Late in 2015, having gone on and on about the importance of The Lord of the Rings films to me, I decided to read the books. I’ll be the first to admit I wouldn’t have picked them up, let alone finished them if it wasn’t for the films. But now that I’ve experienced both, it’s clear to see the differences between them.
The opening titles of The Return of the King take me back to 2003, when a twelve-year-old me sat in the cinema with his dad, hardly believing but eagerly awaiting the conclusion to a story that had filled two years of his life (a long time when you’re young). The year it’s been since my last visit to Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth brought that feeling back.
The conclusion is as satisfying as I remember. THE END appears onscreen and I know that it’s so. The big difference: finishing the books, I felt no such closure. The final pages of The Return of the King felt like only the beginning.
Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens achieved something admirable – on the big screen, one of the richest fantasy worlds ever created does not feel rushed, shallow or unfinished. But at a cost: that feeling of embarking on a great adventure can never be adapted for cinema.
My high opinion of The Lord of the Rings has not changed for reading the books. But it’s easy to notice the absence of that feeling – that I immediately wanted (and could get) more of this world was, perhaps, what made J.R.R. Tolkien’s work so incredible.