There are many characters who have been altered in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations from their original representation in Tolkien’s books. Some were changed for the better, some for the worse. Some were even invented solely for the films, and were never in the books at all. These subtle changes in the film, however, can make a huge difference to how the audience relates to these characters, whether they are perceived as good or evil, and what part they have to play in the quest to destroy the ring of power.
Boromir is one such character. There is an eternal debate among fans of Lord of the Rings regarding whether Boromir is a good guy or a bad guy, and whether he should have been sent to Rivendell to join the fellowship of the ring in the first place, or whether the task should have been left to his younger brother Faramir, who demonstrates a better ability to resist the ring. The answers to Boromir’s question of character often differ between fans of the film franchise, and die-hard fans of Tolkien’s books. This is likely because the man of Gondor is portrayed very differently between the two, thanks, in a major part, to one particular extended scene in the movies.
Boromir is first character to dies in the first film, the Fellowship of the Ring. He meets his end protecting Merry and Pippin from a band of orcs, shortly after succumbing to the lust for the ring and trying to take it from Frodo by force. This is, of course, the most pivotal scene for his character. It has been building since Boromir’s first introduction at the Council of Elrond, when he first suggested that the ring should be taken to Gondor, to assuage the blood of his people who have died fighting to protect Middle Earth. From that moment onwards, it is clear that Boromir’s intentions for the ring are not as pure as the others. Those who criticize his character would argue that this is proof, right from the offset, that he is weak-willed, greedy, and power-hungry, plus too proud and stubborn to listen to reason — much like he is portrayed in the books. Meanwhile, fans of his character might suggest that even despite his flaws, he has noble intentions and that he only wants the ring in order to protect and provide for his failing people.
This is a notion that is furthered in Boromir’s appearance in the second film of the trilogy, the Two Towers. In one particular extended scene, a flashback, the audience finds Boromir and Faramir celebrating the successful defense of Osgilliath from an orc invasion. As they drink together and demonstrate clear love and affection for one another, Boromir tells Faramir, “Remember today little brother, for today, life is good.” The scene is quickly spoiled, though, by the appearance of their father Denethor, the cruel and paranoid steward who takes every opportunity to praise Boromir and highlight Faramir’s short-comings. He comes marching in, belittles Faramir, and then tells Boromir of the meeting in Rivendell, and the weapon of the enemy being re-discovered.
Denethor then demands that Boromir attend the meeting. He acknowledges that the ring is dangerous, and has the power to corrupt, but insists that he and his sons are too strong for that. Yet, his intentions are clearly self-serving, as he tells Boromir, "You must go! Bring me back this mighty gift." Boromir is horrified, and tries to refuse. This scene shows that Boromir knows how dangerous the ring is and wants nothing to do with it, but is entrapped in the quest by his father, and the weight of his expectations and imposed responsibilities.
This scene does not take place in the books, in which Boromir is a far prouder, more arrogant, and more self-righteous character. In Tolkein's original writings, he seems prone to giving in from the start, not only because of his station as a mighty soldier of Gondor and the favored firstborn of his father, but also because he is the only fully human character among the fellowship, and is thus more susceptible to the ring’s will thanks to the very nature of his existence.
Many fans appreciate the changes that were made to Boromir’s character in the flashback scene. It adds a lot of depth to his backstory, his relationship with the brother who mourns his loss, and his reason for wanting to take the ring to Gondor in the first place. Boromir is a character who often gets a negative and unfair association as a character on the verge of evil, but in truth, he is simply a man trying to do his best for his people in an increasingly evil time in their world.
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