When I first heard that The Hobbit was going to be diced into three parts for the big screen, I had my doubts. When I first heard that J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic adventure The Hobbit was going to be diced into three parts for the big screen, I had my doubts. Last week brought the release of the first preview of The Desolation of Smaug, making it as good a time as any to revisit some pros and cons of the first installment.
First, a rundown of things that I liked about Jackson’s Hobbit: part of that list would have to be the inclusion of the wizard Radagast. Although Radagast was original to the movie and played no major role in Tolkien’s novels beyond a passing reference, I personally found him to be an interesting inclusion. Was he essential in any way? Not really, but I enjoyed learning more about the role of wizards in Middle Earth, and I confess that I really want a rabbit sled. In all, the casting was well executed, and being an enormous fan of Sir Ian McKellan, it was wonderful to see Gandalf get so much screen time.
Jackson was quite liberal with the storyline in his movie…Now for a few things I didn’t enjoy so much. Jackson was quite liberal with the storyline in his movie adaptation, creating entire subplots that never existed in the book. (Azog the white orc, for instance, was merely a footnote in the original text, and certainly not a main villain). This was somewhat less than surprising, given the fact that he had so much time to fill with two sequels in production.
I don’t think the trilogy format works in the story’s favor.This fiddling with the plot may not be a mortal sin on Jackson’s part in itself, but it leads me to my biggest peeve with The Hobbit, and that is the very fact that there remains two more movies. It isn’t even that I believe those movies will necessarily be poorly done, but I don’t think the trilogy format works in the story’s favor. The novel was a children’s book of several hundred pages; to stretch it over so many hours of film created a first installment that often felt sluggish, as though a good deal of the movie was merely setting the stage for what is to come later. Although it is partly the nature of any prequel to fill the gaps of its successors, it made for slow going at times.
Shortly before the debut of The Hobbit in theaters last holiday season, Le Monde published a rather disparaging interview with Christopher Tolkien, who spoke out about his father’s works for the first time in 40 years. When invited to meet Hobbit director Peter Jackson, Tolkien declined with some rather harsh words.“They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” Tolkien is quoted in the article. “The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”
Tolkien’s living descendants feel that the films have overstepped themselves…Obviously, Tolkien’s living descendants feel that the films have overstepped themselves, obscuring the literary merit of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with their commercial success. But the fantasy world of Middle Earth is so detailed, so massive, and so compelling, it’s not exactly surprising that even people culturally removed from Tolkien’s world of mid-20th century England would connect with story, and want to become a part of it somehow. Is it really fair to devalue Jackson’s work solely because it doesn’t always follow Tolkien’s books to the letter?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.