Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’

It’s been about a week and a half since I saw Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, or to give it its full title, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey … based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit … except where Jackson thought more battles and rabbit-drawn sleighs would improve on the original book. Ok, maybe I added something to the title. I’ve only seen it the one time, so this is not going to be a detailed review. I’ve also chosen—specifically—to not refer to my notes as I write this. This is just going to be impressions.

Once again Peter Jackson has made a movie with a thoroughly excellent cast and crew. The cinematography was beautiful, the music was perfect, the visual effects were stunning, and New Zealand put on one hell of a show. If what had come out was a series of still photos, possibly in a slideshow set to music, I could easily have nothing but praise for it. Unfortunately it wasn’t a slideshow and Peter Jackson was involved in more than just choosing actors and scouting locations.

What was with all the violence? I mean, really! What was with all the violence? People make fun of Michael Bay for making explosion-porn, well, Peter Jackson makes battle-porn (I thought at first of saying Orc-porn, but that sounded icky). Once again Jackson has inserted massive amounts of violence where Tolkien wrote about none, often in places that make no sense at all, and completely changing the pace of the story. Maybe gratuitous additions of gratuitous violence is why Jackson feels the need to turn The Hobbit into three movies.

Speaking of three movies—seriously? If Peter Jackson can get three movies out of The Hobbit then his The Lord of the Rings should have been nine movies. Of course if the next two movies contain the same amount of or more nonexistent nonsense then I’ll have no trouble believing it. It’s a real shame that Peter Jackson has taken some of the most incredible stories ever written and turned them all into homogenized installments of the quest for more money.

And what was up with Radagast the Brown? For one thing, the sum total of Radagast’s presence in The Hobbit is 40 words spoken by Gandalf and Beorn, which means that the scenes Radagast is sort of in won’t even be seen on screen until the next movie. For another thing, depicting Radagast as such a bumbling ridiculous character is offensive. Radagast should have been no more different from Gandalf or Saruman than they were from each other, possessing the same subtle nobility and strength of purpose. Don’t even get me started on the rabbit-drawn sleigh…

I think that the thing to understand about Peter Jackson’s movies is that they are not cinematic adaptations of Tolkien’s work. They’re just not. In my opinion what we’re watching is fanfic. They’re not canon and large elements seem to exist to appeal to the puerile and pseudo-prurient desires of their creator. In fact, Christopher Tolkien seems to feel much about Jackson’s movies as any content creators or their heirs feel about fanfic. Peter Jackson has just managed to get his fanfic on a larger screen than people of his ilk usually manage.

I’ll go ahead and end this post here, though I leave a lot to be said. Before I embark on that endeavor I need to rematch the movie, re-read the book, and check a number of other sources. Once I’ve done all of that you’ll be hearing more from me on the subject. Count on it.

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