickhollow allowed the film to jump into the action and suspense quicker.
What did you think Peter Jackson got wrong about the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Let us know in the comments!