Peter Jackson's independence
But wait, that’s not all! There’s also the ass-kicking, name-taking Elvish girl-power warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the Lara Croft or Katniss Everdeen of Mirkwood, and her tempestuous love triangle involving Legolas and Kili (Aidan Turner), who is the tallest, least bearded and undeniably smokin’-est of Bilbo’s dwarf companions. Nope, I’m not kidding even a little bit, and I say without fear of contradiction that all of that is 110 percent made up, that J.R.R. Tolkien would be outraged beyond belief and that even now his son and heir Christopher Tolkien is crafting dire rune-spells in the Black Speech and ruing the day he ever took money from these infernal servants of Morgoth. But you know what? I’m kind of OK with it. I mean, introducing a love affair between a rebel Elf chick and a hot dwarf dude is so far beyond anything Tolkien would ever have countenanced that it amounts to a declaration of independence. This trilogy has become its own thing, which is more like a freewheeling riff on Tolkien’s “Hobbit” than an adaptation, and while there’s a whole lot about it I would have done differently, it’s good fun on its own terms. So there.
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There is no question that much of the magic and mystery and simplicity that made Tolkien’s work so striking in the first place has been sacrificed here to the demands of an excellent but essentially familiar CGI action-adventure flick, closer in manner and spirit to “The Avengers” than to Tolkien’s transmogrified fairy tale. I feel some sadness about that, absolutely, but one may as well complain that kids don’t listen to opera anymore, or read Vergil in the original. A handful of weirdos still do those things, and always will — and Jackson has now departed so far from Tolkien’s “Hobbit” that the original work is still there, essentially untouched, for those weirdos who want it. In exchange we get a movie fueled by bunny-power, sparrow poop and Elfland’s original riot-grrl. Take it or leave it. (“The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug”: Jackson leaves Tolkein behind,” Andrew O’hehir, Salon.com)
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The problem here really is fraud. No story invented by Peter Jackson (even if grafted on to a pale imitation of Tolkien's Hobbit) will ever compare to the extraordinary work of the original author. I think it is a shame that Jackson, who so masterfully has captured the look and feel of Tolkien's Middle Earth has chosen to butcher the original story. It robs millions in the audience of actually knowing the story they think they are seeing. Why would Jackson go to such trouble just to steal a title when he could easily have ripped off Tolkien's basic ideas as he does here but then honestly have titled it differently so everyone know it is not The Hobbit at all? Tweaking a story in order to make the transition from the written word to the big screen is one thing. In the case of the Jackson movies what is presented to the public simply is not the same story as the book or books (in the case of TLOTR). So it really is a quite fraudulent presentation which cheats most of the audience out of ever knowing what a truly wonderful story The Hobbit really is, and likewise, what a truly wonderful story TLOTR is. I would have less of a problem with Jackson honestly ripping off some ideas and then taking credit for the creation of a new story than I do with him misrepresenting entirely what he is up to. Imagine if someone decided to do the Wizard of Oz but introduced a romantic substory between a flying monkey and the scarecrow or if Bogart and Bergman characters leave Victor Lazlo behind to fend for himself in Casablanca? It just would not be the same story if any of these sorts of changes were made in the tale. It isn't as though anyone can argue that Jackson's bastardization of this classic work is an improvement. Nobody even tries to make that argument. And that is what bothers me about this. It's basically a dishonest, shallow, lowering of the quality of the life's work of one of the great authors in the English language. That is a pity. I hope in the not too distant future another director is given the opportunity to produce the story of the Hobbit and that person remains true to the original and vastly superior story. What Jackson has done is a nice action movie series but great disservice to a great author and a towering work of literature.
@Horuss It isn't as though anyone can argue that Jackson's bastardization of this classic work is an improvement. Nobody even tries to make that argument.
This is tough to determine. I found no film reviewer did so, but I've certainly seen how some teens and young-twenties reacted to the film (i.e. gobsmackingly powerfully), and I'm not so certain. I've met a number who reacted to this film as if they were a generation before just having seen Star Wars -- it blew their minds. I had to acknowledge that.
I found it manipulative, trying to get specific reactions out of us (which LOTR was too, but it bothered me especially this time), though it did an excellent job of showing Bibo's love for home, which makes his possible departure later on, and his "squaring it" with Thorin, both effective and involving scenes. But Jackson belongs to a cohort of a kind of amiable directors like Ron Howard and Rob Reimer that you have to check yourself before you call them middling or something. It could well be we have a bias for imagining genius a kind of way, and right now it doesn't generally involve easy-going people of good temper. There's still admirable leadership, I think, in his belief in 48, for instance.
"a bias for imagining genius a kind of way, and right now it doesn't generally involve easy-going people of good temper."
That's an interesting claim. You might be on to something.
But I would put it a different way. What struck me about all of Jackson's Tolkien adaptations, from the very first film, was that he has some kind of block when it comes to physical action and physical heroism. Over and over again, he would do something to undercut the dramatic tension in the moments when in the original text physical fortitude and prowess are meant to represent the triumphant personal virtues of the heroes.
Supposedly stalwart warriors fumble their weapons and die with a Wilhelm scream. The greatest martial heroes of their age trip on their feet and lie there wide-eyed while some enemy brings a club down on their head. The indomitable courage of a lone heroine facing an insurmountable foe is reduced to bathos and Hollywood-style quips.
I came to the conclusion, or at least the hypothesis, that Jackson simply has no grasp whatsoever on the concept of physical courage. He doesn't know how to depict it, he doesn't even really get what it is, and even if he did he doesn't believe in it.
That is kind of a problem if you want to tackle Tolkien.
@Amity In these situations, he's thinking more of producing a specific feeling in the viewer than of what the character was previously capable of. Hobbits in "Return" have to fret ever picking up a sword, when in "Fellowship" you know you remember them hacking away at a dozen of goblins, and as well of course leaping onto and stabbing a troll. But hell, the moment now cries for forgetting all that so that we meld in with the hobbits and fret our own ability to draw a sword, so that's where Jackson blithely takes us. (Same thing happened in "Hobbit," with Jackson idiotically -- yes, I'm sorry, I'm still going to have to go with that -- idiotically having Bilbo parry ten sword swipes the very first time he wields his sword, then talking completely straight to Thorin about how he's clearly not much of anything other than someone who still loves his home and books. Sorry, you do that the first time you ever pick up a sword, you're a pint-sized Conan in the making. You might talk about thieving being the least of what you might do, but not that you're still laughable as a warrior.
Specific to what you brought up, the instance I hated most was when that Rohan leader is about to have his head bit off by the scout worg in "Two Towers." Here he has to be wetting his pants so that the worg's smarminess is particularly effective, chilling, and we fret what might happen to all the others when the scout's main troop arrives. And you noticed at this point that it was the ugly leader who got it, with the more traditionally handsome one getting to stay alive.
You know, there's still a lot to hate about Jackson.
Emporium / Patrick McEvoy-Halston