I haven’t done one of these in a long time! If you don’t know, I don’t hold to the “book is always better than the movie” argument. Books and films are different mediums, and both have their merits. I do, however, get a kick out of comparing them and deciding which I like better.
I have now completed the book The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, I know; it took me a long time. I listened to the unabridged audiobook. For the most part, I was delighted. Tolkien’s writing is too impressive to explain properly. He has the unique ability to write prose so that it sounds like poetry. The novel is beautiful as well as entertaining, and the story is somehow dense and lighthearted at the same time. He handles some intense issues while keeping the novel fun. All of these qualities make him one of the strongest writers I’ve ever read, which I already sort of knew having read The Hobbit and his translation of Beowulf (both of which I can’t recommend enough).
One thing I found myself dreading was all. the. freaking. songs. In written form, I would have been able to handle it, but listening to it was just awful, especially the Tom Bombadil sections. The narrator had lovely voice and good rhythm, so quality had nothing to do with it; the songs’ length and frequency were just not fun in an audiobook. However, it did not destroy my overall enjoyment, and I ended up starting The Two Towers afterwards even though I was ready to give up and read print at one point. This novel is a classic for a reason, and I love it.
I watched the movie a long time ago, and I watched the mega 228 minute version. (Side note: this film is proof that book lovers WILL watch ridiculously long adaptations of their favorite books.) The movie matches the tone and story of the book very well. There were parts taken out, but it didn’t seem like a hacksaw was taken to the book. They chose a stellar cast too! I mean, Ian McKellan, come on! I would watch that man watch paint dry.
Just look at them. I wish I were half as cool as even one of them. They worked together very well and captured their characters beautifully. They were able to carry that balance of heavy issues and lighthearted fun. The film itself is also impressive in terms of costumes, production, and camera work. It’s a pretty film to watch, which is just extra goodness on top of all the other goodness.
So which is better? I’m actually going to call a draw on this one. The story works wonderfully in both mediums, and both versions stand well on their own. They’ve also both beat the test of time. I thoroughly enjoy both and will have no shame in revisiting them many times.