Friday, December 6, 2013

Film Friday: The Hobbit (2012)

The Hobbit is one of my favorite books. It is a great book. It’s also made to order to be turned into a movie because, unlike a lot of classics, this one reads like a film. It has very clearly described scenes and characters and lots of action, all of which will present a fun adventure. Even more importantly, it has great characters whose depth unfolds through their actions and the dialog. What could go wrong?

Peter Jackson.

When Jackson did The Lord of the Rings, I was excited to see it. The images they released looked amazing and he spoke about how closely he wanted to follow the books. Sounds great! Then the ominous signs started appearing. First, they added a love interest. There is no reason to do that in The Lord of the Rings, and someone who really was trying to be true to the books would know that. Then some of the actors started giving interviews and they mentioned that the script couldn’t just follow the books because The Lord of the Rings doesn’t really concern itself with character development.... because The Lord of the Rings doesn’t really concern itself with character development.

WHOOP!! WHOOP!! WHOOP!! Retard alert!
Yeah, that statement right there told me there would be problems, as indeed there were. As anyone who has read and understood The Lord of the Rings knows, the whole fricken book is character driven. It is about people who must push themselves much further than they ever imagined possible. Some must learn they cannot control events, some must come to peace with ancient enemies, some must deal with the betrayal of friends. There are characters of unswerving loyalty who find themselves accused of treachery, suicidal stands, and redemptions galore. There are friendships that get explored at their extremes. And for limited thinkers like Jackson, we’re even told what these people drink.

...because The Lord of the Rings doesn’t really concern itself with character.


Sure enough, Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings was very pretty. And as generic fantasy stories go, it’s pretty good. It’s certainly better than Dungeons & Dragons and Eragon in that regard. But it’s an emotionally dead film. You don’t care about any of the characters because they are all generic... they are all Hollywood Reluctant Hero, Standard Grade™.

What’s really frustrating is that Jackson was handed a series of books with everything already in them. All he needed to do was put what he read on screen and he would automatically create a deeply, emotionally-satisfying film. But he stripped all of that out. If there is a moment where you learn something about the values, beliefs and worth of these characters, he took it away and replace it with Hollywood Reluctant Hero Anguish, Extra Strong™.
Then came The Hobbit. Once again, the warning signs were there. Jackson injected characters from The Lord of the Rings into the film because his marketing team said it would help. He stretched this simple story into three movies, because his marketing team said he could get richer that way. He once again swore to follow the book religiously (wink wink), because that’s good marketing too.

So I watched it. And you know what? Zzzzzzz.

The film opens with Jackson showing right away that he intends to make a dull film. Like a declaration of failure, Jackson opens the film with the story of Smaug. This is wrong. The Zen of The Hobbit, the book, is the way it grows. The story starts small. Gandalf is a bumbling old fool who seems to pick Bilbo at random to fulfill a contract... but he proves his worth little by little as the story grows. The dwarves are blowhards with no experience doing what they are about to do. They are quickly exposed, but little by little prove their worth as well... only to prove too stupid to know when they have won. Bilbo opens as a fussy wimp, a whiny, neurotic, defeatist homebody who is out of his element the moment he leaves his house. But as the story goes on, he find his inner strength. He learns the difference between confidence and arrogance. And he becomes a hero. Middle Earth too is like a puzzle, a puzzle you assemble bit by bit: you start in the safe shire. Then you are in the wild. You discover trolls. You meet the elves. You come to the Misty Mountains and you learn about Orcs and Goblins. Little by little, this amazing world reveals itself until you come to the climax of the story, the story of Smaug and the battle to take and keep the mountain.

Jackson skips to the end and hands you a cheat sheet at the opening. He thereby wipes out the growing wonder. It’s like leaving your Christmas presents unwrapped.
After the bad start, it gets worse. First, we meet the dwarves. As with Snow White’s dwarves, each of the dwarves in the book has his own personality. Some are foolish, some are arrogant, some are cowardly and most are ungrateful. Some are mischievous, some are childish. And together they form an interesting party who are much more than Bilbo can handle in the way of visitors. For his part, Bilbo is neurotic. He spends the opening of the book worrying about the mess the dwarves are making, worrying that he will be seen as a bad host if he does not let them eat him out of house and home, and generally panicking. These things are vital to the book because they define who these characters are by their negative traits and they tell the audience what the characters must overcome to succeed. It is their journey to become better people which will give the book its strength. Indeed, seeing Bilbo go from whiny coward to standing boldly before his enemies is what makes the book so inspiring.

Jackson tosses all of that out. His dwarves are all Hollywood Badass, Generic Grade™, meaning they are tough and competent and their only flaw will be overconfidence... they are all the same. Bilbo is Hollywood Reluctant Hero, Standard Grade™, meaning his only flaw is that he’s not willing to admit yet that he’s a hero (look at the determined look on his face in the images... is that anything but a hero?). There will be no growth here, as each of these characters are already fully complete. In fact, the only moment of growth will be when the dwarves decide to honor Bilbo by telling him he has earned their respect. Yawn.
Having gotten Bilbo and the dwarves together, the story continues in the same order as the events in the book, though none of the scenes are all that close to what you see in the book. It stops with them being rescued by the eagles. Nothing interesting happens in between, or maybe I passed out for two hours... not sure.

Put simply, the film bored me to tears.

Now let me be clear. I am not saying that this film stinks because it wasn’t the book. I knew it wouldn’t be the book and I’m fine with that. What I’m saying is that it stinks because it was a lifeless, dull movie. And the reason it was lifeless and dull is because you just can’t care about the characters. And the reason you can’t care about the characters is because Jackson doesn’t give them any chance to grow, to become better, to give us anything interesting. They are machines, traveling from point A to point B executing the plot.

Seriously, think about this. Do we really care that Bilbo played a rather lame riddle game with some frog-creature? Does that make a good film? Hardly. Imagine Superman and Batman doing that in their next movie. What made that scene with Bilbo and Gollum so great was that it showed Bilbo shedding his fear, gaining confidence, and pushing things too far to arrogance. It is something we can relate to. Jackson’s Bilbo doesn’t do that. He’s just going through the motions. Zzzzzz.



Koshcat said...

Didn't see the movie but when I found out that Jackson dragged a relatively short book over 3 three hour movies I decided not to send him my money. I have more important things to do with that much time.

With regard to LOTR, I saw the first movie before reading the book and I loved it. But subsequent movies were less enjoyable and I think it was because I read the book. In hindsight, there was so much unnecessary filler, they probably could have made just two movies. And using dead people to destroy the other army just feels like a cheat.

It was probably this blog that someone linked to a skit where they should multiple ways the quest could have been completed in the first 10 minutes. Another one I just thought of is give the ring to the elves on one of their boats and let them drop it into the ocean.

How did they feed that huge army in Mordor without any signs of agriculture? Did they import? Why not just cut them off and starve them out?

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, They had a Super Walmart in Mordor where they all got cheap groceries. ;-)

There is a lot of filler in LOTR, and there's a ton of filler in The Hobbit. In fact, most of it felt like filler to me actually.

Agreed about using the dead... total cheat.

Rustbelt said...

Andrew, I haven't seen this movie, though I have seen Jackson's LOTR films. In regards to LOTR, I agree completely. (At this point, I should note that I haven't read any of the books, though they are on my reading list.) Aragorn just moped through the film, while everyone else read their lines teleprompter-style. (Oh, God...did I just use THAT description?!) Really, only Gollum and Sam seemed to care at all.

Your comments on this film seem similar to what the Red Letter Media guys talked about. With Jackson adding stuff from 'the Silmarillion,' they said it was like Jackson didn't know if he wanted to make a film for kids ('the Hobbit's' genre), or an adult prequel for LOTR. And they also mentioned Jackson's habit of doing everything- EVERYTHING- to excess.

Like I said, I haven't read the books, but I have made use of the modern cheat sheets- 'For Dummies' books, wikis, etc. Tolkien was a deep thinker, and, despite being fans, filmmakers and most enthusiasts just don't get how he thought. A few points:

Faramir: Tolkien's model soldier, in contrast to his brother. Hollywood: Too generic. He needs to be conflicted, stupid, and pouty.
Denethor: Exhausted and weary from years of holding down the fort against Mordor. Hollywood: Too complex. Easier to make him a stereotypical stab-in-the-back, 'let them eat cake'-style villain.
Sam: Will the questions about Sam and Frodo being possible homosexuals ever stop? (RLM, Nostalgia Critic, I'm looking at you!) I mean, is it humanly possible for Hollywood and critics to realize that men can have male best friends without being romantically attracted to them? Is the media really so obsessed with gay this and gay that that they just look for it everywhere. Oh...
For the record, Sam is Frodo's 'batman.' Now, 25 years before you-know-who appeared on the comic book scene, the term 'batman' was used by the British Expeditionary Force during WWI to describe non-coms who were assigned as personal assistants to commissioned officers. Often, these men also had to look out for the health and mental well-being of their officers, usually having to encourage them to keep the fight even when they their breaking points. (Kind of like a modern campaign manager.) Tolkien stated that he actaully wrote Sam as a tribute to these men.

Only Hollywood (even in New Zealand) could mess up something so simple.

Rustbelt said...

OT: This evening, I went to see the latest offering from Rifftrax Live (the former MST3K guys- Mike, Kevin, and Bill) at a local theater- which took me an hour to drive to in the rain.
The feature? Why a re-riffing of 'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,' of course! Now, THAT'S how you get into the holiday spirit!

Hm...thanks to Rifftrax, I have now seen both "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians' and 'Manos: the Hands of Fate' in theaters.
Is that wonderfully geeky, or just incredibly sad that I'm able to say that? I leave it up to the Commentarama Community to decide.

Hoo-ray for Santy Claus!

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I'm a big fan of the books. And to me, the issue isn't that it's not like the books. I get that it won't be. To me, the issue is that they take characters who have a really great amount of depth... depth which is easy to project because it all comes through the dialog rather than chunks of exposition which a director wouldn't know how to film... and it wipes all of that out and makes all of the characters into the generic Hollywood hero/villain character.

To give a very clear example, it would be like redoing Star Wars and making every single character except Vader into Han Solo and then having them repeat the same plot. It just feels wrong and it loses all of its appeal.

I remember Santa Claus Conquers the Martians! They did that very, very early on.

shawn said...

Well, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings flicks, although Return of the King seemed to go on too long.

The Hobbit on the other hand, I agree with you: not nearly as entertaining as the book. Quite frankly, the movie feels like it is trying to copy the movie formula of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and so it left me with a deep sense of "been there, done that". All in all, a severe disappointment.

PikeBishop said...

Agreed, as someone who never read Tolkein and only had a vague idea of the difference between an Orc and a Hobbitt, I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the originial trilogy of LOTR films ten years ago.

Watched Hobbitt last week and my overall reaction was "Meh, been there done that." It's the same plotline. Gandalf recruits reluctant Hobbitt, fellowship is formed, the task begins, painfully unfunny comic relief, fight first obstacle, grow together as a team, fight second foe etc, overly long action sequence (the escape from the Goblin mines could have been about five minutes shorter. Jackson apprarently has a case of "Pirates of the Carribean sequelitis"), set up for the final battle, fight ridiculously overblown battle, set up the next film......

Overall, left me feeling cold. Was it a better way to spend three hours than just about any other dreck in Hollywood? Yes. Will I buy this on blu ray or watch again? No

Kit said...

I will say this about the movies, were it not for the movies, I would probably have never gotten into Lord of the Rings.

Kit said...

The books, I would never have gotten into the books or become a fan of Tolkien (at least by now) were it not for the movies.

tryanmax said...

I saw the Hobbit when it hit Redbox and I must agree, total disappointment. To me, it almost felt like Jackson was mocking the Hobbit and possibly his own prior work. Either that, or Jackson is trying to make the Hobbit *more* than LOTR even though the narrative is, in every sense, less. That's not a knock on Tolkien's work--I believe he intended the Hobbit as a mini-LOTR. But it just shows in one more way how Jackson doesn't really *get* this masterpiece that he's somehow obsessed with.

tryanmax said...

Kit, I will grant that. The movies have likely inspired a lot of people to pick up one of the greatest pieces of modern fiction written. And it will reward them with a much richer experience. Yay!

Anonymous said...

Forgive me but I will go on.

The first book I ever read of my own choice was The Hobbit, love that book, then I read LOTR (over 12 times over a year). I was disappointed in movies, I liked them a lot, but disappointed in the changes not just to the story but especially the characters. I understand dropping stuff out, but why add stuff that didn't happen and completely change some characters and their motivations?

When I found out that The Hobbit movie was going to be 3 movies I was
worried but hopeful. I did think that the inclusion of outside events that happen at the time (mostly involving The White Council) that are hinted at in the book and LOTR could be great to watch.

I liked the movie but was bored, disappointed and angry at times (what a ringing endorsement), but I am not as down on the movie as Andrew is. As I know the source material so well it is sometimes the little things that PJ changes that piss me off. Like swapping out Glorfindel for Arwen and sending the elves to Helms Deep in LOTR. In The Hobbit when they mentioned that Thorin Oakenshield 'killed' Azog when it was Dain Ironfoot who actually did kill him I was pissed, Thorin while young accounted very well for himself in that battle and didn't need to be built up anymore than that.

I also hated the add on of Radagast, making him seem real pathetic too,
whereas The White Council in Rivendell was fine, showing Saurman to
already be swaying to the dark side.

I'm also not into the dwarves as comic relief.

Koshcat, the best way to shorten the movie that I have read is to get
the eagles to fly Frodo to Mount Doom and let him drop it in. Getting the elves to drop the ring in the ocean wouldn't work, they need to destroy it (in Mount Doom) as it contains a large part of Sauron's power and he would merely win the war with his troops (of which he has a lot more and the ring
has a way of being found so it would resurface). As to feeding the army they would have imported the food as Sauron controlled all of the land to the south and east of Mordor and they couldn't cut them off and starve them out as Sauron had more troops.

Rustbelt, I hate how they treated Faramir and you are correct about
Sam being a batman and just a great friend and the real hero of the books.


Individualist said...

Anyone who has read the LOTR knows that the last thing it needs is filler....

I mean there is a whole 200+ pages to read after Gollum falls into the Volcano with the ring.

As to the Hobbit movie the fight scenes got somewhat tedious to me. The remake of King Kong has the same effect. Watching 15 minutes of endless slashing becomes unreal and eventually has a hypnotic sleep effect on the viewer. The opposite of what an action fight scene is supposed to be.

As to the story, been a while since I read the book but I don't remember some big ominous foreshadowing to some ancient evil awakening in the book. All of that seems to have been made out of whole cloth and to me the effect lessens the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring. It is supposed to be a big deal when Bilbo's cute little invisibility ring goes from cute toy to the most powerful artifact in the realms.

KRS said...

When I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings in college, my brothers and most of my friends (the male ones) were doing the same. (The girls were watching General Hospital and Dallas, instead.) The stories are great and this comes from a guy who had little patience for the fantasy genre as a young man. In any event, I am very fond of the stories.

When Jackson's LOTR came out, we loved the movies and absolutely revelled in the spectacle. Here's why: long ago my brothers and I came to the conclusion that there is an absolute inverse relationship between how much we like a written story and how well that story will be portrayed on the big screen. So, the better I like a novel, the lower my expectations when I buy the ticket. In the case of LOTR, the bar was low enough that Michael Moore could clear it even after a double cheese and twinkie chiliburger binge.

So, for me, the appeal in movies like LOTR is the spectacle which ramps up the imagery in my head as I re-read the trilogy again. I have had the same reaction to other movies drawn from stories. The only movie I can think of that actually stood as a powerful story on it's own, absent the book, was Gettysburg, taken from Shaara's The Killer Angels.

There are disappointments in the details and casting (choosing Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn is like picking up a random wino to play George Washington! Also, Matrin Sheen as General Lee, even though he played it beautifully, is just not believable as a military leader given his political history.), but I can usually shrug them off and joke about them later.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, It definitely has that feel -- been there, done that. It actually felt more like a LOTR knock-off than a separate story.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That thought occurred to me too. It felt like someone simply repeating LOTR and going through the motion with a different cast.

As for enjoying LOTR, I enjoy it as a mindless action film.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, That's good. And as I've said, LOTR is not a bad film, it just doesn't even approach it's potential because it's emotionally blank.

The Hobbit is equally dead, but even worse, it's super dull and it feels like it's packed with filler.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I don't know if Jackson was trying to mock LOTR, but it feels like he was just going through the motions. There's no thought at all in this film. Everything is just about as generic as it could possibly be... no creativity, no depth.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, "The Hobbit" was the first book I read by choice too! :)

I didn't like the changes you mention because they weren't necessary and they felt like Jackson was just being a jerk. But I also know they'll do things like that in films. So I can accept those and just see the film as a film. In fact, I actually don't connect LOTR the film with the book at all -- they are completely different things in my mind.

What bothers me about LOTR is that its very flat. I enjoy watching the action, but don't really care about any of the characters. They're just images going through the plot. Still, it was well enough done that I enjoyed the movies. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is not nearly as well done. I was bored to death. It's slow and uninteresting. And the reason is that the story doesn't have much plot -- it's about character. And Jackson can't do character. So what you have is a character drama without any characters that follows a threadbare plot that's been stretched out over 7-8 hours.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Very true and I had the same feeling: "Is this The Hobbit or is this an ad for LOTR? At so many points in this film, it felt like Jackson was just trying to fill in the part of LOTR that he didn't get to tell in the first 400 hours.

As you say, The Hobbit is a cute little story about a guy who has to leave his house and goes on a grand adventure. This film feels like a super stretched out film about a reluctant hero who needs to save the world only to ironically spark LOTR in the process.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, I've learned to simply divorce the films from the books. It used to bother me that no one even managed to make a good film out of a good book, but I've stopped caring about that. I just want to see a good movie.

LOTR was a good movie. It was a movie in which I didn't care at all about the characters, but it had good visuals (excluding the CGI stupidity) and good action. So it was mindless fun. This one stinks. This feels like a tired retread with nothing to say. It's too long, too little happens, none of it is all that interesting. It feels mechanical.

Critch said...

I read the Hobbitt in 1972. A nice lady at the USO in Stapleton Airport handed it to me for my trip and I loved it...then I bought LOTR. Loved them....I also have a habit of not expecting too much from movies made from books l love...I liked the LOTR movies, not so much The Hobbitt. Seeing as how I can't write, sing, dance, direct or play baseball I tend not to be overly mean about my reviews on the above subjects.

KRS said...

Andrew, my point is that, when the book is really good, the movie doesn't have to be nearly that good for me to enjoy it, because I cared about the characters in the book, I've got the story preloaded in my memory and the movie is providing spectacle. If I had come upon LOTR without a few readings of the trilogy in my memory, I'd likely view the movies far more negatively - and probably would have stopped with the first.

I wonder if Jackson's problem was that he could never decide for whom he was making LOTR - the fans or the general public. The fans could never be made completely happy because a lot of Tolkien has to be left behind to fit the movies within a reasonable running time. His compromise was clutzy but we got the grand spectacle of New Zealand as Middle Earth and all those freaky creatures. Lovely.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I love the books. These are my favorite books. The films, not so much. I enjoy but don't love LOTR and I was bored with The Hobbit.

In terms of criticism, I don't think it matters if you can do something. For one thing, that flies in the face of consumerism -- consumers are allowed to express their opinions since these things are sold to us. Secondly, you don't need to be able to do something to know if it works or not -- I can't build a car, but I know what works and what doesn't. For another, we're not just crapping on these films, we're outlining where they went right or wrong. I think that's a lot more valid than just saying, "I liked it." The point to this site, after all, is to discuss and dissect films. Finally, each of us can tell stories, so we're more than qualified to discuss the storytelling efforts of others.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, That's another way to look at it and I think there is some of that. The more you like a character going in, the more you're likely to overlook problems. I'm actually that way with the Star Wars prequels. Objectively, those films are pure crap. They are as bad as anything made for the Sci-Fi Channel. But since I like the Star Wars universe, I am willing to cut them some slack... though they are simultaneously painful to me because they are so far beneath their potential. Without that slack, I would have never seen 2 or 3 and I would have long forgotten about them.

I agree about Jackson. I think he wanted something that would appeal to both, and as we've seen many times, that's very very hard. What's interesting to me is that the changes he made really hurt him with the fans, but didn't do anything to help him with the public. What does the public care if a name is changed? So I'm not sure why he ultimately made the changes he did -- except for the love story, that was purely for the general public.

On "The Hobbit," I think the bigger problem is that he couldn't decide if he wanted to make a fun movie for kids (as "The Hobbit" really is) or if he wanted to make a dark action film. I think he split the difference and made a boring, yet not-charming action film.

T-Rav said...

I didn't watch it--not because I wasn't interested, but because I saw the previews and heard a lot of the comments going around about it, and it was clear they were trying to make it into an LOTR-style trilogy, which it objectively isn't. So that bugged me too much.

On shortening the Ring quest in LOTR, I suppose those ideas are plausible enough, but they ignore the whole point of the story--Frodo would never have simply dropped the Ring into Mount Doom. That's what he sets out to do, but in the clinch, he can't do it because--as the books point out--it's a Ring of Power, and it subverts the bearer's will. It could only have been destroyed accidentally, such as by Gollum seizing it and then falling into the fires. Whatever the movies' flaws were in other respects, they at least got that overarching point right.

Backthrow said...

Yup, Jackson's THE HOBBIT bored me to tears, as well. I knew I was in trouble when the introduction of the dwarfs, and their eating Bilbo out of house and home, went on and on an on... slegehammering the joke about rude, sloppy, imposing guests. The only part I really enjoyed was when Bilbo ended up in Gollum's lair, and their guessing game. All the rest was bloated LOTR retread, darker than the source warranted. The less-dark parts that were going for more of a kid's film vibe were pandering, going the dumb route and adding in some patented Lucas/Spielberg-style mild gross/toilet humor shtick, particularly the scene with the trolls. I remember the Goblin King having some gag line just before his demise, that didn't fit with the rest of the film... it was like something out of a "hip" kiddie CGI cartoon film. Still, what the film desperately needed most was Jackson's kung-fu priest, but I guess he was busy.

While it wasn't the first novel I ever read, Tolkien's book was an early one, and I enjoyed it, though it didn't inspire me to follow through and read LOTR, which was just too daunting to me at that age, and I never really caught up with it in the years since... which, I guess, was sort of a blessing, since I wouldn't then be disappointed by some of the (apparently) senseless changes mentioned in the above comments about the LOTR film trilogy. I find that I'm always rewarded when I read the book for the first time after seeing the movie version, that way, I'm not disappointed, as I get a richer experience that fleshes out the gaps in a film's limited (usually... not counting Jackson's) running time.

The talk about this and STAR WARS reminds me of the only good part of CLERKS 2, which has NSFW language throughout.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Hearing that Jackson was turning this into three movies made me grimace. There just isn't enough material to do that, and I suspect that the third is going to feel like The Matrix 3... five minutes of plot, 2:45 minutes of CGI combat. Maybe Elrond will clone himself a million times?

Agreed about LOTR. There was no other way to do what they did. The ring was just too powerful in terms of being able to control people to do it any other way. Actually, the one guy I think could have done it without a problem is Sam. The difference between Frodo and Sam is that while Frodo doesn't covet the ring, he has no other love that fills him up and keeps ring-lust at bay. Sam, on the other hand, is so happy being Frodo's friend that there just isn't room in his heart for the ring to work its way in.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I've found that reading the book after the film results in the better experience as well. You can enjoy the movie without worrying about what they did to mangle the book, and then the book fills in all the things that didn't make sense and adds depth. So ideally, that's the way to go... if that's possible.

I found the never-ending eating scene at the beginning to be a horrible sign of what was to come. It's really a bad sign when you check your watch about 10 minutes into a 2.5 hour film.

And the trolls scene really annoyed me. The way it's written in the book is clever, funny and interesting. It shows each of their characters how they are changing. And it has some real tension. Throwing all of that out and doing what they did to it not only completely changed the characters and the tone, but it wasn't tense, it wasn't clever, and it wasn't fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

I too prefer to read the book after seeing the movie, only then can I enjoy both. If I read the book first I'm always disappointed to some degree, Dune and LOTR illustrate this for me, I saw Dune before reading the book and loved it, then read it and was amazed at how much more I got out of it, but I still love the movie. LOTR was the other way around and the movies suffer for it, I tell people to read the books but I know most wont.

Oh and I love that clip from Clerks 2. And I actually liked that movie.

Are you going to bother watching the next Hobbit movie? I am, just like I watched Matrix 3 and Clone Wars/Return of the Sith, I cannot help myself I have to finish the journey. One of my mates would say I am only watching it so that I have something to complain about. :) We spent three nights watching LOTR movies were I had a running commentary in every scene where they changed something, left something out or added something in, I nearly lost my voice!


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I can't honestly say. I feel no desire to watch it. And these are different than the Star Wars and Matrix series. In those instances, I wanted to see the second films to see if Star Wars got better and because I was expecting good things from The Matrix 2. In both instances, it wasn't until the third film that I really stopped caring. But even then, they had one more thing going for them -- I didn't know how they would end. So at least finishing the series made sense.

The Hobbit isn't like that. I know what happens next.

All in all, right now, I really have no desire to see the next Hobbit film. And I don't feel like I'll miss anything by not watching it. On the other hand, by the time it comes to HBO, I'll probably be in a "well, why not?" mood.

So I would say it's 50/50. But if it's like this one, I can guarantee you that I'll be doing something on my laptop during the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

As an aside, there is a train wreck factor to both the Star Wars and Matrix films. It's entertaining to see people rip them apart because they are so brutally incompetently made. The Hobbit isn't incompetent, it's just lifeless, so ripping it apart isn't all that interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Here's a link: LINK.

This is the kind of mind numbingly ignorant article that makes my skin crawl. It's sycophantic. It's also swallows PR whole. Take this for example: "While Peter Jackson could most definitely be described as a Tolkien purist, he's not above taking a few liberties with the text..."

Uh, the only people who could call Jackson a purist are his marketing team and the idiots who never read the book and are paid to felate films.

And I love the idea that Smaug talks too much, "like a James Bond villain." You'd really have to have not understood the story to reach that conclusion. But hey, this second part is almost as good as LOTR! And it's way better than the first part, which wasn't bad in any way except for the flaws.

Anonymous said...

What an article! And lol to PJ being a Tolkien purist, I'd guess that he never read the books to begin with or it was so long ago that he was going by memory and wikipedia descriptions while 'writing' the script. And he didn't learn from LOTR, he is adding more female characters to a great story to get women in to it or something or other...

Some of that was funny, 'I liked the first movie, but this one is better in every way'. Doesn't that mean the first movie wasn't that great? In this life it seems we only get fan-boy or snobby critics.

I'm getting the feeling that PJ made the first movie so slow on purpose, he knew that people would pay to see it and it would make the critics and people rave about 'how much better the second movie is' to get them to see that too.


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Articles like that make me cringe. This is the part of Hollywood I can't stand. These people claim to be journalists, but they're basically gushing pimps for movie companies, and they don't even realize that the relentless praise they heap on films no matter how contradictory or how obviously wrong reeks of being phony.

Even worse is when they're on television and they add the gushing tone. It makes me want to slap them and scream, "Get some self-respect!!"

It does seem that the film world has divided into fan-boys and snobby critics. I blame the internet.

On making the first film slow on purpose, it's hard to say. My guess is that he was more self-indulgent on the first film and probably tightened things up on the second after he got a good deal of negative feedback. Or he struggled to find a way to tell the first part in an interesting manner. The first part of the book is a lot more talky, and he's shown he's not good at that.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I agree about the article. Have some self respect indeed.

It reminds me of the entertainment 'news' shows which gush over celebrities every action and relentlessly kiss their ass. They dislike nothing, ever! I kind of blame publicists taking over and only letting the 'talent' talk to people that will kiss their ass and never ask any hard questions and over saturation of entertainment 'news'. I'm sick of hearing about an hopefully exciting movie and finding out that I'll have to wait for 3 odd years for it to be released and learning way to much information about the movie, plot etc and ruining it for me.

As to making the movie slow on purpose it was more a joke than anything. LOTR (books and movies) had it's fair share of slow parts. I think they just got greedy and wanted to stretch out the movies for the extra dollars by adding the extra scenes (some of which actually happened in Tolkien's world but not in the book). They just didn't do it well and like in LOTR added stuff that wasn't needed, changed stuff for no gain and messed up some of the easy straight forward stuff. I'm hoping the article is right and the next movie is better.


Patriot said...

Andrew...Great write-up. You bring up tendrils of thoughts that I had while watching The Hobbit. Having read the book in the 60's when I was a young teenager, I loved it and must have read it dozens of times. I always dreamt that a movie would be made of it, but the early ones were cartoons (literally).

A few years later when I started listening to "rock-n-roll," I could swear I was hearing references to The Hobbit and LOTR in some early Led Zeppelin songs. As my friends were not into "fantasy" reading (or any other reading at the time), I had no one to bounce my thoughts off of. When I finally read the lyrics of the songs, I was right. "Ramble On","Misty Mountain Hop" and "The Battle of Evermore" all appeared to reference Tolkien's works. I figured they were fellow travelers in the Shire after all!

One main complaint I had with the PJ films, why did he do LOTR first and not The Hobbit, as Tolkien penned them?! One definitely leads into the other in almost every respect. While it could be said that The Hobbit could stand as a children's novel all on its own, the LOTR trilogy NEEDS The Hobbit pre-story in order to understand it. By reversing the order, PJ ruined it in my opinion.

Oh.....and I also looked at both works, as I got older and wiser, as allegorical to Great Britain's (the West) eternal battles with the evil that arose in the East (Huns, Hitler, France, Rome, etc.) That seemed to fit and works for me!

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that's quite possible. Sam seemed much more able to resist the power of the Ring than anyone else, though I wonder what would have happened if it had all been on him. Also, had Gollum not been there to take the Ring from Frodo and fall into the Cracks of Doom, what would have happened? Would Sam have understood what was at stake and, if it came to it, push Frodo into the fire to save everything? It's one of those things you're left to speculate on, and leaves you pretty thankful things turned out the way they did.

As for the injustice done by Jackson to some of the characters, I have to say now that Faramir is the only one that really sticks in my craw. He was a far more noble man, and far less conflicted, in the books than in the movies, and deserved a better depiction.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I completely agree about the celebrity news. It makes me feel dirty to watch as these "reporters" just fall all over themselves to love everything the celebrity does.

I figured you were joking on him making it slow on purpose. :)

I think you are right that Jackson just got greedy on The Hobbit and decided to stretch this into three films when it should have been done in one.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I've always had that sense out of Led Zeppelin as well. They seem heavily influenced by Tolkien. And that doesn't surprise me because I understand a lot of hippies were into Tolkien. So it does kind of fit.

On Jackson, it would have made more sense to do The Hobbit first, but he probably feared that if he did it first, then it's more child-like tone would have ruined what he wanted to do with LOTR, and I think that is the one that really interested him. I understand he almost walked away from the Hobbit at one point even.

On your final point, I understand that The Hobbit/LOTR is meant as an allegory for Britain and British society facing the Germans and then the Russians.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Those are excellent questions. I'm not sure Sam would have understood what was at stake. His "world' was pretty small and anything outside it didn't really matter to him. So if Frodo wasn't leading the question, he probably would not have gone on it even if the ring belonged to him.

Agreed on Faramir. The way he was changed was rather asinine.

Patriot said...

Who you callin a hippie young man?!! :-)

I don't know about the hippies being into Tolkien, I think it was more of us sword and sorcery, D&D, fantasy and sci-fi dweebs back then. Hard to believe for young people, but they were not the first generation to escape into fantasy worlds when they grew old enough to see how f'd up this one was.

As a matter of fact, I found Robert E. Howard back in the 70's when no one had even heard of him for the most part. I was attracted to the cover art by Boris Vallejo and then found I absolutely loved the world and characters Howard imagined on the inside. Kull, Solomon Kane, Francis X. Gordon (El Borak). If you read some of the El Borak series, it was set in the 19 teens and El Borak was a Westerner living amongst the tribesman of Afghanistan. Loved his depictions of the Afghan fighters. All this from a guy living in the outback of Texas!

Sorry to get so OT. Have you ever done an article on Conan or R.E. Howard?

CrisD said...

Our family loved LOTR as 7th,9th,10th grade ages. I thought we saw character development, bravery, loyalty, tradition, war&peace, lots of good themes.

Also, the dead army is a cheat BUT I interpreted it in a Christian theme--as forgiveness of souls,,,bear with me as we re-view this trilogy on many holiday weekends...

Only my husband read all the books. Son read the hobbit only. Girls didn't read it so maybe we were not very demanding :)

New Hobbit movie was a little dry. But believe me, when I have viewed it 6 times, I can say more !!!!! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I've heard it from many people that Tolkien was big on college campuses with hippies. Imagine my surprise! I think they saw it as a drug trip.

I haven't done anything with Conan yet. I haven't read the books either, but I did enjoy the movie a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

Cris, As we always say, there's no right and wrong when it comes to what people like... except for Zooey Deschanel. ;-)

And to be clear, I do like the LOTR films. I own them and watch them sometimes. I just see them as a real lost opportunity -- plus I hate the CGI battles. I don't mind the dead, but the way they are presented in the film, they win the battle on their own -- again cheapening the sacrifice the humans made.

The Hobbit really just didn't work for me. I'll give it another try at some point, but I'm not hopeful.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I agree about the Christian redemption theme. I think that is what Tolkien intended. In fact, there are a lot of Christian theme throughout, right down to Gandalf's resurrection.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, Cris et al., Tolkien was not only Christian but English Catholic, at a time when that was still considered a contradiction in terms. It's fair to say that Middle Earth was deliberately made quasi-Christian (see, for example, Gandalf's frequent referencing of a Providential force countering Sauron's evil, and so on).

As far as whether it was also meant as an allegory for the conflicts of the 20th century, Tolkien himself later rejected such a direct reading. There is something to it, of course; but he pointed out that he wrote a good deal of LOTR prior to World War II, and added that if the War of the Ring had followed our own conflict, probably Rohan and Gondor would have allied with Saruman and kept the Ring, Sauron would have been enslaved but not destroyed, and the hobbits would probably have suffered greatly regardless of who won the war.

Tolkien hated Nazism and said so, so I believe he was thinking of Soviet Russia's inclusion among the Allies, not to mention the technocratic, micromanaging spirit that came over the West afterwards (especially in Britain with Clement Attlee's Labour government). Judging by his chapter "The Scouring of the Shire" and his description of hobbits in general, no doubt he considered technocracy and the welfare state nearly as great an evil as the fascist dictatorships.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Agreed. I overstated by calling it an allegory, because it's not a direct copy of WWII done with Hobbits. But I think it is very much a product of the times and a statement of the way England changed because of the struggle against Germany (both WWI and WWII).

And you are correct, there are a lot of Christian symbols and ideas throughout. I've personally always seen Sauron as Satan and Mordor as Hell.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav, yes Faramir was treated badly by PJ, but I was just as annoyed
by the treatment of Elrond (they turned him into a lying coward),
Treebeard (they turned him into a stupid coward) Denethor (they just
turned him crazy) and Gimili (they turned him into comic relief).


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I HATE that they made Gimili into comic relief. Grrr.

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