Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit Movie is No Lord of the Rings

First, it seems strange to write about a movie with the senseless deaths at the elementary school in Connecticut.  My thoughts and prayers and deepest condolences go out to the families grieving there.  Perhaps more on that later.

My wife and I saw Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" this afternoon.  I am a big Tolkien fan and loved the Lord of the Rings movies.  At the end of Fellowship and Two Towers I looked at the time and couldn't believe it had been three hours - it just flew by.  Return of the King felt a little longer, but was no where near what I experienced today.

The Hobbit is a long movie, and it feels long.  In LOTR, Jackson brought in a little of the back story from the Silmarillion (which is a complete history of Middle Earth, and reads like a dusty history book...) to add some needed context and the Aragorn/Arwen love story.  In The Hobbit, Jackson brings in far too much, and invents far too much. Somewhere around the two and a half hour mark, I was wondering, "is this movie ever going to end?"

My biggest beef is that he deviated from the book in far too many places.  I don't want to spoil the movie, but Bilbo's wonderful discussion with Gandalf at the beginning, Bilbo's self-conflicted, passionate arguing for himself to go, the meeting with the mountain trolls, the council at Rivendell, how they escaped the goblins (and Bilbo's escape), and the birdies in the trees scenes were all changed at a fundamental level.  The main villain in the movie isn't even in the book!

For parents, this movie is much more violent than LOTR.  Jackson went overboard in adjusting a children's tale for adult consumption.  LOTR was dark and scary, but the books were dark and scary (although not as much as the movies).  The Hobbit should have had a lot more humor and a lot less violence.  One of the brilliant moves in the LOTR movies was keeping most of the original dialogue intact, but it loses that in The Hobbit.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is about the triumph of compassion, friendship and love over evil.  The Hobbit is about Bilbo growing up and experiencing the world beyond his Hobbit hole.  I didn't get that from this movie at all.

So, rather than making two great movies about the Hobbit, Peter Jackson has decided to make three mediocre movies, leaving the heart of the book in the screen writer's wastebasket.  (I suppose three movies makes more money than two...)  Omitting "The Cleansing of the Shire" from Return of the King was bad enough, but omitting the basic story from the Hobbit is worse.  Didn't they learn their lesson from the Narnia movies, especially Dawn Treader?  When you radically alter the premise, you lose the heart of the book, and so with it, its loyal fans.

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