When it comes to film adaptations, I've always been the kind of person who insists on reading the book first. I then proceed to talk through the entire movie, complaining that they've either butchered what I thought was a great story or taken something I hated to begin with and somehow made it even worse. I did it through The Stand, I did it through Queen of the Damned, and good God did I do it through the Golden Compass (but that's another post entirely).
The Lord of the Rings trilogy has allowed me to be a little more open minded when it comes to film adaptations of books. I actually saw all the movies before reading the trilogy. When I finally did read the books I discovered that two major changes were made that have allowed me to see that change is not always a bad thing when making a movie from a book.
The first of the two changes is in Fellowship of the Ring. When I read the novels I got about half way through Fellowship and realized that I was only about 15 minutes into the movie as far as plot progression goes. In the film adaptation they cut out a lot of the journeying between Bag End and Bree which for better or worse included cutting out Tom Bombadil and the scene with the barrow wights. I think that this worked well to keep the plot of the movie going a little quicker and keep viewers more interested. I also enjoyed it because although I had seen the movies before reading the books there were still some things in it that surprised me. This includes the scenes that were cut from the Fellowship movie as well as the Scouring of the Shire in Return of the King which is probably one of my favorite parts of the entire series.
The second major change occurred in Two Towers. The novel is divided into two books. One deals with Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli and all of the events that occur in the West. This includes that battle of Helm's Deep and the Fall of Isengard. The second book shifts over to Frodo and Sam and shows what happened to them in the East while all the other events took place in the West. The movie took these Two stories and wove them together, frequently shifting back and forth throughout. This helps to keep the viewer interested in both stories and to maintain the fast pace of the story in general. When reading the book it seemed that book one was very fast paced and book two, while interesting, seemed to slow down which seems a little bit illogical. Seeing the way that certain changes that are made in film adaptations can enhance and improve stories has really changed the way I watch movies that were based on books. Now I try to view them a little bit more critically and instead of just complaining that changes were made I try to ask myself why those specific changes were made and what effect they have on the work as a whole.