I saw that the first Hobbit movie was going to be on TV recently. I decided to watch it (never having seen it at the cinema) and put aside my misgivings (accumulated through watching The Lord of the Rings movies) in order to give it a fair go.
I really, really tried.
It’s a mistake for a blogger, especially an occasional one like me, to criticize a popular movie franchise. Undoubtedly, there are masses of people possessing a sharply different point of view, and they might well express it. Forcefully.
But I’ll stand up for what I believe in.
And I believe this: if a book is worthy of being adapted to film, the filmmakers should respect it. Likewise the author who poured his soul into it.
I understand that the mediums of novel and film are different and require different treatments. I understand (but don’t condone) the commercial tactics of certain changes to enhance marketability. For instance, the appearance of Frodo at the beginning of the movie. He’s not in the book, and his appearance is nothing more than a marketing strategy to maintain continuity between the box office hits of The Lord of the Rings films and the Hobbit spinoffs. His unexpected, and plot irrelevant, presence also plays a part in stretching one short book into four films.
So, now to my claim of hijacking. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning of hijacking goes something like this: to illegally seize (an aircraft, ship, or vehicle) while in transit and force it to go to a different destination or use it for one’s own purposes.
We can dispense with any legal definition, just as we can ignore aircrafts and ships. What’s relevant here is “… force it to go to a different destination…” To do that to a book is not to adapt it to film, but to break it and remake it according to the filmmaker’s own personal tastes and preferences.
I don’t deny Peter Jackson the right to his own tastes and preferences, but I would say this to him: if you want to express them, write your own story. Pour your own soul into it. If you dare.
Anyway, back to the adaptation. The book has such a wonderful opening, but it’s all gone in favor of backstory drawn from the latter parts of the book and the appendices of The Lord of the Rings.
So many things made me cringe. The worst of it was Thranduil, the Elven king, paying homage to the Dwarf king after the discovery of the Arkenstone. As if! And why, in the name of God, did Jackson think it was a good idea for Thranduil to ride a stag rather than a horse? That’s not adaptation. That’s hijacking.
I’m not even going to discuss Radagast caring for an ill hedgehog called “Sebastian”or Gandalf sending a moth to ask Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles, to rescue him.
The worst sin of the lot though was this: it was boring – mind numbingly, yawn inducing, coma producing boring. As much as I hated what Jackson did to The Lord of the Rings, at least those movies had narrative drive. I guess it shows what happens when you take a smallish book and try to spread it over four movies.
I didn’t watch to the end. It was nearly an hour before Bilbo even left Bag End to catch up to the Dwarves. That’s when I went to bed, being three quarters asleep already.
For me, it only had one redeeming quality. The rendition of the Dwarf song, We must away ere break of day. That was well done.
One final note.
I’m calling Jackson out for having total disrespect for Tolkien. He’s taken some of the greatest works of English literature, and, well, broken them. And he’s done it for financial profit. Not only has he disrespected Tolkien, but he’s disrespected the viewing public. We don’t need four Hobbit movies, where the story is dribbled out in unrecognizable bits and stretched like the life of a Ring-bearer. What we need is one good film. So, Mr. Jackson, not only have you disrespected Tolkien, but you’ve also disrespected the viewing public. At least this representative of it.
One day, sometime in the far future, another filmmaker will adapt Tolkien to the screen. Whoever that is, I wish them luck. In the meantime, I have the books – and that’s all I need.