Dear Andrew Sullivan:
I have been trying very hard not to get into too many details as to the differences in TH and LOTR the novels as opposed to the movies. Such things can be trivial, and as was mentioned before, some of the changes can even be welcome. I agree with the commenter as to the character of Faramir. He is one of my favorite characters in the book, a true liberal who understands the necessity of war but more important understands the necessity of why they are fighting:
War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend…
And by his refusal to take the Ring from Frodo, Faramir is shown therefore to be the stronger of the two brothers. This is not a man who would have kidnapped Frodo, taking him into great danger, as he did in the film. Actually, politically speaking, the argument between Faramir and his father Denethor is a nearly perfect example of liberal vs. conservative principles:
“Ever your desire is to appear lordly and generous as a king of old, gracious, gentle. That may well befit one of a high race, if he sits in power and peace. But in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death.”
“So be it,” said Faramir.
“So be it!” cried Denethor. “But not with your death only, Lord Faramir: with the death also of your father, and of all your people, whom it is your part to protect now that Boromir is gone.”
I could write reams of pages concerning the unnecessary (and that’s the key word) changes that were made in Jackson’s films. Rankin-Bass’ version of The Hobbit had some aesthetic problems (Thranduil was a Tolkien Elf, not Kermit The Frog with a bad German accent), but much of the dialogue is at least lifted directly from the book, and is far more loyal to it, as was their rather strange idea to skip the first two novels and go right to The Return Of The King: the biggest gripe there is a scene at the end where Gandalf implies that hobbits were becoming Men, which is ridiculous, and I have no idea what put it into their heads to include that.
What sucks about the five Tolkien movies is, to me, what sucks about nearly all sci-fi filmmaking today: all glitz and no substance. The two recent Star Trek films are good examples of that: the first one in particular, while fun to watch, was just stupid, and the only thing stopping me from writing reams about that is that it would take far too much of my valuable time. Yes, it worked for The Avengers, but superhero stories are almost always more about glitz than substance anyway, and since the entire concept of the superhero is ridiculous on its face, you can enjoy the film and not worry about things like canon.
Still, things could have been worse. Some of us remember the god-awful Bakshi version from the seventies.