Tenshot: The Hobbit

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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26 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    The problem with the Hobbit is that they mined Tolkien’s extra-material, the stuff he created to bridge the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, to make it a three part movie aimed at fans rather than a family movie. They should have stuck closer to the plot of book and kept it within one movie rather than make it a trilogy even though it would have been a lot lighter.Report

  2. PD Shaw says:

    I think action movie bloat is my biggest gripe. As I recall, the original script was for two movies, but the studio required three. Also, Guillermo del Toro was going to go with more of a dark fairty-tale interpretation, than epic prequel. When Jackson was brought back, he wasn’t given much time to prepare before shooting, so it’s not even top level Jackson bloat.Report

  3. Marchmaine says:

    *I’m ok with the Dol Guldur diversion… that’s the right kind of editorial license. Gandalf went somewhere.
    *I’m ok with Radegast making an appearance, but not really with their interpretation of Radegast.
    *I’m also confused by 3 movies, and especially with Smaug dying (Spoiler!!) at the beginning and not end of any.
    *I kinda liked the editorial interpretation of the Troll scene…but felt it was a precursor of the Eds. losing control.
    *The Tauriel arc was, and this is the nicest thing I could possibly say about it, forced.
    *Didn’t think you could screw up the Epic death of Thorin, but it turns out you can.
    *MMORPG-ification of baddies scaling… if 100 orcs are threatening, then 100,000 will be better.
    *Totally agree about the Action bloat… when I get to heaven, car chases in Movies will become clear – I assume.

    …and that’s just off the top of my head.

    My Wife and 12-yr old daughter just finished reading the book out loud and thought to watch the movies… they watched the first, and quit the 2nd about 1/3 in.

    The movies really aren’t good, but I agree, they could have been great. That they aren’t great is a sad indictment of someone somewhere.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

      I don’t mind the Dol Gulder diversion either, but IIRC the story is broken up into enough pieces that it was confusing/distracting. Maybe it should have simply been a flashback scene where Gandalf explains where he’s been (with perhaps a longer version saved for DVD).

      I think Tauriel was fine, but the romance was blech.

      Radegast is the Gimli of the Hobbit, i.e. comic foil.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Ok, press [1] if my LoTR nerd control fails.

        Radegast could be a lot of things, but comedic relief is exactly the one thing he probably shouldn’t be… or at least not the sort of slapstick doltish comedic relief his is in the movies. I assume this is Peter Jackson saying FU to not getting the rights to the Silmarilion. (Thank God).

        Plus, Bilbo is the comic relief of the Hobbit… he’s the parochial unthief in an heroic dwarven adventure.

        I take your point about Dol Guldur… I’m not saying they nailed it, just that if one wanted to pad the adventure a little bit, then exploring the unwritten parts of the Dol Guldur Council is fair game – though it kinda messes with the fact that Gandalf got the Map from Thrain who was captive in… Dol Guldur – So yeah, there’s no particular reason they couldn’t do flash-back Dol Guldur with a side adventure of retrieving the Map from Thrain… which would set-up the (future) White Council and even a second expedition Dol Guldur. That’s what nailing it would look like.

        In the realm of Narrative Jackson’s besetting sin is that he is more verbose in his edits than the original. And what’s worse, the original is always more interesting.Report

        • PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

          It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the movie, but wasn’t part of the issue that Radegast in the movie is the one that discovers the Necromancer and informs Gandalf, thus introducing another layer into the Dol Gulder story that wasn’t in the books? Radegast has to warn Gandalf about the Necromancer, Gandalf has to do his thing, talk to other members of the Council, Sauraman is so obviously a bad guy, delaying things, and finally action. I recall a lot of cuts back and forth for elements that really have no impact on the outcome of the Hobbit.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to PD Shaw says:

            Great point… that’s what I mean by Jackson’s edits being worse that the original.

            He has an actual backstory reason tying Thrain the map and the key to Dol Guldur… elements that bear directly on Thorin and the Quest… and instead makes dubious decisions by trading Thrain (and all the impact he would have on the Thorin character) for Radegast, whom he befuddles.

            So the original story has a much more interesting Dol Guldur subplot which is edited neither for brevity, nor dramatic effect.Report

        • North in reply to Marchmaine says:

          Well heck, the dwarves are pretty comic in the books. Greedy, querulous and bickering through most of the story lines and not particularly heroic until the mountain in general and the final battle in particular.Report

  4. Zac Black says:

    While I agree that the Hobbit movies aren’t as good as the preceding films, I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare them to the Star Wars prequels, although I suspect that’s because I have a radically lower opinion of that trilogy than you do. I actually kinda enjoy the bloat, in its own way: to me, the Lord of the Rings films and the Hobbit films are both fantasy hangout movies. They’re the kind of thing I throw on in the background while I work on something on my laptop. While the orig trig is far and away better, I’d say the Hobbit movies are a B or B- to the originals’ A.Report

  5. Aaron David says:

    I will admit to not having seen this/these. I am making a conscious decision not to watch films made from books I have read unless the director takes a wildly divergent take on things. Because, quite frankly, they will have a different view of what works cinematically than I do. What to focus on, what to shadow, etc. And this is what ruined the LoTR movies for me in the end. What I wanted to see was not what Jackson wanted to show. I wanted the Mouth of Sauron, to me the most frightening part of the books, I wanted the orcs singing Where there’s a Whip… I didn’t want 17 hundred false endings that kept me from going to the fricking bathroom!

    If a movie introduces me to a book, wonderful. But not the other way.Report

  6. Dark Matter says:

    Azog dying early… I have mixed feelings about that.

    Narratively, Thorin Oakenshield needs to die at the end because he’s been corrupted by his greed.

    If we’re going to let Thorin redeem himself by dying heroically then it needs to be at the hands of a worthy opponent. If he is all heroic and doesn’t die then there’s no resolution of the problem that he’s a crazy miser as a king.

    There’s such a vast difference between Thorin the leader of the band and Thorin the king that I wonder if there’s magic involved. When did Token invent the dwarven rings? However it doesn’t matter if there’s some funky corruption around that he’s especially weak against and is amplifying his greed or if it’s an inherent weakness.Report

    • InMD in reply to Dark Matter says:

      In the book it made sense to me. He’s been exiled in poverty and at a much lower station than his birthright. He then goes through trials and tribulations to get his kingdom back only to be confronted with demands by two armies, one of whom has a legitimate claim to charity, the other of which treated him as an enemy. I’m pretty sure he says something to this effect (again, in the book I don’t remember how it happens in the movie) when the army from Dale and the Elves arrive. In a certain way he is right in principle, especially with respect to the Elves, despite conveniently forgetting some of the help he’s had along the way. He’s lost perspective and wisdom in his stubbornness.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Dark Matter says:

      I’m pretty sure the film refers to The Arkenstone as cursed. Which is to say, yeah, magic is at work. And if the Dwarven Seven were created later, I’m sure it was thought to dovetail neatly.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Thrain had the last of the 7 Dwarven Rings of Power (which partly accounts for the horde under the mountain)… but that ring was taken from him by Sauron after he was captured and brought to Dol Guldur.

        The Arkenstone is an heirloom of the Kings under the mountain, a gem of fantastic rarity, beauty and value… but just that.

        Though you are right, the film does seem to imbue the Arkenstone with something akin to the pull of a Ring of Power.Report

  7. Doctor Jay says:

    I agree that the biggest problem with these films is the editing, which sucks. I disagree in detail about that though:

    One of the biggest problems with Jackson’s editing (and which is conspicuously absent in Fellowship of the Ring) is not that he includes too many scenes, but that his cuts go on too long, and each sequence has too many shots. He could tell each story much more concisely and swifter, and it would give things much more impact. (Again, think of Fellowship).

    So, I’m not really interested in eliminating storylines or scenes so much as just tightening the whole thing up a lot. Well, I could stand to lose a lot of the Laketown plot, though the way Tolkien told it probably wouldn’t fly at all in a movie, since Mr. OutOfNowhere named Bard just up and shoots an arrow into the notch that the thrush told him about.

    Old eddas worked that way, but modern film doesn’t. Still, a lot of the Laketown material didn’t seem all that interesting. I’m less negative on action scenes than you, as long as they are visually interesting. After all, I love to watch movies with Jackie Chan or Jet Li in them.

    I’m happy with the Dol Guldur storyline.

    Radagast was a surprise, and he underscores a point about Jackson’s work. Jackson mostly makes films that are a bit overblown and goofy, and for some reason this didn’t drag down the Lord of the Rings any when he did it there. Consider the Mumakil. To Tolkien, I’m sure these were simple elephants, but in Jackson’s hands they become behemoths as tall as a skyscraper with four tusks. This should read as silly, but it doesn’t.

    Of course, how could anything seem silly after

    Shields will be shattered!
    Spears will be shaken!
    A sword day,
    A red day,
    and the sun rises!

    Maybe that’s why Jackson’s comical side didn’t detract from LOTR. But there’s no real counterbalance in the Hobbit, though Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage and several others try to do so.

    Oh yeah, I could totally have done without Ryan Gage(Alfrid) prancing about in the third movie. I think he actually strapped on some coconuts to pretend being a woman. That joke is so tired and cliche. I could have done without it, like so much of the Laketown stuff.

    So, I’m a big Evangeline Lilly fan, and I did not have a big issue with the inclusion of Tauriel.Report

  8. Mike Schilling says:

    The first Hobbit movie was overly long: too much pointless action, just like the LOTR movies, But it had the real promise of being more than the book, and setting Bilbo’s journey in the larger context of the early stages of the renewed war against Sauron. The second was so bloated, so diffuse, so stupid. (An elf-dwarf love story? Sure, that wasn’t pulled out of nowhere. Why aren’t Gandalf and Frodo fighting over Galadriel?) I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a movie. Never saw the third, and never intend to.Report

  9. Richard Hershberger says:

    I haven’t seen the Hobbit films, because I saw from the start where this was going. I have what appears to be a minority opinion that the three LotR films are Not Good, or at least that they don’t reflect why the book is good. It was obvious going in that some material would have to go. I miss Tom Bombadil, but understand why he didn’t make the cut. The problem is not that stuff got cut, but that Jackson doesn’t understand the book and therefore hasn’t a clue what can and cannot be cut.

    There are two common reactions to the book. One is that this is a great action story, but drags with a bunch of boring filler. People with this reaction skip over entire chapters, and especially anything in verse. They like the world building in principle, but often not in practice. The second reaction is that this book has it all: a great action story, fantastic world building, serious character development, and, you know, themes and shit.

    A dead giveaway to distinguish which group someone belongs to is to ask their opinion of The Scouring of the Shire. The second group recognize that this is a critical chapter, showing how the hobbits have developed and bringing home the theme of decline even in victory. The first group think it is a weird anticlimactic coda to the action adventure, and entirely skippable.

    Jackson falls solidly into the first group. This is why he cuts not only Tom Bombadil, but the scouring of the Shire. He doesn’t understand why that chapter is there in the first place. But no worries. He fills that lost screen time with shield surfing and dwarf tossing. The result is a serviceable summer blockbuster action flick, but it is much, much less than what Tolkien wrote.

    As for The Hobbit films, it was obvious from the first press release that it was going to be pure action adventure bloat.Report

    • Have to disagree on Jackson. I love the Scouring of the Shire but it would be the first thing I’d cut in a movie. In a book, you have room to sprawl and slowly end things. Jackson did this as best he could (hence the complaints about “all the endings”). But a Scouring scene would have been too much. Movie move in certain rhythms and you have to go to the medium. He did give a tip of the cap to it in Galadriels’ Mirror and the killing of Saruman. And the Extended Edition of the first movie (the best, IMHO) has a lot more world-building and takes more time to flesh things out.

      (OT: have you ever listened to the CD of Tolkien reading from the book and singing the songs? It’s awesome.)

      To go back to the Hobbit, a lot of people complained about the dinner scene in the first film for dragging out. But I liked that scene. it was fun. It had the songs. It introduces the characters and gave them a little bit of personality. It laid out the stakes. The long long action scenes were much more of a problem for me.

      To draw another contrast, I was rolling my eyes during the chase down the river. But there’s a scene in the first movie where Balin recalls the War of Dwarves and Orcs that is action-oriented but SO much better. It has stakes, it focuses on the characters, it develops Thorin’s character. If the entire movie had been like that, it would have been much better.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      As I said above, there are parts of the book that people love and hate, individually. I have never cared about the Bombadil scenes, and have skipped over them in every rereading since grade school. I recently picked up a nice printing of the books and got bogged down in those scenes. Again, the skip. But the most important scenes are those that shoe a personal/human side to the orcs, both Pippin and Merry’s capture and the scenes in Barad-Dur or Mordor. Those parts, along with the Mouth of Sauron, show a greater insight into the horrors that Tolkien faced in the first war and looking at WWII from a distance of the Channel, and elevate the works above the standard fantasy fare of contemporaries MacDonald and Lewis.

      But they are films, with all the limitations of that medium. And for a series of books, the scouring works as it isn’t anti-climatic at this point, but part of a journey. In the film, it would have been one more of the many loose ends that need to be tied up, breaking the rhythm of the viewing experience. And much like the Army of the Dead scene (cinematically a complete fail, as it comes off as a deus ex machina) it just wouldn’t work *in Jacksons Vision* Might it have worked with some other director? Possibly, but at that point, we are in the territory of Jodorowsky’s Dune, all could have’s and wishes.

      Did Jackson see a great novel, with scenes of bravery and sadness and comedy? Yes. Is it the novel I read? No. When we go to films of works we already love, we are putting our vision in the hands of others. Others who may not feel the same as we do about the various parts that make up the vision of the original author.Report