Wednesday 9 January 2013

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Mess?

A few years back I remember watching Peter Jackson's The Frighteners and telling (an uninterested) SWMBO "that man should do The Lord of the Rings" when the wraith appeared - it was sooo Nazgul! Fortunately someone was listening! :-)

Of course there was no way that Jackson would faithfully recreate my interpretation of Tolkien's epic and I was happy to grant him leeway and by and large he hit the right buttons and did a very good job.

Ok, things were changed from the book, but I didn't mind the "let's hunt some orc!" in the Fellowship or even the dwarf tossing in the Two Towers. However the re-writing of Frodo's "I have come, but I do not choose to do what I came to do." dialogue at Mount Doom in the Return of the King (listen to the Radio 4 production to hear how powerful it is) irritated, as did the exorcising of The Scouring of the Shire epilogue from the story (it is an important aspect of the overall theme of the story).

So The Hobbit was not approached with the same level of excitement that the first Lord of the Rings film was. The success and (generally well deserved) plaudits of The Lord of the Rings meant that I suspected that not would Jackson be adding chunks of dialogue to what Tolkien wrote, but based on the Mount Doom scene removing what a professor of the Languages wrote in preference to that his wife dreamt up.

In Jackson's defence it is not a bad film and on occasion he gets it so right it is magical. The opening party at Bilbo's hobbit hole is extremely well filmed, the scenes at Rivendell look like some pre-Raphaelite painting brought to life and the inclusion of Nirnaeth Arnoediad (The battle of Unnumbered Tears) in the story is splendid (despite the mohicaned troll slayer who sneaked in!). The piece de resistance is, of course, the riddle in the dark sequence with Gollum. Excellent.

But for every magical scene there is some distinctly not. The idea of Radagast's bunny sled is woeful (let's ignore how far it travelled and how it got from Mirkwood to warn Gandalf of the Necromancer) and gets worse when it is dodging warg riders in some obvious poor CGI.

Indeed the CGI often stands out like a sore thumb from the opening dragon cam sweeping shots to the collapsing walkway when the dwarves are escaping from the goblins. In fact the whole escape from Goblin Town scene is so Goonies/Harry Potter when it could (should) have been tenser as it is in the book (and don't get me started on the look of the mutants, sorry goblins...).

Jackson also plays fast and loose with Tolkien's dialogue prefering to his own (or that of his wife). The scene with the trolls has been re-written for no obvious benefit. And FFS what about a hedgehog called Sebastian?! Tolkien's use of ancient languages is part of the reason the books are so well regarded and some muppet picks a Latin based name that bears no relation to that of the background Tolkien created.

As you might have guessed The Hobbit was an overall disappointment, largely because you can see that when he stays true to the source material Jackson gets it and takes it off the page and puts it on the screen in a way that is near perfect. However when he feels he needs to change things he rapidly goes off kilter. The book of The Hobbit is rightly regarded as a classic and when filming classics producers need to bear in mind they are classics for a reason and that they are just film producers!


  1. Radagast is the new Jar Jar Binks?

    I thought much the same!

  2. The troll-slayer dude is actually a younger version of Dwalin, before he lost his hair. Look close and you'll see.

  3. "Radagast is the new Jar Jar Binks?"

    "Meesa liksa da hobbits!" Oh heavens, I was looking forward to going to see this. Now I think I'll save my money :(

  4. Bravo! exactly what I would like to wrote about this poor movie!!
    For me, the differences (or liberties) could be acceptable if they were intelligent ones, but they are not!
    In the LoTR I don't like some scenes (the "throwing of dwarf", the "curse on a olifant" and the "crying end", for example) but the movies are good.
    In the Hobbit, except the scenes you describe, all is wrong, unrealistic, fashion and ridiculous. I add the awful Great Goblin in the list of hideous creature (remains me Jabba the Hut !)
    Unfortunately, I've seen in 3D, but like I am a little "masochist", I will try to see it again in 2D (like a real movie!)

    (I subscribe by e-mail to your post, so you can be sure that I will follow all the comments.)

  5. Great review. I haven't made the move to see it. Can't explain my hesitancy. Guess I just don't want to sit for three hours and be disappointed. Still may see it on the big screen...but not sure.

  6. I disagree. The film entertained me and the time just flew by, which is not to say that the criticisms aren't justified, but that some context is needed to frame them with. There are very few films that are literally true to their source material, and to expect them to be is unrealistic IMO. The mediums are different and have different requirements. YMMV.

    1. If it was just entertaining, it's a pity...
      It's not the same to do something different, that doing something intelligent! Like Steve wrote, it was not necessary to remove dialogues or scenes of the book for create (?) poor ones!
      If you choose the facility instead of the difficulty, it's because that you think that people are not enough intelligent .... it's my opinion.

      (I hope that I'm clear enough with my comments because I don't speak well English language)

      Sam Wise

    2. I think you are putting too much negative stress on the word entertaining, which for me is the highest praise I can give. So little is entertaining these days, as it appeals to the lowest common denominator.

      In English, though I imagine also in Français, what reads well doesn't always speak well.

      You however, write far better English than I will ever write French. So no apologies are necessary.