My first memory of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books was during an interminable cross-country trip when I was 10 or 11. We followed the signs to Wall Drug Store (as, I am confident, did much of America), but it was not quite as exciting as I had anticipated in my fervid imagination. As a consolation prize, my parents bought me “The Hobbit,” and “The Lord of The Rings.” I’m not sure what they expected, but I promptly shut up for the next 1,000 miles…totally engrossed in a new world of hobbits and orcs and trolls and wizards and dwarves and a host of other beings and characters that Tolkien had created, seemingly just for me.
The two books are radically different, as anyone with a functioning cortex would discern in the first paragraphs. “The Hobbit,” quite simply, is a beautiful children’s book, full of fancy and whimsy and fantastic creatures. Does it have death and destruction? Of course. What self-respecting 10 year old would read something without a bit of swordplay and battles? “The Lord of The Rings” is full of adult themes of politics and real evil and existential threats and despair and lots of violence. Both are grand books, but so dissimilar that it’s a wonder they were written by the same man.
Unfortunately, the movies were made by the same man, and he forgot to reread “The Hobbit” before he recycled all of his directorial and production techniques that he used to such great effect in his triumphant “Lord of The Rings” trilogy. I watched the first of “The Hobbit” movies and was modestly impressed. Yes, it was far too dark, but it had a taste of the childish happiness of the book. The second was darker, with less of the child in it, and I liked it even less. But I am a Tolkien junkie, and I pressed on, though the Netflix disc of the third installment sat for months — perhaps my subconscious knew that the next and last movie would be a profound disappointment.
And it was. Oh my, what a pathetic excuse of a movie. The technical details were the worst of any of his movies; some of the effects, in particular the battle between the Necromancer and Galadriel, looked like cheesy 1960s monster movie stuff. The cuts between scenes were odd, the character development, especially that of Thorin, was superficial. The last half of the movie seemed to be one big mess of a battle, with some trivial explanation sprinkled about just to satisfy the scriptwriters. But mostly it had none of the joy of the book! Forget the complete destruction of the story, it ignored the whole point of “The Hobbit”…..it was a children’s book!
I lied….I am not going to ignore the ridiculous storyline, full of characters invented out of whole cloth, transplanted from later books, twisted and tortured to fit into the downright silly plot that Jackson created, no doubt to stretch a single movie into three.
If Jackson’s goal was to amortize the huge fixed costs of the production of “The Lord of The RIngs” over an additional three movies, then I can forgive him . . . I guess. But if he wanted to make a movie faithful to a lovely and sweet book, he failed miserably.