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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

There and back again

Given that it's been out for a month now I'm hoping that posting about the Hobbit3 won't spoil it for anyone reading, but just in case...

So Peter Jackson has wrapped up another trilogy, and first of all I must say he's done an incredible job. Taking such iconic work, especially to fantasy geeks such as I, and giving it a reality is an amazing thing. 

Now I can't say the Hobbit films had the same impact on me as the LOTR trilogy, although visually they were superior. I think that's for a few reasons. Firstly, LOTR remains a work of greater scope, and wider variety of characters (Hobbit has really Bilbo, and less so Gandalf and Thorin- although the films have tried to compensate this as I'll mention below). As a kid, The Hobbit was always the support act you're glad you managed to catch before the main act got on stage.

Second, I think the adaptations that went into making the Hobbit a film were significant with regards the original book. This isn't a surprise- they took a children's book and made it mature, and with the motivation to construct a prequel to the LOTR. But the padding seemed skewed through the films.

When I think of the book and the seminal scenes I think of: The Trolls, the Goblins, then Golem, then Spiders, less so the Elves, then Smaug. Maybe because I'd always peter off reading towards the end (think I've read it four times) I can kind of remember Smaug getting shot, but not much about the Five Armies. In fact when my son asked me what they all were, I struggled (got four by reasoning not memory). So to me, the key events are mainly in film 1, less in film 2, and hardly in film 3. Rather in this movie we have The Battle, with the fluff building up to it, and the bits in Mirkwood setting Sauron's transient defeat and the Nine popping back (which was previously an entry in the Appendix timeline in LOTR, I think).

So given that Hobbit 3 is perhaps 25% Tolkien, 75% Jackson, did it work? As a conclusion to the trilogy- yes, just about. The Thorin-Bilbo storyline felt a touch strained in this film- the obsession with the Arkenstone, and the greed for gold, rather forced. The use of Legolas, whilst fun, was pretty throwaway- especially given that he aids and ultimately respects the dwarves, then in Fellowship has a good old rant at Gimli. The romance between Tauriel and Kili, whilst rather unlikely, oddly worked for me. I liked the idea of developing the dwarves personas- Bofur, Bwalin and Dwalin were all nicely done- especially Ken Stott's Balin. And Bard, with his family, resonated with me too.

In retrospect there wasn't enough time spent on seeing through those characterisations in my mind. The action scenes were awesome ( if vertigo inducing) but the writer in me would've liked those aforementioned characters to get more time. I suppose ultimately all of those characters are just bonuses and it was a film about Bilbo and his journey.

And I think that journey was done well- Martin Lawrence is excellent at conveying that bewilderment, the bravery that surprises even himself, the 'Everyman' in incredible circumstance. And his return to the Shire, and the linking with LOTR was nicely done.

I sometimes reflect on the conclusions to LOTR when Frodo returns to the Shire, but as a consequence of all he has seen and experienced he can never settle. Ultimately there is no place for him in the Shire and hence he sails West. The sequence is analogous to those returning from war, from a high-octane theatre of threat and death, to a world that has continued oblivious to their experience. You wonder as Tolkien wrote it, and Jackson filmed it, whether that was in mind? (I know JRRT hated allegory, unlike CS Lewis, so probably not). And Bilbo becomes tired as his unnaturally slowed aging dissipates in LOTR, and the years (and perhaps the memory of his quest) catch up.

For me there'll never be a set of films as iconic as the two trilogies (I like Star Wars, and Trek, but not approaching that league ). I always loved the Backshi version from early 80s, yet these six films have put fantasy onto a new level and I'm not certain that will ever be topped for me. 


  1. Awesome commentary--I respect your views regarding something as touchy for me as any movie version of a classic fantasy novel! But Peter Jackson does epic well!

    1. I can recall my own unease when he originally tackled the LOTR years ago, but the visualisation happily coincided with my own ideas of the book!

  2. I've seen all of The Hobbit and LOR. I got myself a set of LOR as a present recently and have been enjoying it immensely. The Two Towers remains awesome in story and setting. I'll be hitting the Return soon. What has struck about both sets of movies is that as a story with characters such as Bilbo and the dwarves, it is a great adventure in book form. And though some of the scenes are quite thrilling. Smaug is rendered beyond belief (big kodos there), but in the end watching the Two Towers, I find myself more closely involved with story due to the number of HUMANS in the story. They balance out the trials of the wonderful hobbits in this tale. It feels like everyone is all in it together.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree to some extent- certainly I identify with Aragorn in both books and film, and Gandalf is a great character too. For me, and this was moreso in the films, the pivotal relationship is the friendship between Sam and Frodo- so I'm balancing the humans with Hobbits !!!