|The joys a small daughter brings (1): When Ursula was about seven,|
I was sporting a full set of hirsute face furniture. She figured that I was badly in need
of a wizard character for my 'war gamings.'
"In my view it didn't work. The problem for me is that the book is too long for one movie, and too short for three. But structurally you can't really subdivide it into two. The book is also self-referential in several areas, e.g. Gandalf pulling the same trick on Beorn that he pulled on Bilbo himself at the beginning of the story [I forgot that there is an echo of this numbers game in Bilbo's riddling with Smaug]; the extensive use of tunnels that link the major parts of the story's three-part structure; Smaug and Bilbo, in their love of subterranean creature comforts and riddles, being rather similar types... [ Come to think of it, Gollum forms the third of the ground dwelling trio, all three driven reluctantly to venture forth from their homes...]
"If you can't retell the story in a movie, don't retell it.
"So Peter Jackson, broadly speaking, doesn't. It's a whole different gig, with only the merest nod in the direction of the original structure. The journey through Mirkwood, which was supposed to take weeks becomes a stroll through the forest, give or take some rather importunate spiders; Esgaroth looked great, but what happened to the phlegmatic Bard of the book?
"From a spectacle point of view, the movie comes up trumps - the settings are great. Esgaroth of the long lake knocks Kevin Costner's Waterworld into a cocked hat; Mirkwood at least looked as though it could match the gloomy evil character of the original; and Smaug looks as mighty as the treasure he hoards. No trivial lizard he, squatting upon a few sparklies!
"It was OK: 6/10 for mine (an improvement over Hobbit 1, 4/10). But I reckon a more apt title would probably have been 'Raiders of the Lost Desolation of Smaug.' At least they pronounce 'Smaug' correctly.
|The joys a small daughter brings (2): When Ursula was|
very small, she figured Dad really needed a dice box for his war gamings.
|Although I did use it for that purpose, even took it to the war games club,|
I was afraid it might get damaged (I have an idea it might even have done),
so now it houses other treasures...
One of the weaknesses of the novel for the purposes of film adaptation is the lack of 'love interest.' As a bloky sort of a character, I'm not fussed about that, but I can see how that would impact upon the story's appeal to some of the potential audience. Recall that the novel's protagonist, Bilbo, remains emphatically a bachelor all his days, and the only female character of the book, Bilbo's cousin by marriage, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, is portrayed as nothing more than a venial leech with an eye for the main chance.
Enter Legolas and Tauriel, the one hoiked out of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, being led on by an entirely new character that J.R.R. Tolkien never imagined. Not only does Tauriel, princess daughter of the King of the forest elves of Mirkwood, disdain to notice Legolas's puppy-dog regard, she gets the hots for one of the dwarves, Fili (I think). Now, I'm not talking mixed race romances and pairings up. Isn't this mixed species country? True, as dwarves go, Fili does look a little bit like a rather raffish elf; and if Tauriel can't be made to look dwarfish (or dwarvish), the fondness of her character for a good hearty stoush might be enough to catch the heart of a particularly broadminded dwarf. Even supposing the DNA were compatible enough to produce offspring (with the prospect of further generations), what do you call the infant? As dad is the dwarf, I guess that dwelf might be the go; else we are looking at ewarf. I venture down these arcane genetic paths to demonstrate my unease at the implications of the implied relationship (at least it isn't made any clearer in the movie, and may yet come to nothing). Bear in mind, neither elf nor dwarf is human; and also bear in mind the evils of Saruman's crossbreeding programme of human and orc to produce the Uruk-Hai.
|Not sure about the provenence of this fiery fellow...|
In my view, LOTR and TH are written with two slightly different points of view. LOTR is a large narrative spanning a large part of the world, and, beginning with The Two Towers, with multiple threads running simultaneously. As such the outlook is 'eye-of-god', but the perspective limited to those of the main (good guy) characters. That these points of view are of each of the four hobbits, and occasionally to other characters as well, gives the effect of a more universal - more global - perspective.
Contrast this with The Hobbit, which, after all, purports to be the narrative from Bilbo's limited perspective (There and Back Again, though told from an eye-of-god outlook again). Departures from Bilbo's specific limited viewpoint are rare (though there is at least one of significance late in the novel: Smaug's attack upon Esgaroth). Bilbo is emphatically central in the novel, and remains so for the most part in the movie, but he tends to vanish in the action scenes, with no particular role. That Bilbo is not up to the really big fights in the novel is true enough, but there we don't get extended views of those in which Bilbo's role is not significant, even if he is present.
|Trent Boult about to send one down from the windward end...|
Cinematically, the Hobbit looks superb, don't get me wrong about that. But for mine, the story is a mess, barely comprehensible in itself, such that, however far it deviates from the original novel, I was forced to refer to my recollections of it to keep track of events.