I can’t claim to know Tolkien’s mind. Never met the guy, never will.
But I do know this: books ain’t movies, and movies ain’t books.
They’re two radically different methods of storytelling. It’s the equivalent of me telling a story around a fire… and then you like the story, so you make a point of remembering it, and then YOU tell it later, at a cocktail party or whatever.
Are you going to remember it word for word? No. You’ll make your own version, and you’ll tell it your way, at another venue. Different storyteller, different time, different style, and different audience under different circumstances.
Does this mean you’re a scumdog for stealing my story? No. You had every right, just as Jackson did when he started LOTR. Furthermore, who’s to say that your version isn’t better than mine? Maybe you’re the more gifted storyteller. Maybe you’ve got the better time and place for that story.
…and that’s just the VERBAL story. There’s style and flourish for verbal stories, just as there are for printed ones, and for visual ones. When translating from one medium to another, changes HAVE to be made, as a rule. This is why Ray Bradbury never seems as magical in the movies as he does in print; his neat written style just doesn’t translate. H.P. Lovecraft is another victim; his verbose style and dialogue just don’t work in movies (and his trick of scaring the hell out of you without ever showing you the monster doesn’t translate well into a visual medium, either).
When you read FOTR, you encounter a guy named Tom Bombadil, who sings and dances. He takes the hobbits home for dinner, and teaches them a little song to sing if they need his help. Naturally, later, they wind up screwing around with the Barrow-Wights, and they need Tom to come save their butts, so they sing his little song, and…
…and yeah, I missed this scene. Scared the poop out of me the first time I read the book. Loved the idea of seeing the Barrow-Wights on the big screen… but Tom Bombadil works in the book. He’s a fairytale character, firmly embedded in his fairytale world.
Can you imagine what he would have looked like on the big screen, singing and dancing about how his boots are yellow? He would have come across like the host of some demented PBS children’s program. And the idea that this singing loon could save the hobbits from Barrow-Wights wouldn’t have worked at all.
For that matter, the books are rich with song. You can’t get through a chapter without Aragorn or Legolas or the hobbits bursting out with one tune or another.
In a medieval fairytale world, this works. People used to sing to each other regularly. You couldn’t walk into an inn without someone bugging you about what the news was out in your neck of the woods, and you were obliged to tell them! “Singing for your supper” was a reality back then. Tolkien knew this. In the absence of MTV, CNN, and the Internet, it’s how news and entertainment worked in a medieval society.
…but for a generation RAISED on MTV, CNN and the Straight Dope Message Board… jeez, you couldn’t put all that in the movie. It’d seem like some kind of demented musical. Hell, I was glad for the scene on the Extended DVD where Frodo wakes up and hears Strider quietly singing to himself.
He asks Strider about the song.
Strider mentions that it’s about the love of Luthien for Beren.
Frodo asks what happened in the song.
Strider wanly says, “She died.”
It’s plain he’s thinking about Arwen, naturally. And the scene lasts no more than a minute… but it works.
In short… it ain’t really “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.” It just ain’t. You want it? Go to a bookstore, they’re selling lots of them right now.
What we are discussing is “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, As Presented By Peter Jackson”, which is a very different beast.
I don’t think he’s doing badly. Considering the subject material, I’m amazed he’s doing as well as he has.
But I dunno if Tolkien would have liked it… I mean, if you spend thirty years of your life on something, how well COULD you like someone else’s version of it?