Adapting a beloved novel is always going to be difficult. One with as much backstory and history as Tolkien puts in his works might seem nearly impossible to satisfactorily condense into three hours.
As an example, in the book, Bilbo leave Frodo the ring and leaves the Shire. Gandalf warns him to keep it safe. Then many years pass. The novel informs us that time as passed, and explains what has happened in the interim, but not much story happens. Then Gandalf comes back and determines that it is indeed the one true ring, and warns Frodo that he must take the ring to Rivendell. How does a filmmaker deal with this elapsed time, and make it work in a movie?
It seems to me there are two possible solutions. And then there’s the way Peter Jackson handles it.
Solution #1: Condense the two meetings into one. Bilbo leaves Frodo the ring, and Gandalf immediately warns him of danger. The ring needs to be taken away, but Gandalf doesn’t have the time to do it. With this one, you probably have Bilbo leave Sting and the elf mail at the same time, and we would never see him at Rivendell. It’s a shame to marginalize Bilbo even more, but it saves time, and people that haven’t read the books have no attachment to Bilbo anyway. Tough choices have to be made sometime, and this will save considerable time.
Solution #2: Create a buffer between when Bilbo gives up the ring, and Gandalf comes back to warn him. Make it clear a great deal of time has passed. Move the introductions of Merry and Pippin (and possibly Sam) to here, and shorten the introduction to the Shire. This stays truer to the book and would be about the same length. You’d have the change to build up some suspense for Gandalf’s return and the growing threat of Mordor.
Peter Jackson’s ‘Solution:’ Have Gandalf leave, look at a book. Immediately come back. You haven’t established any time has passed, Gandalf’s departure allows him to learn information we’ve already been informed of twice already, and the introduction of the Black Riders is handled clumsily and does a bad job of creating suspense. This could have easily been handled more effectively. The movie has begun to devolve.
Added bonus: we get our first montage of people walking through beautiful New Zealand scenery.
Minutes Watched: 44.14
Number of Montages: 3
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