“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them”—J.R.R. Tolkein
The Lord of the Rings is one of the most iconic fantasy stories of all time. Middle Earth was open to the public back in the 1950’s when the books were first published, and ever since, fans of all ages have found a home within these pages. Many people enjoy the movies too, and they are extraordinary as far as high fantasy movies go, however there are some main points that they miss that I really can’t forgive.
“‘I will take the ring’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.’”—J.R.R. Tolkein
Starting with the Fellowship of the Ring, this is usually everyone’s least favorite since it is the “most boring” of the three volumes. The book is pretty slow to start, though I have to say it is probably my favorite of the three. If you think about it, this one covers a lot more land in Middle Earth than any of the three books, and it also has a lot of exposition. As far as first books in a series go, yes this one is slow, but if you only read one book in the entire series this one goes through the entire backstory of the ring, introduction to the characters and the realm, and it does have some pretty suspenseful scenes (especially towards the end).
I thought the movie for this book was actually the best adaptation of all three. For the most part, Pater Jackson stayed pretty true to the book, and the changes he did make I actually thought were better.
Cutting out Tom Bombadil was a must, he is my least favorite character and really provides no sustenance to the overall story anyway. Like the book, if this is the only movie you see in this trilogy, you’re probably better off. Most of the iconic lines and scenes that you associate with Lord of the Rings comes from this movie anyway.
The only thing I was a little saddened by in this movie was the lack of songs. Anyone who has read the books will know that all of the characters recite songs and poems and will even make up ones on the spot given the situation. Tolkien was thorough when he wrote these books. There’s multiple appendices and sections that explain the maps and timeline of each subplot, of course he was going to define the culture of Middle Earth and these songs are a huge part of that culture. Some of the characters are prejudice towards each other, but what brings them together is not the ring or the quest (if anything those two things do the opposite!), it’s their shared love of poetry, music, and singing. Jackson did include some of the songs and I would never expect any director to include the many, MANY, songs and poems that are in The Fellowship alone. However, I think it would have been nice if he included a few more, and then only did one or two in the other two movies.
“‘For not only the little life of Men is now endangered, but the life also of those things which you have deemed the matter of legend.’”—J.R.R. Tolkien
Moving on to the Two Towers, I know many people enjoy this one because it has a lot of fight scenes in it and it is actually very interesting to see how the group dynamics shift as The Fellowship breaks apart and they all go off on their separate journeys. However, there is not much exposition in these besides the expansion on the kingdom that Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas go to. We are introduced to the Ents in this book, as well, and though they are subjectively the best characters in the entire series next to the Eagles, they talked so slowly it was a struggle to stay awake while listening to the audiobook. Overall the movies had pretty good CGI considering they were made in the very early 2000’s, but the Ents were still looking pretty rough compared to everything else.
Gollum was also looking a little odd, but not terrible given the time and technology. If you only saw the movies, then you might have found Gollum pretty annoying, but he was honestly more toned down in the movies; in the books I remember him being much more irritating.
What this movie is really known for are the fight scenes though. I think the Wargs fight scene was really good, but the last battle dragged on too long and just was not that good given the amount of attention it gets. The Lord of the Rings fan base is mostly male, so I get that there is more of an attraction to fight scenes in movies, hence why this one is usually a fan favorite, but I honestly don’t get the hype.
“What do you fear, lady?’ he asked. ‘A cage,’ she said. ‘To stay behind the bars, until use and old age accept them, and all change of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.’”—J.R.R. Tolkien
Finally, we come to the Return of the King, the finale to a six book, three volume epic hero’s journey. This book was more memorable to me than the Two Towers, especially since Eowyn was more of main character. I really enjoyed her character strength throughout most of the book up until the very end. I honestly don’t know why Aragorn preferred Arwen over her, or why Eowyn settled for Faramir. Eowyn was built up only to be let down at the very end and I wish Tolkien had given her character more care and attention. Peter Jackson had a chance to give Eowyn a bigger role in the movie and to give her a proper ending, but of course that didn’t happen.
The start of the movie was done very well though since it showed the full journey of the ring. Andy Serkis did a great job as Gollum in the opening sequence. Gandalf also had some shining moments in this movie as well, especially when he threw the king around for even suggesting they all cede to the Orcs. Frodo whined the entire movie, but he did that in the book too so I’m actually glad they made him stay true to his character.
Samwise on the other hand, was so stuck up and strict for most of this movie and it made it difficult to like him, even though he’s my favorite character in the entire series! Sam is clearly the real hero of the story, he literally carried Frodo up that mountain (both in the book and the movie), and anyone who says Frodo is their favorite is clearly sleeping on Sam and his worth. The movie did do a good job with the ending though, I’m glad they cut out the Shire War since it really wasn’t that important. The final scene of Frodo and Bilbo leaving with the Elves was definitely made to be somewhat ambiguous in case they ever wanted to return to the franchise, but I don’t care because that’s literally how it happened in the books too.
“‘Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’”—J.R.R. Tolkein
For my final standings in terms of movies and book, The Fellowship of the Ring is definitely my favorite, followed by The Return of the King, and finally The Two Towers. The books are pretty hefty, and have a lot of filler material in them, so I really wouldn’t recommend making that kind of a commitment unless you were really interested.
Same with the movies too, I had to watch them in nine different sittings since they are three hours each and are very dense. But if you are interested and want to get into the world of Middle Earth, I would really recommend starting with The Hobbit. It is better paced and just as exciting, and is also an excellent introduction to Tolkein’s world. Also, the events in The Hobbit precede those in the Lord of the Rings so it makes sense to read it first chronologically speaking, as well as in terms of publication order since it was published in the 1930s. Though it is targeted as a children’s book, I think it is just as enjoyable as an adult as well.
“The Road goes ever on an on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening rest and sleep to meet.”