Are You a Purist When It Comes to Film Adaptations of Books?

[Warning: If you haven’t watched The Desolation of Smaug, there are spoilers in this post.]

I’m one of those people. When I was watching The Two Towers, I thought, “Hey! Frodo and Sam never went to Osgiliath!” (For the record, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies.) I understand when changes have to be made, such as leaving a beloved character like Tom Bombadil out of a movie in the interest of time, but I hate it when changes are made to make an already excellent book “more appealing.” So, of course, I had to attend the CONvergence panel called “The Hobbit: That Wasn’t in the Book!”

I don’t have a mind for trivia. I’d hate to take some sort of test to prove I was a geek, because I’d probably fail. Did the hippogriff in the Harry Potter series have a name? Did it only appear in The Prisoner of Azkaban? I was tempted to look this up, but I’ll just leave myself wondering. I like to think my mind is full of things I need to use, like rules from the stylebook we use at work, so it doesn’t have room for things that are fun but not necessary.

Given that, you’d think I wouldn’t notice when movies vary from the book. In fact, with the Harry Potter series, I didn’t notice, because I’ve only read the series once – and since Rowling had creative control over the movies, they stuck pretty closely to the books anyway. But I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings four times now, so I have a good grasp of the books – though I still wouldn’t want to be quizzed on them. Besides, the Hobbit movies that have been released to date are so glaringly different from the book that I think I would notice many of their differences even if I’d read it only once.

Don’t get me wrong. While An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug don’t have my heart quite like Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, I still enjoyed them. The actors are good. The sets and costumes are amazing. In the second movie, the scene where Bilbo encounters Smaug was perfect. Although I like to joke about Kili and Thorin being “eye candy,” I really do like them. But so much of the second movie is so ridiculous that I’m already waiting for a new film version of The Hobbit.

Take Tauriel. I know, I know. She was introduced because there was a perceived need for a strong female character. I’m all for strong women. Read my previous post on Wonder Woman! But I loved the book even without a Tauriel. Most of the folks at the CONvergence panel really seemed to like her, so my daughter and I are probably in the minority, but we call her “Mary Sue.” She’s too perfect! And the dwarf-elf romance (not as popular with many panel attendees) seemed like unnecessary fluff. Is that meant to appeal to women? I really don’t believe my gender needs romance in every movie.

Many people in the panel did feel that all the “stuff” Jackson added (Azog the Defiler, the fight during the barrel scene, the “Hey! Let’s cover Smaug in molten gold” sequence) detracted from scenes that could have used more attention. Beorn made it into the movie, but Jackson didn’t let him shine. In my opinion, the bit in the book where Gandalf brings in the dwarves in small groups, so that Beorn will accept them all, is gold. It’s funny, and it tells us something important about Beorn’s character. The movie utterly did away with it!

I also dislike the unnecessary drama Jackson has inserted into both movies. All of the “stuff” I mentioned before: Azog, the barrel sequence (though I know many people love it), the attempt to encase Smaug in gold… none of it is necessary. The Hobbit is a wonderful book with plenty of excitement; it doesn’t need the added action, especially when the action is over-the-top – such as Thorin’s ride in the river of molten gold.

Unlike many of my fellow purists, however, I really like Radagast – bird-droppings and all.

I will loyally show up for the last movie of this trilogy. Come on – it’s The Hobbit! I have to see it on the big screen! But I’ll wait breathlessly for someone to take the book and do it right. Too bad that Martin Freeman probably will be too old for it by the time that happens. He was the perfect pick for Bilbo.

I welcome any purists to comment on what movies really bug them.

2 thoughts on “Are You a Purist When It Comes to Film Adaptations of Books?”

  1. Well, like interesting stuff, you know, and I have some strong feelings on the topic – and the CONvergence panel discussions sure sound interesting, as I am an old (the operative word here is old) science fiction/fantasy fan. But I guess I really am old, because I keep thinking of film examples from the forties – fifties – sixties???

    1. Actually, while the average age at CONvergence is younger than what you will find at some other local conventions, like Marscon, I’ve met plenty of fans who are significantly older than I am, including grandparents who bring their grandchildren with them.

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