So like. I don't see that the movie did Denethor any terrible injustice, now that I've re-read him in Return of the King. What the movie did was neglect to mention that he was influenced by a palantir; what it didn't do was change much, really, except the timing of what he did. The events were more or less the same. Faramir was wounded in a different battle, at a different time, but in similar circumstances, and Denethor still says and does the same things, and I'm left with the feeling that the problem with the movies isn't that they changed characterization, but that they neglected to explain the background, and maybe played up what was on the surface - but not to the point of character assassination. Denethor's real motivations don't make me want to punch him any less. Gandalf isn't human and therefore not as fallible as he's depicted when he faces the black rider, but is played off that way because explaining what the Istari are is out of the scope of a movie, even one that tops three hours. Aragorn doesn't run out of Rivendell with his sword already reforged, ready to take over the world, because he's one of our main characters in the movie, and something we need in a main character is a story arc with some visible growth. I suppose I haven't been paying as much attention to Aragorn as to Sam's true, unrequited love, but it doesn't seem to me Aragorn has changed that much over the course of the novels.
Faramir, ditto. I was interested to note that his mini monologue in the movie, which I loved so much - the one where he speculates about the feelings of that fallen southerner just before he takes Frodo and Sam into custody - was actually Sam instead. Faramir doesn't need any character growth, apparently, because he's being contrasted with Boromir, who was everything he isn't, and vice versa. But will that fly in a movie? LOTR has the best Problem ever in the form of the ring, and since everyone else has to overcome it, why not Faramir? Now he looks more heroic, or something! In this I think the book is lacking, actually, because the contrast between Faramir and Boromir would be greater if both were put to the same trial. It's endearing that Faramir cares more about his brother than a stupid ring, but after all the buildup, it's also kind of a let-down that he doesn't even give it a second glance. Good for his quality, maybe, but still a let down. (Sam lecturing him in the middle of the forest, though? So awesome.)
I should probably make the statement that I don't necessarily agree with the changes to the movie versions in all cases (eg. Gandalf), or even think I'm right about why they were made, but... feel like I see why they might've been? What would I do? I don't think I could do it better. Much easier to take it as-is and go back to the book for the real experience.
One thing I do agree with wholeheartedly, though: there was no call for the Witch King shattering Gandalf's staff. That's just ridiculous. Their confrontation could've been averted the same way it was in the books.
Since Gandalf isn't a mortal man, and perhaps not bound by the prophecy, technically (?), I'll just pretend that the Witch King ran off for easier prey because he knew Gandalf's fist had an appointment with his (spectral) teeth, and they wouldn't survive the encounter. In the book, I mean, because the movie treated him too well.
Well, either this will start an argument or it'll be ignored. I hope for the latter, personally, since I'm not saying anything new.
The last stretch in Mordor, which is coming up, is really not my favorite thing. I would love to skim. But Sam will be doing great things, and I wouldn't want to miss that, now would I?