4. Digestible Length and Complexity It may be that The Lord Of The Rings, is better written than Harry Potter and I think it’s true that Tolkien possessed more writer’s craft than J.K Rowling herself possesses. But I couldn’t care less about that. Furthermore, The Lord of The Rings films may be better made critically but once again, who cares about that? After all, I myself am not a critic. I read Harry Potter with abundant more pleasure than I did The Lord Of The Rings. I appreciated Rowling’s work infinitely more because it is not overly convoluted or hard to follow and likewise, it is not too slow-paced and long winded.
In contrast, I read Lord Of The Rings as more of a chore rather than to get enjoyment. I almost read it out of a sense of duty to Tolkien to show my appreciation for the world which he has fashioned. The trilogy is so chock full of irrelevant place names and character names that don’t contribute towards the furthering of the plot, that at some points in the novel, it is impossible to absorb and process everything that’s going into your head. The Lord Of The Rings is also designed to be a children’s trilogy. It’s a miracle how any child could possibly read and digest such a complex and wordy novel. I know I’d much rather plump for Harry Potter over The Lord Of The Rings as a bedtime story for my child.
Even The Lord Of The Rings movies are suspect to these weaknesses. All three films consist of a ridiculous amount of running time (at just under 3 hours per film) and furthermore, any gripping battle sequence that features in the trilogy is preceded by hours and hours of lengthy build up, so much so that many adults as well as children will undoubtedly lose focus and concentration. In comparison, the concluding Harry Potter movie for example was 120 minutes only. This helped in fashioning a fast paced action thriller that drove the franchise home brilliantly.
3. Lighthearted Tone Tolkien has been the subject of criticism for his omission of much humour in The Lord Of The Rings, and I think this argument has a fair amount of meat on it. Whereas The Hobbit is much more lighthearted in tone than Tolkien’s subsequent works and in some places it is legitimately funny, in his The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, it seems as though Tolkien has abandoned all endeavors to create genuine comedy and he concentrates very little of his time on seeking to lighten up the tone of the story. In the movies, the main comic relief derives from banter between Gimli and Legolas and Merry & Pippin, but despite valiant attempts by Peter Jackson to try and spawn some much needed humour in the films, this source of comedy can feel rather strained and cheesy at times.
Conversely, J.K Rowling makes a sincere effort to try and generate wit and humour in her novels and for the most part, she actually achieves this to good effect. Characters such as Ron, Fred & George willingly provide that much needed comic relief that really does lighten up the tone of the books. This again is another factor as to the universal success of Potter in that the comedy which Rowling creates, relates to the modern day audience. In the films, these jokes transpire onto the screen with greater effect as the kids get older and as their comic timing improves. Further comedy was initiated when Michael Gambon was hired as Richard Harris’ successor to Dumbledore. From this point, as a result of Gambon’s electrifying performance, the series began to take more of a comic turn. Gambon has that twinkle in his eye and has a real edge to his charm that was really effective in bringing the character of Dumbledore to life.
2. Greater Variety Of Whimsical Characters If there is but one defining factor that determines the popular success of a movie or a movie franchise, it is the characters themselves. It has to be said that the supporting characters and cast of Harry Potter wipe the floor with The Lord Of The Rings efforts. Rowling’s wonderful franchise is inundated with a diverse range of stunningly quirky and colourful characters which results in not a single dull page for the reader. Also the fact that the creme de la creme of English acting talent portray these characters on the big screen, brings them to life for the global audience. Characters such as Gilderoy Lockhart, Dolores Umbridge, and Professor Trelawney all go some way in explaining the worldwide success of Harry Potter. They are all so wonderfully different and eccentric that one does not have to be a fantasy fanatic to relish them. What such characters exist in Lord Of The Rings? Sadly, almost none.
Perhaps I’m being a tad unfair to Tolkien, in the sense that Harry Potter has a much larger wad of material therefore the audience has a much larger time frame to meet these characters and J.K Rowling has had more of a chance to create them. However, In The Lord Of The Rings, the supporting characters seem so samey. Essentially, they are either Riders of Rohan, Men of Gondor or, well actually that’s all I can think of really. Also, none of these characters create humour or liven up the tone of the books or films. In Harry Potter, even the villains are amazingly colourful characters. The brilliantly evil Bellatrix Lestrange, is actually one of the most popular characters in the franchise.
1. Deaths One thing that J.K Rowling does very well in her books and this is something she should be admired for as a writer, is that she is never afraid to kill off her main characters. I can think of countless main characters that have died in the Potter books: Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Cedric Diggory and Remus Lupin to name but a few. In Lord Of The Rings, what is the magic number? Two? Boromir & Theoden are the only main protagonists that I can think of that actually die in the trilogy. Even then, Boromir dies so soon before we even know of the Faramir-Boromir subplot so it really has no impact emotionally and Theoden is an aging king anyway and the audience had no real connection with him. Even Gandalf we think has been killed off, but it seems as though Tolkien writes by the ethos of, “One does not simply kill off their main character,” and he just can’t face losing his beloved wizard. So in this sense, JK Rowling has twice the balls of Tolkien as an author, in that she understands death are needed to further the plot of the series.
I must confess that in The Lord Of The Rings there are plenty of dead CGI warriors, (Orcs and Urukhai alike), but who actually cares about those deaths? What impact does that have on the rest of the trilogy? None whatsoever. Whereas in Harry Potter, one of the major themes of the whole series is death. Even before the movie narrative starts, we are aware of the death of Harry’s parents and this actually has a major impact on the whole 7 books. In this way, the plot of Harry Potter in my opinion becomes a whole lot more believable. J.K Rowling understands that for fantasy literature to work, casualties must occur on both sides and Tolkien doesn’t seem to understand this.