So I didn't make a separate post for Two Towers after I finished it. Sorry about that. It deserves it's own post, but I was just too eager to keep reading. I actually finished reading Return of the King on Monday, but I've had work, and I realize not everyone loves Lord of the Rings as much as I do so not everyone loves to read about it as much as I do. (By the way, they started filming for The Hobbit on March 21st, I think I haven't mentioned that yet. So excited for it).
Anyway, since I did just do that marathon of the films at Andrew Woodruff's a little bit ago, I found myself noting several interesting differences between the movies and the books and finding things I hadn't remembered but that I didn't like. One of those things is the characterization of the rulers of men, both Theoden and Denethor. In the movies, Theoden is portrayed kind of as a coward, fleeing to the refuge of Helm's Deep with his people in opposition to the advice of Gandalf. Later, he's rather fatalistic, believing there's nothing left for it except to die an honorable death. In the books, however, once Grima is gone he listens wholeheartedly to Gandalf. He is not at all reluctant to ride to the aid of Gondor, like he is in the movie. Instead, he is a courageous and wise king of men. I think largely they changed this in the movie to set up for Aragorn's reign. They didn't want to make Theoden incapable, but they also wanted to highlight that Aragorn was the natural and rightful king. The other thing they did was to villainize Denethor (a.k.a. Susan). While Denethor does not just submit to the wisdom of Gandalf in the books, he does have wisdom and power of his own. He is not the bad, rotten guy they make him out to be in the movies. They set him up as that to provide the full spectrum in the family, with Denethor and Faramir on the ends and Boromir in the middle. It shows that men are not perfect, and they do have their challenges. The changes to both rulers make sense in the context of the films, and both are understandable and acceptable.
The two changes I've always had a problem with, however, are the degradation of Faramir and Frodo chasing away Sam. Faramir of the movies is not the amazing, wonderful person he is in the books. As great as he is in the movies, he's better in the books. This is one change I don't think was necessary. I think they could have been well served to make Faramir as good as he was in the books. There was no reason that Faramir should have taken the hobbits to Osgiliath, and that really bothers me. Even if it does set up my favorite line of the movies, when Sam says "By rights we shouldn't even be here," followed by his excellent speech. That excellent speech, by the way, is an adaptation from one given in the book which I think is even better. As bad as that side-trip is, however, having Frodo force Sam away is just wrong. Sure, Frodo was more trusting of Gollum than Sam was, but he never trusted Gollum more than Sam. He was always aware of the danger Gollum presented. I understand that they needed to show in some way the struggle Frodo was having with the ring and the corrupting influence it was having on him, but that doesn't mean I like it. I think there are better ways they could have achieved the same thing.
By no means is this post meant as a rant against the movies. They are my favorite movies of all time, and, as far as I have seen, the best book to movie adaptations ever. They manage to stay true to the spirit of the books, even as they change these and many other details. You really cannot just make a movie that exactly mirrors a book, because the rules of the media are different. But that's OK, because I love both. If you haven't seen the movies, do so. If you haven't read the books, stop wasting your time reading my stupid blog and go read them. They are worth it. They are really just excellent. Not the best books ever written, but they are pretty high up there on the list.