While traveling earlier this year, I have been listening to the Lord of the Rings book trilogy on audio. Excellent reading by Rob Ingliss.
Further, because they were available on Netflix, recently I re-watched the three movies of the theatrical releases.
Previously I have watched the extended editions, too, but they are not in my recent memory.
Here is my impressions of the releases, for the moment:
I have loved the books since I first read them, first in Danish, then in English. This happened in the 1980s, and for a while I read all three books every year or two.
This means that when I first saw the films at their release around 2000, I could easily compare the films and the books, in relation to what was included in the films, and what was changed.
While I can understand the need to remove some parts of the books in order to fit the rather massive story into about 3×3 hours, it does result in some flaws in the films. Here are a few examples:
From the first film/book: Fellowship of the Ring:
– when I first saw the movie, I was wondering if I had missed a part of it. The hobbits were fleeing the Black Rider, crossing the Brandywine river in the ferry boat, and suddenly they were at the gate in Bree. No unmasking of the “conspiracy”, no Old Forest, no Tom Bombadil, and no finding their weapons in the Barrow Downs.
I might have accepted missing Tom Bombadil, but the swords found at the Barrow Downs are significant at a later stage: The sword that Merry receives at that point is the one that can destroy a ring wraith. Now this just happens with no explanation at all. It is not even mentioned in Rivendell, where Elrond *could* have explained the significance of the sword.
– I can accept the merging of the characters of Glorfindel and Arwen, if only for the Arwen/Aragorn part of the story. Also, it does not really detract from the main story.
– also, though it is kind of spoilery, I can accept the beginning of the movie, providing the back story of the Ring.
From Book 2: The Two Towers:
– parts of the orc hunt and Merry and Pippin’s experience with the orcs and Treebeard have been cut, but it does work.
– The arrival of the elves at Helm’s Deep was confusing, having read the books, but I can see that it would not be so, if someone is watching the films alone.
From Book 3: Return of the King:
– Elrond coming to see Aragorn at Helm’s Deep is a change that becomes rather inconsistent with the books, and made little sense to me.
– A large part of the story is completely missing, especially there is absolutely nothing about meeting Saruman on the way home, and having to deal with him in the Shire when they arrive home. Everything is just unchanged when they return to the Shire. I consider this a significant part of the story, because it shows how the hobbits have grown since the start of their journey.
These are just examples of changes to the story, there is much more, but it will have to do for now.
Did I enjoy the films? YES! I did, they still have excellent changes form the beautiful to the horrific, just like the books. The landscapes they film in are magnificent (I would like to visit some of those places). The moods in the films are excellent, as are the vast majority of the characters.
I still find that the films have a strong emotional effect. Maybe this is because I know the books so well.
I love the cinematography and the music used, and I am aware that the films could not have been made at all before their time, because the technology to make the effects did not exist.
So yes, despite the flaws I see, I like the films quite a bit.
Here is how I would rate the films and the books:
1) Theatrical versions: 8/10
2) Extended versions: 9/10
3) Books: 10/10
I am aware that I need to re-watch the extended versions again some time, but not just now.