In June of 1958, Tolkien wrote a detailed response to a screenplay of a potential film treatment of The Lord of the Rings (Letter 210, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien). He begins the letter by noting: "If Z[immerman] and/or others do so, they may be irritated or aggrieved by the tone of many of my criticisms. If so, I am sorry (though not surprised). But I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about. ..."
Tolkien proceeds to complete eviscerate the screenplay down to the most minute detail, objecting to literally any deviation from the text. Any amendment, contraction, exaggeration, or flourish was met with Tolkien's acerbic rejection.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The Lord of the Rings Film Series, Newline Cinema, 2001-2003
- Galadriel's introduction gets a new audience up to speed, more or less, with the events of Isildur and Bilbo's adventure in only 8 minutes.
- The treason of Isengard is shown with a pretty cool wizard duel (my favorite "addition" in the films).
- Various flashback scenes where Aragorn and Arwen make eyes at each other, and her whole backstory is explained.
- The elves show up at the Battle of Helm's Deep. Why? The Rohirrim already have a narrative out (the huorns--the same as the books) and the elves pull their weight elsewhere in the movies.
- Aragorn crosses swords with a CGI army of the undead. Why? In the books, invoking himself as Isildur's heir is enough--and comes across all the stronger for it.
- Tom Bombadil, a puzzle piece that never quite fits, is removed from the story entirely.
- Various minor characters, like Fatty Bolger or Beregond or Imrahil, aren't mentioned.
- The Scouring of the Shire never happens.
- Arwen, not Glorfindel, rescues Frodo at the ford. This introduces her character before literally the last book, which is fine because you really never see Glorfindel again.
- Elrond, instead of his sons, tells Aragorn that he must take the Paths of the Dead.
- Movie Faramir: "The ring will go to Gondor."
- Book Faramir: "But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory."
- Movie Aragorn: *Aragorn just straight up kills the Mouth of Sauron*
- Movie Mouth of Sauron: "I am a herald and ambassador, and may not be assailed!"
Movie Aragorn: *Abides by this because that's what heroes do.*
- Movie Aragorn: "Do not let him speak! He will put a spell on us! Let us be quick"
- Book Aragorn: "We may not shoot an old man so, at unawares and unchallenged, whatever fear or doubt be on us. Watch and wait!"