Thoughts about The Hobbit
Went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last night and… it was OK.
Let’s get this out there – I’m the kind of person who finds action sequences boring. I sighed in Raiders of the Lost Arc as Indy was attempting not to be sucked into the treads of a speeding tank. So, in The Hobbit #1 I checked my watch during the goblin tunnel sequences, and in The Hobbit #2 I started wondering how much longer I was going to have to be there during the running around in the mountain stuff.
No film that replaces a sense of wonder/magic/dread with a hell of a lot of running around and shouting is ever really going to do justice to these books, for me.
Because I think I’ve figured out what it is about Peter Jackson’s films that I don’t like. He is utterly cliche. He trivializes everything except for the warrior’s journey. That macho thing that involves being able to kill more people than anyone else? With its trappings of masculinity and kingship and manpain – that very thing that Tolkien undermined by having his heroes be ordinary and small and the kind of people who had never picked up a weapon in their lives, that’s the thing that PJ is all about.
He made LotR into Aragorn’s story instead of Frodo’s, and he’s made The Hobbit into Thorin’s story instead of Bilbo’s.
And in doing so he’s taken away so much of what made these books unique. Now the films play like a D&D quest, where it’s all running from things and amassing hit points and banter and hollow heroism where heroism means killing things.
I saw threats aplenty from the beginning to the end, but I saw none of the regular beats of beautiful things that Tolkien puts in there. Beorn is… where’s the wonder and fun of him? The threat, yes, it’s there in the book, but you come away feeling like you’ve seen a marvelous and beautiful thing that ought to be preserved. In the film it’s all threat except for a few shots of pretty scenery. Where’s the wonder and yearning of the wood-elves’ songs and partying in the darkness of Mirkwood that makes everyone run towards them even though they were warned not to leave the path? Where’s the sense of relief and plenty on reaching Lake Town that makes you happy that these people exist, despite their slightly oily master?
Now everything’s got to be threatening or corrupt or both, and it makes me wonder why anyone’s bothering to save Middle-earth, since it’s obviously a dump.
I liked Tauriel, and she’s nicely canon in the sense that Tolkien wrote that among elves there was no gender segregation, so that the only task that could not be done by both genders was the baking of lembas (which was a female-only craft.) But if you’re going to go that way, then where were all the other female elves? Where were all the other female elf fighters/guardsmen/extras? How come none of the merchants/toll booth workers/officials in Lake Town were women? Putting Tauriel in there as a token woman just throws into stark relief how few other women there are with speaking parts. And writing a love triangle around her just because she’s there and she’s female? Not on, PJ. Really not on.
I’m going to watch the third one really because I can’t not. But I doubt if I’ll be buying any of them on DVD. I don’t want to watch either of them again.