While the theoretical differences between purists and revisionists are an interesting and fruitful topic for discussion, sooner or later one must come to the 500-pound gorilla in the room: the epic blockbuster trilogy of films by Peter Jackson. It was the hype and build-up to the films that launched the purist-revisionist debate as we know it, and the stunning success of the films has brought new voices to the debate ever since.
These pages attempt to provide a specifically purist analysis of Jackson’s films. This is worth noting for two reasons. First, I believe that any meaningful analysis must establish its criteria up front. The criteria for purist analysis of faithfulness are the principles outlined in The Purist Manifesto. Thus, if you are looking for consideration of the “spirit of Tolkien”, this is not the place, because I do not believe that to be a meaningful criteria. A revisionist analysis of the films would need to be written from the perspective of someone who believed in the validity of revisionist theory.
Second, this being a purist analysis, it is an analysis specifically of the films’ merits (or lack thereof) as supposedly faithful adaptations. The quality of the acting, directing, design, music, or overall entertainment value of the films are all separate questions that are beyond the scope of purism. One may find the films to be enjoyable to watch, but that does not impact the level of fidelity demonstrated to the original text.
Of the below essays, the first two are simple overviews of story elements that underwent meaningful, significant change during the process of adaptation. The third essay is a brief aside about the some of the unintended consequences of Jackson’s changes. The fourth essay is the linchpin of this series: a consideration of the impact of Jackson’s changes. Hopefully by the end of this series a conclusion can be drawn about the faithfulness of Jackson’s films based on purist theory.