“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
I’m going to watch The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on Sunday and, as a fan of J.R.R Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, I thought I’d share my views on Jackson’s controversial “prequel” trilogy, which is (very) loosely based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
In the grand scheme of things, I was a little late coming to The Lord of the Rings, but after reading Tolkien’s epic three-part saga and the comparitively walk-in-the-park-ish Hobbit, I was hooked on Middle Earth, and fantasy books in general, forever! After reading the books, I watched the three Lord of the Rings films more or less back-to-back and enjoyed every moment of them. They contained everything a modern fantasy film series needed: groundbreaking visual effects, an epic storyline, and some brilliant casting.
I was surprised and excited when the new Peter Jackson film, The Hobbit, was announced a couple of years ago. I was even more surprised when I heard it would be spread across two films! And yet when it was finally announced that The Hobbit would be a trilogy of films, I was more doubtful than surprised.
It’s become a rather annoying habit of recent times, films being split into two (or in this case, three) instalments. We had it with the final Harry Potter film (I felt that was fair enough), Twilight: Breaking Dawn and the final Hunger Games book. The Hobbit, however, seems to be a slightly more controversial affair: does a 350-page book really need 9 hours (we all know what Peter Jackson’s like!) to give it credit. My first thoughts were that it would discredit it above all else.
I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (the first instalment of the new trilogy) in the Spring of 2013 and found it enjoyable but predictably disappointing. As I watched it fairly late in the day (just a figure of speech- although in reality I did stay up till midnight watching it!) I had already heard about the fact that “the adventure” doesn’t actually start until about 45 minutes in, and the fact that we’ve only just got past the “Riddles in the Dark” sequence at the end of the film, so I knew what to be expected. However, I didn’t think it was a bad film. I don’t think anyone who likes fantasy stuff in general can say it’s a bad film. It had everything The Lord of the Rings had: even more groundbreaking visuals (if that is possible!), an epic storyline (apparently stretched but possibly stunted!) and an excellent cast (I particularly thought Martin Freeman was a great choice!). But, paradoxically: there was loads of extra stuff but there was something missing!
The reason for expanding the book into three films was to cover some other material not mentioned in the books, like what Gandalf was up to when he left the dwarves. Some of these events were, however, mentioned in some of Tolkien’s more obscure works like Unfinished Tales. So now we see not only the dwarves’ heroic quest to reclaim Erebor, but Gandalf and Radagast’s efforts to get rid of a Necromancer from the “abandoned” fortress of Dol Guldor. Who is Radagast, you ask? Radagast is an example of a character that didn’t appear in The Hobbit originally (although he was part of Tolkien’s universe). I thought his character was brilliant and Sylvester McCoy was the perfect actor to inhabit this role of the eccentric, mushroom-loving wizard!
So, there were good changes and bad changes with the first part of The Hobbit, and it seems that change is something we will have to get used to: The Desolation of Smaug introduces many new characters, including Legolas (remember him?!) and an elf named Tauriel who was made up by Jackson completely from scratch!
What’s my verdict then? Are The Hobbit films a let-down when compared to their spectacular predecessors? There’s no denying they are different. Overall though, I think we have to look at it more simply. The Hobbit was written as a children‘s book. It’s meant to be a fantasy romp, a bimble through Middle Earth where the characters exist in their own little bubble universe of singing, plate-throwing dwarves, ridiculously over-the-top action sequences (that one in the goblin caves!?) and lazy eagle taxi services. And honestly, as is often the case with such popular sagas as this, it’s the fans who do the most complaining! So I say: just sit back and enjoy the ride (“go with the flow” as Radagast would probably say!). Take everything in your stride. At heart, this is a fantastical fairytale that we can escape into, not fall asleep to.
Plus we have the added worry that this will probably be the last of Middle Earth we see on film, so enjoy it while you can!
Of course, it could all change with the second film! I’ll review The Desolation of Smaug some time next week- it’s sure to be an interesting night at the cinema! (when I say night, I mean it- the thing’s 170 minutes long!).