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I've just reached the part of The Two Towers where Faramir makes his first appearance. I know I will be able to judge for myself soon enough, but even with the cursory glance I've gotten of Faramir, I'm a bit surprised by what I have seen, and more than a little annoyed at the films. In the films, Faramir is a bit sulky and weak-willed, quick to try to seize the Ring, slow to trust Frodo, desperate to please his father, and far too willing to hang his head in shame when his father scolds him, like a beaten dog.

In the brief initial encounter I've just had with him in the book (although it took place in less than two pages), he is nothing of the sort! He is confident, capable, gives Frodo the benefit of the doubt rather quickly, and shows him a significant degree of guarded, wary trust almost as soon as Frodo proves that he knew Boromir.

This Faramir is nothing like the one I know from the movies. I have thus far been inclined to forgive Peter Jackson for his alterations and dramatic liberties, but I have an uneasy feeling that he sullied the good name of a noble and virtuous character. I say this despite the fact that since I first saw the films, I have always thought Faramir a far better man than his brother Boromir... And so did Frodo:

Yet [Frodo] felt in his heart that Faramir, though he was much like his brother [Boromir] in looks, was a man less self-regarding, both sterner and wiser.
- The Two Towers; Book IV; Chapter 5: The Window on the West

Is my initial impression correct? Are the depictions of Faramir in the books and the movies, respectively, really as contradictory as I fear they are? If so, why?

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    my gut says that Jackson wanted to show a "redemption arc" of Faramir to contrast with the "downfall arc" of Boromir, but needed to take shortcuts for time constraints, so yes, the initial portrayal of Faramir is rather unfair. – KutuluMike May 18 '15 at 19:10
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    @WadCheber: Well, Denethor is a bit of a dick, but he's the most 'rational' character in the books (until Faramir's apparent inevitable death.) What really annoyed me about the Faramir scenes in the movie was dragging Frodo all the way back to Osgiliath... – Shamshiel May 19 '15 at 11:30
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    @WadCheber I think that's exactly what Jackson was trying to convey, however. Boromir WOULD have told his dad to @#%^ off - the fact that Faramir didn't is what made him the better son of the two. Yet his dad failed to see that. – Omegacron May 19 '15 at 14:16
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    @nick I have no reason- or desire- to defend Jackson, but he openly admitted to deliberately changing the character to boost the drama in Faramir's scenes. He clearly knew the material, since he paraphrased one of Faramir's lines in the book - Jackson paraphrased it as "I wouldn't touch the Ring if I saw it laying on the side of the road" or something like that, whereas the actual line is "I would not take this Ring, if it lay by the highway". He may have been wrong in his assessment of Faramir as a bland character, but he didn't claim that he was portraying Faramir as Tolkien intended. – Wad Cheber May 19 '15 at 22:18
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    @WadCheber no he fundamentally misunderstood. Jackson is a humanist and a nihilist. Faramir seemed boring to him because he was good. His reasoning is that the ring seduces all characters. This is rejected explicitly in the text in the form of several characters, including Faramir. Jackson doesn't understand why Faramir could reject the ring. This is an amazing irony since it is Sauron's Problem. He does not, even as Sauron does not, understand Faramir. – nick May 20 '15 at 23:22
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In short, yes they do. This is something that Jackson openly admits.

On the other hand, it's useful to look at why he made the changes he made;

  • Faramir's character is very flat and not in the least dynamic. Events happen to him, rather than him having any real say in his own activities. Hardly the sort of man that Eowyn would be attracted to.

  • Tolkien boobed by writing a character that wouldn't be tempted by the One Ring, despite going on for hundreds of pages about how.damn.tempting the One Ring is;

Q: In the book, for example, Faramir is very pure and very noble, but here in the film, he's got this evil touch. He's even tempted by the ring...

Peter Jackson: For a short time, yeah. We made that change, just to use that example -- and this is really where being a filmmaker differs from being a writer. You make decisions as a filmmaker and, rightly or wrongly, you change things if you think they need to be changed. We wanted the episode with Faramir in this particular film to have a certain degree of tension. Frodo and Sam were captured. Their journey had become more complicated by the fact that they are prisoners. Which they are in the book for a brief period of time. But then, very quickly in the book, Tolkien sort of backs away from there and, as you say, he reveals Faramir to be very pure. At one point, Faramir says, "Look, I wouldn't even touch the ring if I saw it lying on the side of the road."

For us, as filmmakers, that sort of thing creates a bit of a problem because we've spent a lot of time in the last film and in this one to establish this ring as incredibly powerful. Then to suddenly come to a character that says, "Oh, I'm not interested in that," to suddenly go against everything that we've established ourselves is sort of going against our own rules. We certainly acknowledge that Faramir should not do what Boromir did and that he ultimately has the strength to say, "No, you go on your way and I understand." We wanted to make it slightly harder, to have a little more tension than there was in the book. But that's where that sort of decision comes from.

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    On the other hand, Aragorn isn't tempted by the Ring in the books either. Was he in the movies? – Matt Gutting May 18 '15 at 19:22
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    @MattGutting - Good question. Dunno. – Valorum May 18 '15 at 19:34
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    The reason I ask is that if Aragorn isn't tempted in the movies, it's disingenuous to say that Faramir was changed because he wasn't tempted, and if that's the case then Jackson et al. weren't truthfully answering the question in this quote. – Matt Gutting May 18 '15 at 19:36
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    And he hints at why he himself wouldn't be tempted by it: he would never "us[e]the weapon of the Dark Lord", presumably because the Dark Lord's weapons aren't safe for anyone but the Dark Lord to use. But the most important part of his account is this: "I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo". Faramir might not realize it, but Boromir's weakness is Faramir's strength: Boromir was vainglorious. This played into the Ring's corruptive effects. Faramir is not vainglorious. He is therefore relatively immune to the Ring's corruption. Power seekers are the Ring's favorite victims. – Wad Cheber May 19 '15 at 2:25
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    @nick I agree - I like the book Faramir far more than the movie Faramir. But Richard's answer reflects JACKSON'S opinion, not Richard's opinion. And no one knows more about why Jackson changed stuff in the movies than Jackson himself. So you ar disagreeing with Jackson, not Richard. And Jackson's opinion is entirely relevant to this question, since he made the movies. – Wad Cheber May 20 '15 at 23:28
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As an additional point, one thing that always annoyed me about the movies is that they cut out one of the most important scenes from The Two Towers. In the extended version of the movie, when Faramir has captured Frodo and Sam, he has a flashback regarding Boromir and Denethor.

It goes back to just after Gondor has recaptured Osgiliath from the Orcs. It includes Denethor asking Boromir to go to Rivendell for the Council of Elrond, and tasks him to bring back the Ring to use as a weapon for Gondor to help defend their lands against Sauron's forces.

In this short scene, it establishes so much. It says why Boromir was so transfixed by the ring and adamant about taking it to Gondor. It shows Denethor's love for Boromir and disdain for Faramir. It shows how much Faramir looks up to his older brother and loves him unconditionally, and yet also how he is trying to seek his father's approval and come out of the shadow of his brother's glory.

I agree with the fact that Faramir is different in the books and the films, and I understand why Jackson made the changes, but including this short scene would have explained the Faramir-Denethor-Boromir relationship so much, as it is a big part of the story for the next two films. The emotional impacts of all of those scenes would have been much more substantial, like when Faramir admits that Denethor would rather he had died than Boromir.

It also explains why Faramir (and Boromir) were so tempted by the Ring. Others in the Fellowship were tempted, but none of them made an attempt to steal it. It makes you realize that Faramir wasn't just another generic weak-willed man taking the Ring for his own, it shows him wrestling between doing the right and noble thing by letting Frodo and Sam go, or finally emerging from the shadow of his brother, succeeding where he had failed, and making his father proud.

Every action he makes after that point is put into a different light in the movies. You see him as a noble character, rather than a weak one, and much closer to his character in the book.

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This is from Faramir's wiki page. The information is collected from different interviews given by Peter Jackson.

Jackson's explanation is that he needed another adventure to delay Frodo and Sam, because the episode at Cirith Ungol was moved to the third movie, and so a new climax was needed. In fact, according to the timeline given by Tolkien, Frodo and Sam had only reached the Black Gate at the time of the fall of Isengard. Jackson also argues that it was necessary for Faramir to be tempted by the Ring because in his films everyone else was tempted, and letting Faramir be immune would be inconsistent in the eyes of a film audience. Co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens and actor David Wenham defended the changes to Faramir's character in order to increase dramatic tension: Faramir's "sea-green incorruptible" nature in the book would not have "[translated] well filmically". Wenham (who had not read the book until after filming had commenced) also found Tolkien's original "dramatically dead".

Referenced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faramir

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I have no intention of accepting this answer, but I have read a little more than I had when I asked the question, and it is clear that my fears were appropriate. Faramir in the books is upright, virtuous, strong, incorruptible, wise, humble, brave, honorable, decent, selfless, intuitive, and an all around impressive human being. The movies don't do him justice. Whether or not you approve of Peter Jackson's decision to change the character, it is beyond any doubt that he did'change the character, making him rather less admirable in most respects. He does eventually redeem himself in the films, but in the books, no redemption is needed. He never strays from the righteous path to begin with.

TL;DR - Richard nailed it.

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    This reads like it should be a comment on Richard's answer, not an answer in its' own right. If Richard nailed it, why aren't you going to accept his answer? – PhilPursglove May 19 '15 at 6:37
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    The movies also made Faramir look rather foolish. After returning to Osgiliath with Frodo and Sam, he sees Frodo stand up to the Nazgul and it's steed, hold out the ring in plain sight, and was about to put it on when his gardener stops him. This convinces him to send Frodo off on his way into the depths of Morder. At this point I would have forgiven Film Faramir for taking the ring of Film Frodo and handing it to Denethor. – Mikey Mouse May 19 '15 at 15:52
  • @PhilPursglove I did accept his answer – Wad Cheber May 19 '15 at 16:42
  • @PhilPursglove - this was the best way I could think of to pay Richard the respect his answer deserved. And I said in my question that I would learn the answer myself if I kept reading. I kept reading, and I learned the answer myself, just as I said I would. So I wrote an answer here. But since Richard answered first, and did a great job, I accepted his response. My answer was intended simply as confirmation of my prediction. – Wad Cheber May 19 '15 at 19:04
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I have not read the books but I think this is actually beneficial for the specific question! For I perceived Faramir as a really kind hearted and not self centered character. It would not do justice to Boromir to portray him as a man whose lust for power exceeded all his qualities but it finally did render him more vulnerable to evil. You see just like in the case of Aragorn and Theoden in Helm's Deep where Aragorn wants to ride out for the people of Rohan whereas Theoden goes for death and glory, Boromir is coureagous for Gondor in terms of honour and saving his reputation as the ruler of Gondor whereas Faramir although presented weak hearted at the beginning, he is ultimately willing to give up his life for the life of all people in Middle Earth and for Good to return to the world. For he realises at last that there would be no Gondor if the world falls...So I think the difference between the two characters is quite obvious in the films however different they might be portrayed in the books.

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A question that you have to ask in this context is: "Why does Aragorn get to be king?" To Tolkien, an Englishman from the early 20th century, the answer was obvious. It was because he was the closest heir to the last king, and was therefore the rightful king. But to a late 20th century worldwide audience, most of whom do not live in monarchies, that's not an acceptable answer. Faramir was from Gondor, he had the right upbringing and training, and if he's just as good as Aragorn then he should be the king. He has to be shown as morally inferior to Aragorn to preserve Aragorn's right to the kingship.

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