Why Do People Hate The Lord of the Rings?

This is a question that’s been rattling around in my head for a couple of years, now. I know in some quarters its the case that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy isn’t well-regarded. It’s an attitude I can certainly accept, but don’t really understand, as I love both the books and the films, and have read and watched both dozens of times each.

With the upcoming release of the first movie in The Hobbit trilogy, the question has come up again, and I thought I’d ask. For those who dislike the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, why?

Be specific. “They suck”, or “personal preference” isn’t the sort of answer I’m looking for (although the latter is certainly a valid enough reason; it’s not in the class of reasons I’m looking for). Was there something specific about the writing, the acting, the film-making in general? Some specific elements of the books that were omitted, or something added, or emphasis changed that renders them unpalatable? I mean, I like Tom Bombadil as well as anyone, but I still love the movies. I’d like to understand the motives of folks who don’t. Oh, and if you’re just not a fan of Tolkien in general, no need to reply. Your dislike of the films is completely understandable.

Just a special note regarding the comments, as this is the sort of thing that can quickly spiral out of control; no personal digs, please. Keep comments related to the films themselves, and resist the temptation to tell someone “your wrong” unless it’s something that is strictly on a factual basis (and please be so kind as to present your gentle correction as such).

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

28 thoughts on “Why Do People Hate The Lord of the Rings?

  1. I love the movies.

    What was missing for me in many cases were put in the DVD. But there still was no Tom Bombadil, the devastation of The Shire, and not enough singing.

  2. I had a friend who was a Marxist who did not like LOTR because of her objections to the use of bloodlines to justify a social hierarchy – among other objections. Basically, intrinsic philosophical differences. I was ok with that. I find them enjoyable yarns as it is and just enjoy it as the Professor intended, even as I could see where she was coming from, but still be able to divorce that from the story.

  3. Overall, I really liked them. What I really, really wish was not included was all the fake deaths. Frodo getting stabbed was done well, but then we get Aragorn going over the cliff, etc. One time is good, multiple times is bad.

  4. I love all three films, even with the things missing in order to speed the narrative along. But one scene I had looked forward to, but which was totally ruined was the scene in which Gandalf visits Saruman and casts him out of the order of wizards. It wasn't in the cinematic version but it's on the special edition dvd's. What ruined it for me is the rewriting of Gandalf's dialogue. As written in LotR it sounds more powerful then what's on the DVD, and for that I cannot forgive Peter Jackson and crew.

    here's a link to the scene in full extent:

    And here's the original text:

    "Behold, I am not Gandalf the Grey, whom you betrayed. I am Gandalf the White, who has returned from death. You have no colour now, and I cast you from the order and from the Council." He raised his hand, and spoke slowly in a clear voice. "Saruman, your staff is broken.! There was a crack, and the staff split asunder in Saruman's hand, and the head of it fell down at Gandalf's feet.

    The actions by Grima have been changed somewhat as well. All in all I like the original version much better. It invokes a more powerful imagery to my minds eye than that scene ever will.

    But as I said; I love the films even for all their little faults and I look forward to The Hobbit like a little kid looking forward to Christmas eve (that's when we recieve the presents here in Denmark)

    – Khorgan

  5. What? Who are these people? I've never met them?

    For anyone who wants to be disappointed by something LOTR related, look no further than the the 1970s animated version.

  6. I liked Jackson's FELLOWSHIP a great deal, and have watched it many times. I think it is very good, by far the best of Jackson's trilogy.

    I felt TWO TOWERS had serious script and characterization problems near the end — Merry's speech to the Ents is just silly and cliche-ridden — and I simply cannot stomach Legolas surfboarding on a shield at Helm's Deep. Sorry, that's where I draw the line.

    And to me, RETURN OF THE KING was a hot mess. Too much weepy melodrama between Frodo and Sam, Denethor presented as utterly one-dimensional and uninteresting, and Theoden's dying words stolen straight from RETURN OF THE JEDI:

    EOWYN: I've got to save you!

    THEODEN: You already have.

    So, in sum, I see the scrips get rapidly weaker across the life of the Jackson trilogy IMO. Visually beautiful films but badly written.

    But I also admit to being very close to the original novels, so am not really the fairest judge of the films.

    1. Theoden : " You already did"
      Just to be picky, Plus I'm bored. Look at the bright side everybody, If they woulda went by the books Verbatim, they would probably be six-hour movies.

  7. Despite some minor quibbles, I rather quite like Fellowship. The movie was more than long enough that I can easily accept leaving out Bombadil and the Barrow Downs.

    The Two Towers was when the magic started breaking down and Elijah Wood's Frodo started to become grating. Gimli's reduction to comic relief. Frodo's and Sam's journey, already a bit tedious in the book, actually seemed to drag even more especially with the oh-woe-is-Gollum tripe. Frelling Faramir. Still the battle of Helm's Deep (even with unnecessary elves) was good.

    RotK: Denethor being a nutjob without any mention of the palantir, Elijah Wood's performance continuing to grate, Denethor being a huge slob to show how ebul he is, Denethor's hundred yard suicide dash. I'm sure there's more, but I never watched this one more than once so I've forgotten a good bit.

  8. They're great movies, but even as a fan, I have to say that they don't hold up well on re-viewing. I think it's really just a matter of length than anything. It's such an endurance contest to sit through the extended versions even in the comfort of your own home.

  9. The movies were good – absolutely the best adaptation to date – but they certainly had plenty of flaws, like the trimming of the book's beautiful dialogue. I've maintained for years the most every major issue with the films were introduced by the need to trim the movies to a length you could manage in one sitting; and that LotR would make a much better mini-series than a theatrical film. A lot of stuff was cut down to oneliners or excised entirely. Eowyn's exchange with the Witch-King, Gimli and Legolas' whole character development, the March of the Ents, Saruman's defeat, Denethor's arc, the Houses of Healing, and the Scouring of the Shire all got chopped pretty heavily or completely left out. And Frodo and Sam's excursion with Faramir to Osgiliath was honestly kind of pointless. And lots of people really hate Arwen. I don't think casting her was a bad idea – other than her, Galadriel and Eowyn, the rest of the cast is basically a boys' club – she had an awful lot of scenes where she shows up in a flashback for no real reason. I mean, the movies are the best LotR yet – i think Peter Jackson's take on Gollum is the best I'm ever likely to see – but they are far from perfect.

    I think another large part of the flak the movies get is from people who just don't like something about Tolkien. Some folks don't like all the walking around, and I know a lot of scifi fans who don't care much for the Professor's attitude towards technology. Some folks are bothered by the lack of women, or the way the orcs are handled.

  10. My complaints had to do with the stuff that was added or changed for no good reason. There are myriad examples. One that comes to mind is subtle. It has to do with how Gandalf is portrayed in the last movie, in that he is made to be weak and ineffectual, with his lines being given to Aragorn and others, when in the books it was really Gandalf that was the architect of Sauron's final downfall.

    And don't get me started on the blatant changes, like the worg riders, elves marching to Helm's Deep, Zena (err… Arwen) riding the the rescue, ghost armies saving Minas Tirith, etc. I could go on for days.

    Having said that, there are a lot of good points to the movies. The attention to detail with the props and backgrounds was very good. I liked, for example, Rivendell. Note that I did not always like the interpretations they came up with, but I admire the attempt at consistency.

    I also liked the duel between Saruman and Gandalf in the first movie – that to me did a better job of explaining how Gandalf ended up imprisoned in Orthanc than Tolkien's text in Fellowship.

    Some changes I could understand for the GDP (Generally Dumb Public). But some were much less defensible, and Tolkien's original work was far better and ought to have been left as it was.

  11. I actually love the movies. Still…

    Faramir. W. T. F. !? The books portray him as the opposite of his brother Boromir. The difference between them is key in his portrayal. He gets told about the Ring and still lets Frodo and Sam leave. In the movies he's just like Boromir. With way worse acting.

  12. I don't HATE the movies, but I don't think they're very good. Peter Jackson, as a director, is incapable of subtlety. Everything must be overblown, nothing can be understated. Tolkien's beautiful language got replaced by melodrama. Too much emphasis was placed on big battles and showing off CGI. Musical cues were used constantly and obtrusively. Cheesiness on the level of, for example, Galadriel's hissy fit in FoTR or Aragorn dreaming about Arwen is good example of Jackson at his worst. Various cliches got introduced for no apparent reason (Denethor, Frodo & Sam's spat, etc) to the detriment of the film.

    Judging the films on their own merits, they were mildly entertaining blockbuster action-fantasies with nothing really going for them.

  13. "Some changes I could understand for the GDP (Generally Dumb Public). But some were much less defensible, and Tolkien's original work was far better and ought to have been left as it was."

    Hear, hear!

    " Peter Jackson, as a director, is incapable of subtlety. Everything must be overblown, nothing can be understated. Tolkien's beautiful language got replaced by melodrama."

    Hear, hear!

    And thanks for reminding me how these films DESTROYED the character of Faramir. I think I had literally blocked that out of my mind.

  14. "Let's hunt some orc." That pretty much sums up what I did not like about the films, the poor quality additions and changes, such as the army of the dead showing up at Minas Tirith and what-have-you. The films are good in spite of stuff like this, but suffer from their inclusion.

  15. I suppose for me it's mostly three things, all already mentioned above. Jackson's inability to keep Tolkien's subtlety, things added which changed the story, and characters completely changed.

    I'm slightly displeased at the removal of the Scouring of the Shire, but once you've made Merry and Pippin primarily into comic relief, it's hard to then show that they've become heroes in their own right. And that goes with the way they were just tag-alongs anyway instead of their book-like intentions to accompany Frodo on his long planned journey to Rivendell, not his hasty dash out the door. Would that one little text over "17 years later" and a little different makeup on the hobbits have made a huge time difference in the movie? Or having Gandalf have a little less harried of a meeting with Frodo at the beginning, before he goes off and gets imprisoned?

    Faramir's and Gimli's character assassinations have already been mentioned.

    Both theatrical and super-long DVD versions of the Two Towers completely left out one of the two towers. The towers are Minas Morgul and Orthanc, and we have a movie which doesn't even get to Minas Morgul, and doesn't show the downfall of Orthanc.

    There were no elves at Helm's Deep, the books are about the time of men, not of elves. They're being scared little elves hiding in their magical cities, not out fighting.

    We don't get any sense of the scope of Gandalf's work, over hundreds of years, with the other wizards, attempting to defeat Sauran. We don't get to see the fulfillment of how Merry, Pippin, and Sam grew into heroes, or how much Bilbo and Frodo suffered from their tasks. We don't see how Legolas and Gimli start out as racial enemies and become close friends. But we do get surfboard shields, and a greedy Faramir, and a greedy glowing Galadrial, etc.

  16. A lot of it's already been said.

    But really, PJ's biggest crime was that he completely missed the subtlety and some of the major points from time to time.

    His characterization of Denethor, for one. Truly and monumentally bad. Faramir got no better what with the Osgiliation.

    Hell, I can live without the Scouring of the Shire and Tom (really, no modern audience would tolerate them), but it's the things that were changed that just weren't neccessary to be changed that get to me. Elves in Helm's Deep? They were a solution to a problem that only existed because PJ created it. Not to mention that he turned the entire interation in Rohan between the three companions, Gandalf, and Theoden on its ear "because it made for better drama" by his own admission.

    It isn't because "he changed it." It's because he changed a lot of things that didn't need to be changed, and not for the better in my opinion.

    That, and they're brutally, painfully dull.

  17. this one's easy!

    lots of people turned to the LotR movies thinking they were going to see their childhood memories of tolkien projected onscreen, unmodified, in perfect clarity.

    the movies are not that, because duh.

    so many complainers would *unquestioningly* accept the 'problems' they've pointed out if the stories weren't important to them in themselves.

    a whole generation of kids turned to tolkien because of the movies, and found deeper, sadder, more powerful stories there. sounds swell.

    (protip: if someone mentions tom bombadil during a rant about the movies, disregard his comments.)

  18. +1 Hamlet

    When it comes to LOTR and the movies, haters gonna hate.

    I mean, overall I think the movies did a pretty good job considering the enormous task of translating three dense books to the screen. Movies, like humans, can never be perfect.

  19. Considering the difficult task, the movies weren't bad. I never expected miracles, and it was nice to watch the scenery. There were plenty of good moments here and there.

    However, the comic Legolas-Gimli nonsense was just awful.

    The early appearances of the Nazgul lacked gravity, as well. They were just clumsy old guys in bad masks.

    I actually liked the scene where Galadriel channels her potentially darker side.

  20. See, that's the thing, I didn't like the scene with Galadriel. It started out ok, but then it was just so over the top with the shouting and the radioactive negative image. It made me laugh out loud in the theater, and still does to this day when I watch the film. PJ has absolutely no sense at all of subtlety.

    Don't get me wrong. The movies are fairly good, especially considering the topic they tackled. They're as good as we're gonna get.

    However, when compared to the books, they just can't hold a candle in my opinion.

  21. The books are, at times, truly great, while the movies are, at best, pretty good. Too much sound and fury signifying, if not nothing, then at least much less than the books. (e.g. the collapsing masonry scene in the first movie.)

    A couple great parts from the books would be the part at the end of the first section where the Nazgul are sent down the river, and the scene where Frodo sits on the hilltop throne and sees into Mordor and Boromir attempts to seize the ring. There's nothing in the movies which approaches those.

    I'll point out that the Entmoot was as much of a slander as Faramir's treatment.

    I understand that things have to be cut, but Legolas' and Gimli's characterization hardly took up two pages in the whole thing and the time wasted at Helm's Deep could've been better spent. The confrontation with Sarumon after the Ent attack was great dialogue that could've actually translated to film well, but that got cut. (I haven't watched any of the extended versions.)

    The three long movies' worth of denouement at the end of the last was wearying.

    I think having Sauron be physically the Eye, rather than in human form is indicative: crude CGI over subtlety of character.

    FWIW, I've read the books one time each and seen the movies one time each.

  22. My perspective may be useful because it falls somewhat in the middle.

    When it came out, I considered the theatrical version of the The Fellowship of the Ring to be an absolutely fabulous movie and one of the best (if not the best) fantasy movie of all time. In terms of adapting the source material, the changes Jackson were inspired: Conflating Arwen and Glorfindel conserved characters and gave Arwen much needed screen time to establish herself as part of the narrative. Shortening the time between the revelation of the Ring and Frodo's escape from the Shire allowed the film to move at a pace that greatly heightened the stakes and intensity. I had a couple of quibbles (mainly focusing on Jackson's ineffective chase sequences), but the film was simply outstanding.

    But then, for me, the wheels fell off the bus.

    Let's start with the extended edition of Fellowship: As a fan of the books, the extra scenes had a lot of really awesome sequences that I loved seeing. But Jackson had been right to cut them: Putting them back in the film broke the film's pacing and also began turning some of the character arcs into inconsistent messes.

    Then we come to The Two Towers: With the success of Fellowship under his belt, the pressure on Jackson to produce a tight cut for theatrical release was significantly reduced. (This is attested to by contemporary interviews from the time.) And the result is that the bloated pacing of the extended edition creeps into the theatrical movie.

    But more than that, the film is deeply plagued with plot holes and continuity errors.

    On top of that, we discovered that — in addition to chase sequences — Jackson was also incapable of filming an effective battle sequence: The special effects were amazing, but the actual story of Helm's Deep (with its beginning, middle, and end) was lost. (This was a problem which became even more significant in the increasingly poorly conceived battles in Return of the King.)

    In addition, Two Towers also showcased the massive inversions of theme and character that Jackson decided to engage in. The problem here is not that Jackson is being unfaithful to the books: It's that the changes are simply bad storytelling. For example, in the books there is a significant difference between Theoden and Denethor, and Tolkien uses that difference to highlight different aspects of the story and theme. But Jackson rewrites both characters into carbon copies of each other, which further bogs down the pace and structure of films that are already broken and bloated.

    I was hoping that Return of the King would return to the quality of Fellowship, but I was sorely disappointed: Everything just got much, much worse. I understand that the completely nonsensical thrashing of Arwen's story was at least partially the result of Liv Tyler being unable to physically perform the scenes originally planned for her, but that doesn't make it any less horrible. To this we can add other moments of absurdity like the "sea of falling skulls" and "Denethor runs the length of an entire city like a flaming chicken with his head cut off". (Thank God that somebody convinced Jackson that he couldn't get away with Sauron coming down to personally duel Aragorn, which is why Aragorn fights a cave troll in the utterly ridiculous final battle instead.)

  23. Plot holes galore. Lots of walking, boring fight scene, more plot holes, mediocre special effects,. Lack of compelling characters. Total lack of compelling plot. Stupid looks on character faces. Bad formulaic music. Trite hackneyed plot. Trite hackneyed characters. Lousy dialogue. Horrible flow. Boring, did i mention boring? More plot holes, inconsistencies, gaffs. I've tried to watch this all the way through about a dozen times and i currently have about an hour left. May make it through or may not…lol. I was so bored I took a break and did a search on why people hate LOTR that brought me here. Guess I'm going to finish it just to say i gave it a fair shot. Truly one of the worst films and stories I have ever seen. I am a film junkie. i have seen thousands of films and am a scifi/fantasy lover, but just cannot grasp why anyone likes this fodder. Films I love include 2001, 2010, Clockwork Orange,Liquid Sky, the Hunger, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Blade Runner, A Boy And His Dog,Apocalypse Now, Avatar, Star Trek(all), Upside Down, InTime, Matrix 1, and other greats.

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