Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peter Jackson's Hobbit

I am a die-hard fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. I have read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy many times over from the time I first discovered them around age 13. When I first heard rumor that Peter Jackson was making movies, I was skeptical, but I joined forums and participated in a study group of the books to pass the years of waiting. I read the Silmarillion and portions of the History of Middle Earth.

And then the movies were excellent. I had faith after Peter Jackson did a tremendous job given the time he had to cover the content of the books, and he was faithful to the story. Any changes were inconsequential or at least forgivable as necessary. I was so pleased that I bought the collector's edition. And I was excitedly awaiting the opening of his interpretation of The Hobbit, so much so that I went and sat in line more than hour early the first Saturday it opened (I generally avoid seeing movies on opening weekend).

I suppose all that anticipation was too much.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Party was a bit of a let-down. My gripes with the movie aren't those of most critics, but rather with blatant inaccuracies such as the orc confrontation shortly after the trolls, on the west side of Rivendell. It never happened. No orcs attacked until the party camped in the Misty Mountains east of Rivendell.

I don't mind the more serious tone as much as some complain. The Hobbit was written years before Tolkien had fully worked out his history of middle earth, and it originated as a child's tale. But yes, the story evolved and grew, and I certainly do not mind that Peter Jackson decided to attempt to weave the two together (and a bit more from the Silmarillion and the H.O.M.E. for that matter).

The movie overall could have done with a great deal more narration; Lady Galadriel (as played by Cate Blanchett) would have been a logical choice for this as was done in the LotR series. Some of the scenes are not tied in well and seem too obviously picked up off the cutting room floor and pasted back in, or added in last-minute with not enough time allowed to polish the transitions between ideas.

Yes, ominous foreshadowing is needed to tie the stories together and the elves did not need to be so merry as in the book. Those were fine changes.

But the dwarves weren't treated as enemies of elves. They were welcomed with polite greetings and a great deal of good-natured mocking, but certainly no spear points and open hostility. Too much tension was added here.

Bilbo did not need to see the ring drop. As in the book, he still could have been searching for his way out in the darkness and found it by blindly reaching along the ground.

After the riddle game, Gollum should have gone to his island to search for the ring. The same amount of time was spent in the movie, but with less dramatic tension. Tension was reduced here where it should have remained a strong and frightening element.

So  many little details like that were unnecessarily changed. That is what bothers me. Why? Why did Peter Jackson blatantly change some important details?

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