How do you feel when books you love get made into movies? Me, I usually hate them. If I do like them (i.e. Hunger Games), I still think the book was so much better, and I’m always sad that my mental images have been ruined. In fact, I’ll admit I’m usually one of those people spluttering incoherently at the screen, while my husband rolls his eyes and says sympathetic things like, “That tree was much further left in the book.”
JRR Tolkein and his world of Middle Earth play starring roles in our family’s lives. I’d read the books, several times, especially in high school and college. The movies started coming out when our kids were still quite young, and they immediately adored them. I made them read the books, of course, but they are loud and unabashed fans of the movies. And, because of this, I have had to endure more than one The Lord of the Rings marathon, not to mention countless reshowings. The books have been reread too, and unsurprisingly, our household (well, 3/5ths of it) has been counting down the days till The Hobbit movie came out. I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to go to the midnight opening, but were instead allowed to wait an entire 24 hours thanks to some judiciously placed final exams at my son’s school. No I didn’t bribe the teacher.
Here are some of my thoughts, from someone who still thinks the book is so much better. And, warning, I’m assuming you’ve read the book and seen the movie yourself by now!
* Casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo was brilliant! He’s perfect. His wry expressions and self-deprecating laugh add to the character. His scene with Andy Serkis’ Gollum is the best in the movie! Worth admission price right there.
* Who thinks CGI is as magical as Peter Jackson? It’s a little too much. And too many near-death experiences are emerged from unscathed. Someone is always dangling from their fingertips off a cliff, or sliding down rocks (one reviewer compared it to a pinball game! Very apt. Sorry I can’t give credit as I don’t remember where I got it from) or taking blows to the head from maces, shaking it off, and moving on with all their teeth and bones intact. I’m perfectly willing to suspend disbelief, but I felt Jackson was taking advantage of that willingness.
*Azog who? We didn’t need the fake-looking “pale orc” who shadows Thorin to kill him. There’s enough going on.
*Radagast the Ridiculous*? Others have compared him to Jar-Jar Binks, the obnoxious character from the prequel to Star Wars. I didn’t hate him, but he’s just too darn cute and quirky for me. And seriously, mushrooms?
* It’s too bloated and creaky. Two movies–yes. Three movies? The trilogy The Lord of the Rings is serious; the weight of the entire world hangs in the balance, dependent on the success of one little hobbit’s trip to Mordor. The Hobbit is a lighter read. Sure there’s lots of adventures and dragon-killing, but all that really hangs in the balance is the dwarves regaining their gold. Jackson has infused it with sorrow and foreboding. Yes, there are elements of this in the book, and he’s pulling in story elements from the appendices from the end of The Return of the King. But did he have to? No. I think it would have been a better movie had he stuck more faithfully to the book.
* Galadriel wasn’t in the book at all. She and Gandalf keep doing that thing where she stares at him meaningfully and talks in his head. I have perfected this look and I keep doing it at Elliot (my son) and then asking if he understood me.
In spite of my complaints, it’s a fun movie. It will stand up to the inevitable re-watchings, and for that I’m thankful. I’m looking forward to Beorn, and the spiders in the woods, and the elven king’s halls and the barrel rides and, most of all, Smaug the Dragon. But it could have been so much better. I feel that Jackson is taking himself a bit too seriously this time round.
Ok, let’s discuss. What did you think? Agree or disagree? Let’s have at it (respectfully of course) in comments!
* In reference to Rabadash the Ridiculous as referenced in CS Lewis’ book The Horse and His Boy, which happily they have not made into a movie. Yet, she said ominously.