Despite doing a pretty good job of bringing it to the big screen Peter Jackson missed several dramatic cinematic opportunities when he produced his Lord of the Rings trilogy early in the current millennium. Some notable examples appear below:
– The omission of the frightening events in the Old Forest and the capture of Merry and Pippin by Old Man Willow and subsequent rescue by Tom Bombadil is a major disappointment to those of us who are familiar with the books. How lovely it would have been to see Tom Bombadil prancing about in his yellow boots and feathered hat and see him and the graceful Goldberry, his sweetheart the river-daughter, entertaining the hobbits during their difficult quest. The events on the Barrow Downs where Tom once again has to come rushing timeously to their aid is so exciting that a golden opportunity for cinematic enchantment was missed!
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow
– The scene where Saruman loses his position and his staff is broken, following the confrontation with Gandalf the White is one of the most dramatic and symbolic moments in the book. This scene is so powerful that I was looking forward to seeing how it would look on the big screen with Ian McKellen standing tall in his white robes and dramatically declaiming Saruman’s demotion, raising his hands and causing the turncoat’s staff, symbol of his power and authority, to split asunder. Crushed and powerless he retreats into Orthanc to lick his symbolic wounds.
– A short while later the Palantir is cast out of the window by a resentful Wormtongue, almost hitting Gandalf. Pippin runs and catches it as it is about to roll into a pool. In the movie, Pippin simply sees it glowing in the water and retrieves it. The scene would have carried more dramatic effect had the Palantir been tossed from the window as told in the book.
-the utter desolation of the lands before the Black Gate of Mordor and the grey ash choked poisoned pits and piles of burnt stone and slag, so eloquently described in the book. Frodo and Sam have been guided through the Dead Marshes by Gollum and emerge at a point where all beauty has been totally destroyed and annihilated by the works of the Dark Lord’s servants.
– when the hobbits escape from the tower of Cirith Ungol after Frodo’s rescue, there are two Watchers: statues imbued with the malicious spirit of Sauron which they have to pass in order to get down into Mordor proper. Frodo once again has to use the Phial of Galadriel to break the will of the Watchers.
– en route to Mount Doom, Frodo and Sam, dressed in orc-mail, are mistaken for deserting Orcs and forced to march with a throng of Orcs towards the coming war. They get an opportunity to escape during the confusion cause when several other companies of Orcs appear and all try to press through the narrow entrance to Udun.
Mistaken for Orcs
– the appearance of the evil Mouth of Sauron on his hideous steed at the Black Gate just before the final battle begins. He shows them Sam’s short sword, the elven cloak with its elven brooch, and the mithril coat. This is one of the lowest ebbs in the spirits of the remaining Fellowship as they battle with the shocking possibility that their friends might be dead or captured and the Quest bein vain, yet are determined all the more to fight the treachery of Sauron.
– encountering the Lady Galadriel and her fair people en route to the Grey Havens;
– the healing power of kingsfoil when used by Aragorn to help heal Faramir, Eowen and others at the Houses of Healing, and which was one of the signs that the true king of Gondor has appeared.
– the lovely scene where Gandalf and Aragorn collect the White Tree seedling from the slopes of Mount Mindolluin, and thus the White Tree is restored to the kingdom as a symbol of hope and the new era of peace.
– the scouring of the Shire, eventually resulting in the Battle of Bywater. This important series of events is totally left out of the movies, resulting in the homecoming becoming rather an anticlimax rather than the exciting rallying round and call to arms on the part of the four Hobbit members of the Fellowship when they find the Shire has essentially become a dictatorship full of prisons, sheriffs and strange new laws. They discover that the real power behind the trouble in the Shire is none other than Saruman, who is seeking revenge on the Hobbits and has chosen the Shire as a place to reclaim some of his lost power. Saruman’s final defeat at the end of the book is one of the most important parts of the entire plot. His demise is at the hands of Grima Wormtongue whom he has treated as nothing more than a squirming slave since Saruman’s defeat at Isengard. Saruman’s revenge on the Shire, revealed in flashes to Frodo in Galadriel’s mirror is so central to the plot of the book that leaving it out leaves viewers who haven’t read the books puzzled.
I’m well aware that including these events would have lengthened the movies to potentially unmanageable proportions but they could have split the saga into six parts instead of three, since it is almost impossible to relate the events in any of the three books in a single movie, without making the whole Quest seem very rushed, when it actually took a great deal longer than indicated on the screen.
Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest epic sagas ever written and effortlessly weaves deep tragedy, eccentricity, comedy, special powers, love, romance, moral struggle, battles, poetry and song, high excitement and drama into a timeless tale.