328Re: [eldil] Tolkien's vs. Jackson's Bilbo
- Jan 3, 2013Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting review, Steve. It makes me wish
modern producers - and writers - would focus less on conflict; it
certainly was not Tolkien's focus.
This is not an artistic critique, but as a devoted animal activist, I
was not pleased by the poor record of care for the animals involved in
the film: 27 were killed or injured in the making of the film. That is
not a record any film-maker should be proud of.
I keep returning to my first love - reading. Somehow, I don't feel the
need to immortalize great books on film. That is entirely subjective, I
On 02/01/2013 13:41, Steve Hayes wrote:
> The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
> A New Year, Another Look
> The 2D difference, and Tolkien's vs. Jackson's Bilbo
> Mark Sommer | 01/01/13 |
> Jackson's Bilbo
> Last night I took my wife to see the Hobbit movie. She was not able to
> accompany me to the screening, and has been wanting to see it. I also have
> been wanting to see the movie in 2D. As much as I wanted to just sit back and
> enjoy the movie, I had a hard time removing the critic’s hat. Watching it
> without the 3D distractions was helpful, but it didn’t take away what I found
> most disturbing about the film. The eruptions of laughter around me at
> various points in the film reminded me that this is probably a much more
> enjoyable film than my “expertise” often allows, so I will try to keep that
> in mind as I share a few more thoughts about the movie. I also feel a bit
> more free to discuss details of the film, since many have been able to see
> the movie now. So beware; there are some spoilers below. (You can find my
> previous comments in my review and preview of the film.)
> I must say that this time I actually enjoyed much of the first sequence with
> the destruction of Dale and Smaug’s takeover of The Lonely Mountain. During
> my first viewing of the film, I was too distracted trying to get used to the
> 3D, and I missed much of what was going on. Yes, it was that distracting for
> me. I was able to take in a few more details this time. I’m pretty sure I saw
> some bearded female dwarves, something Lord of the Rings fans have been
> looking for since Gimli made his famous comment in The Two Towers film.
> I have said previously that I appreciate that Peter Jackson is including some
> of this background information, but I don’t like the emphasis on battles
> instead of the character development of the main protagonist, Bilbo. As I
> said in my review:
> In dividing the story into three parts, the writers had to make choices
> on how to make each part complete—an entire story within a story. This
> affects the character arc of the protagonist. Specifically for An Unexpected
> Journey, by the end of the movie Bilbo reaches a point of being admired by
> the dwarves that he does not attain by that point in the book. Which is not
> so bad in itself, if it were not for the way in which he attains it.
> Tolkien’s Bilbo is no warrior, and he never becomes one. He earns the
> dwarves’ respect in more subtle ways. Jackson’s Bilbo, on the other hand, has
> a rather berserker-like moment, gaining him the admiration of Thorin.
> It is true that in the book Bilbo does play the hero later with the giant
> spiders. But he has also gained the use of the ring at that point, so it is
> not quite as heroic an act as Jackson’s Bilbo taking on an orc. The sequence
> has some other problems, such as the inconsistency of Azog telling one of his
> orcs to cut off Thorin’s head after specifically telling his cohorts that
> Thorin was his to kill. Jackson and crew rightly decided Bilbo was not ready
> to tackle Azog, but the way this plays out just does not make sense.
> Part of what has made The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so great, in my
> opinion, is the “everyman” character of Biblo, Sam, and, to a lesser extent,
> Frodo. I was reminded of this as I was reading the fifth chapter of Colin
> Duriez’ new biography of Tolkien, "The Making of a Legend". He comments how
> Tolkien was pleased with (fellow-Inkling) Charles Williams’ evaluation of
> what would become The Lord of the Rings. In a letter to his son Christopher,
> he comments upon the roles of Bilbo, Sam, and Frodo (Letters of J.R.R.
> Tolkien, p. 105-6):
> "Cert. Sam is the most closely drawn character, the successor to Bilbo of
> the first book, the genuine hobbit. Frodo is not so interesting, because he
> has to be highminded, and has (as it were) a vocation. The book will prob.
> end up with Sam. Frodo will naturally become too ennobled and rarefied by the
> achievement of the great Quest, and will pass West with all the great
> figures; but S. will settle down to the Shire and gardens and inns. C.
> Williams who is reading it all says the great thing is that its centre is not
> in strife and war and heroism (though they are understood and depicted) but
> in freedom, peace, ordinary life and good liking. Yet he agrees that these
> very things require the existence of a great world outside the Shire – lest
> they should grow stale by custom and turn into the humdrum…."
> For Tolkien, war and heroism are on the periphery. They are part of the
> story, and a catalyst for change in his protagonists, but they are never the
> main focus. Jackson makes them the main focus, with “freedom, peace, ordinary
> life” at the periphery. It is probably a subtle difference to many fans, but
> I believe it is an important one. When the focus is on heroism and war, too
> often the result is an attitude of “winning at any cost.” As Jesus said,
> “what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”
> [Mark 8:36 NLT]
> Jackson’s prologue, besides being a shift in emphasis from the mundane to
> war, fails because it is not Bilbo’s story. Why does it start with Bilbo
> saying he hadn’t told his whole story to Frodo, and then proceeding with a
> history lesson from long ago? There is a jarring disconnect there. The later
> flashback, continuing the dwarves’ story, works much better coming out of the
> mouth of Balin, who was actually there. I also still felt rather
> uncomfortable when we finally get back to where Bilbo actually comes into the
> story. The famous first few lines of JRR Tolkien’s book, written in a
> narrative, third-person style, sound strange coming from the Hobbit’s mouth.
> As much as PJ and company wanted to meet fans’ expectations by including
> those words, I should think they could have come up with a better way to
> present them. (Would a hobbit actually call his home a “hole in the ground”?)
> The Unexpected Party sequence of the film, despite having some brilliant
> moments, I found to be rather tedious and drawn out. The rest of the movie is
> rather well paced, but once Thorin arrives on the scene, the mood becomes
> somber for too long. Even Bilbo’s fainting spell, while getting a few
> chuckles from the audience, falls a little flat.
> There are some other problems, like the over-the-top video-game-like fight
> sequences in the goblin tunnels, and the anti-climatic demise of the Great
> Goblin. Corey Olsen, “The Tolkien Professor,” sees this unfortunate scene as
> a result of the screenwriters’ attempt to combine both the darkness of The
> Lord of the Rings and the whimsy of The Hobbit.* I’ve said elsewhere that
> Jackson did a great job in The Lord of the Rings providing comic relief while
> telling a dark story. His attempt at whimsy this time around sometimes comes
> off as childish rather then whimsical.
> One whimsical sequence that did work rather well was the Trolls. Some fans
> have complained a bit about the crude bathroom humor, but I didn’t really
> find anything offensive at all. They are Trolls! The scene finds the perfect
> balance between tension and comic relief, and gives Bilbo a chance to show
> his quick wit, even if it was Gandalf’s wit that saved the day in the book.
> If you are going to change things, more of this, PJ, and less of the video
> game fluff and crazy heroics.
> Well, I’ve been pretty negative. But I hope I’ve been fair. Peter Jackson
> certainly has the right to change what he will to try to make the story work
> on film. Much of what he has done works well. But I guess I have the right to
> say when I think what he has done doesn’t work. And what doesn’t work for me
> might work for someone else. That’s the subjective nature of art.
> Maybe next time I write a review of this first Hobbit movie (when the DVD
> comes out?), I’ll try to focus on what PJ and company did right.
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