Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Smaug Alert
December 24, 2013 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Smithsonian Magazine examines the extent to which Peter Jackson's vision of The Hobbit shows fidelity to Tolkien's text.

More on Middle-earth from Smithsonian: The Tolkien Nerd's Guide to the Hobbit

The Hobbit you grew up with isn't quite the same as the original...
posted by MoonOrb (104 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sure there are bits that have fidelity just on the infinite number of monkeys principle, it's all the other bits that are the problem.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on December 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


That 3rd link is interesting. I had no idea that Tolkien went back and changed The Hobbit to match up with the later LOTR trilogy.
posted by sio42 at 11:45 AM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I misread the title as Smug Alert and got excited for egregious pedantry.
posted by elizardbits at 11:53 AM on December 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


Elsewhere I described "The Desolation of Smaug" as Boyens / Jackson Hobbit crack fic. I stand by that :)
posted by pharm at 11:53 AM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Q: Which fiction is more fictitious?

A: I don't care.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:58 AM on December 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


I misread the title as Smug Alert and got excited for egregious pedantry.

Which is all the better because no one's smugger than pedants.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:59 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess what's frustrated me about The Hobbit (movies) compared to LOTR is that in the latter, many of the changes were pretty necessary to film an otherwise largely unfilmable book.

I haven't seen Smaug yet, but the first Hobbit film? Oh fuck, it was awful. Everything was bad. The writing, the acting, the effects (come on PJ, TOO MUCH CGI IS TOO MUCH), and especially problems of scale, which you'd think they'd have solved already. Because there are so rarely big people on screen, the scale isn't properly established and the dwarfs look like regular sized humans.

It left me cold is what I am saying, mostly because the book is immensely filmable as it is. No need for all the extra nonsense they threw in, and certainly no need for it to be three (!) movies. Two, fine, and the titles are obvious: There, and Back Again.

Sigh. PJ y u squander so much goodwill
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:14 PM on December 24, 2013 [44 favorites]


I must have watched the Rankin-Bass film a hundred times as a kid. I still love that adaptation so much, even though I think they drew the elves kinda weird. That telling of the story will always be the version for me.

I love Jackson's LOTR films in a big way, too. I think a feature-length cartoon is a perfect way to adapt the charm, playfulness, and hints of high drama in The Hobbit, while a massive, epic, live-action trilogy is perfectly suited to LOTR's immense scope and seriousness. I just wish there could be a Silmarillion film someday. Or maybe an opera, if they could get the right sort of artists behind it.
posted by clockzero at 12:15 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Having read The Hobbit a ridiculous number of times, I felt a bit stunned at all the basic plot rewriting, at levels large and small, when we watched Desolation of Smaug -- and, to a lesser extent, An Unexpected Journey. But - Hobbit is a kid's book, and these movies are being aimed at a more grown up audience. And Jackson doesn't do this willy nilly. Many of his changes refer to more background parts of the underlying world story Tolkien created. Many make this trilogy link much more clearly to LOTR. And visually The Hobbit is particularly faithful to all Tolkien's sketches. So -- more intrigued than angry, here.
posted by bearwife at 12:19 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tauriel sounds like one of those model names that new entrants into the US car market come up with.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:28 PM on December 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Tauriel is a welcome addition to the Tolkien sausagefest.
posted by Pendragon at 12:31 PM on December 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


The Tolkien estate is a particularly libelous bunch, so Jackson must be extra cautious to only borrow from texts he has the rights to

The Smithsonian doesn't know the difference between libelous and litigious? Really? The Smithsonian?

also the Smithsonian uses one of those shitty fuck-with-your-copy-paste-operation-to-insert-an-advertisement scripts? Really? The Smithsonian?
posted by ook at 12:32 PM on December 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's clearly an autocorrect error. They obviously meant "Lobelious", meaning "similar to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins".
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:42 PM on December 24, 2013 [52 favorites]


I love that Tolkien refactored The Hobbit!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:55 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only reason Legolas is in this is to get away from his perennially broke couch-surfing brother Pennilas.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:59 PM on December 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


The Lord of the Rings films were slog-fests full of bad acting and hack directing.

I'm not sure why anyone would think making another trilogy out of a shorter book is going to turn out a better product...
posted by madajb at 1:10 PM on December 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Luckily the movie studios do not yet have their own militias who come to your house and hold you at gunpoint, forcing you to go to the theatre, purchase a ticket, and watch the entire film.
posted by elizardbits at 1:16 PM on December 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


I do have to confess that having been yelled at for being a big nerd and hating the LOTR movies that it's simultaneously heart-warming and frustrating suddenly having all these new allies in the war against Peter Jackson Ruining Everything. The frustration comes mostly from my perception that the Hobbit movie is just Jackson doing the same thing he did to LOTR, only harder, and yet suddenly everyone can see it is a self-evident truth of the universe that he is a terrible director with no taste or respect for the source material.
posted by winna at 1:17 PM on December 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


It sucks when you're the only one to hate something/like something and then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, doesn't it?
posted by MoonOrb at 1:19 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


So just in case it wasn't clear, film is like this totally different medium than prose, and filmmakers, when they adapt novels into film, make changes and stuff.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:22 PM on December 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


The problem with the adaptations isn't that they change things; it's that they do not do so well, and they often do so with a tin ear to the original creator's vision.

Also - that The Hobbit as written is ideal for an adaptation 2.5 to 3 hours long, and making it a trilogy is simply obscene.
posted by graymouser at 1:32 PM on December 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Tauriel sounds like one of those model names that new entrants into the US car market come up with.

I had always assumed that Tauriel was the secret ingredient in Red Elf energy drink.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:38 PM on December 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm of two minds about all the changes. In the first movie it was easy to defend almost everything as "this was in the appendix" or "this was in Unfinished Tales" or whatever.

The second movie? I give up. It's now just based on J.R.R. Tolkien's work.
posted by Foosnark at 1:44 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


And Jackson doesn't do this willy nilly.

I know exactly what you're saying, but my first and third thoughts are "... and that's what makes the whole thing proactively and aggressively BAD (in the Fussellian sense of the word)."

My second thought is the charitable one. I take it out and look at it now and then, but quickly put it away before it can soften my wrath.

Highlight: Took the then-eight-year old to see the first installment and he couldn't wait for the second one to come around even as my wife and I cringed. Took my now-nine-year-old to the second installment and he walked out saying "that was so long and boring and stupid there's no way I'll go see the third one."
posted by mph at 1:45 PM on December 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: ... problems of scale, which you'd think they'd have solved already.

If I recall correctly, that will most likely be taken care of in the third installment.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:58 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like them all. Thanks Peter!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:10 PM on December 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


it doesn't bother me that he made changes or thought the whole world needed to see a dwarf/elf romance on the big screen, but the whole point of the conversation between Bilbo and Smaug is that Bilbo is invisible and Smaug is trying to sweettalk him into revealing himself... making Bilbo visible makes the while thing make no sense.

(also Peter Jackson must have rally sympathized with napoleon in time bandits)
posted by ennui.bz at 2:24 PM on December 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


When I saw the first Hobbit movie I was a bit let down because it departed a bit too much from the books in ways that didn't seem to make it better.

HOWEVER, the second Hobbit movie departed so much from the Hobbit that I actually enjoyed it a LOT more than I would have had it stayed closer to the original story. There were so many differences that I was able to enjoy it as an homage to the book rather than a filming of the story in the book.

I don't know if anyone else enjoyed it, but the first thing that happened in the second movie was that we saw a guy in Bree biting into a carrot. I burst out laughing when I saw that because if you listen to the LOTR commentary they talk about Jackson carrying a carrot in Bree. I just found the in your face carrot crunch to be hilarious.

All that said, I plan to hold off buying the blurays until the special edition set comes out in a couple years with 12 hours of additional footage. Until then I'll netflix the discs.
posted by HappyEngineer at 2:30 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was a bit odd that the last hour of this second one was the last hour of Alien 3. But then the last hour of Lord Of The Rings 2 was the last hour of Evil Dead 3, so maybe Peter Jackson is just really obsessed with underrated 90s horror second sequels.
posted by dng at 2:33 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


After seeing parts one and two -more out of social obligation than any burning love for Jackson or the book- I figured I should reread the Hobbit just to familiarize myself with all of the changes in the text that Jackson had made.

While I think many of them are kind of meh (pursuing orcs, dwarf-elf flirtation), making the Arkenstone the big goal of robbing Smaug was, I think, a significant improvement in narrative as compared to the complete lack of plan possessed by the dwarves in the book. It's kind of forced (the whole "everybody swore allegiance to this stone, so is totally unwilling to help unless you have it" seems like bunk) but it gives everyone a better reason for expecting success than Tolkien provided.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:48 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Army of Darkness is not underrated.

I am seeing this tomorrow when it opens, but I have almost zero interest. The Hobbit was the first Jackson movie I hated.
posted by Mezentian at 2:50 PM on December 24, 2013


the Arkenstone the big goal of robbing Smaug was, I

but the problem is then that Bilbo will be thwarting Gandalf's plans by withholding the stone.

I don't think PJ particularly cares about the story. he just wants to see the little people whacking each other with swords...
posted by ennui.bz at 2:54 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Likewise, the scene in which Thorin surfs through a molten river of gold

Oh, fer fuck's sake.
posted by Mezentian at 2:56 PM on December 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


but the problem is then that Bilbo will be thwarting Gandalf's plans by withholding the stone.

I don't think PJ particularly cares about the story. he just wants to see the little people whacking each other with swords...?


I don't see this. Bilbo has the stone now. Why can he not simply give the stone to Gandalf / the humans and elves when we get to part 3?
posted by Going To Maine at 3:00 PM on December 24, 2013


Metafilter: The War Against Peter Jackson Ruining Everything.
posted by Danf at 3:07 PM on December 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am seeing this tomorrow when it opens, but I have almost zero interest.

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:18 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know if anyone else enjoyed it, but the first thing that happened in the second movie was that we saw a guy in Bree biting into a carrot. I burst out laughing when I saw that because if you listen to the LOTR commentary they talk about Jackson carrying a carrot in Bree.

Jackson was the guy with the carrot in Smaug too.

I saw Smaug with one of my biggest Tolkien-fan friends, and he's actually pretty forgiving of the movies - when we talked about the first hobbit film and how it was....meh, he just shrugged and said "eh, that part was the most boring part of the book anyway." He did say that the 3d scenery in the first one was a better use than all the "Orc sword flying at your face" effects in this one.

I did hear him laughing uproariously at that action sequence with the barrels, but he can be a big ol' kid when it comes to action sequences in general.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 PM on December 24, 2013


From the third link about Tolkien changing the Hobbit to fit the LOTR:

Tolkien also tried to change the entire tone of The Hobbit to fit the more serious trilogy. But he gave up after the third chapter, saying it “just wasn’t The Hobbit” any longer without its playful tone and quick pace.

Does Peter Jackson know about this? Because he really should know about this.

I was so angry watching Smaug because it felt so self-indulgent and bloated. Nothing about this movie is fun, and The Hobbit is a fun book.
posted by bibliowench at 4:50 PM on December 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


don't see this. Bilbo has the stone now. Why can he not simply give the stone to Gandalf / the humans and elves when we get to part 3?

but why would he withhold the stone that would allow Thoren Oakenactor unify the dwarves to fight the coming of Gozer, the Gozerian? in the book Thoren is personally obsessed with the stone, its his precioussss...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:24 PM on December 24, 2013


This is why we can't have nice things.

I know. Unfortunately it's tradition, we got the tickets weeks ago, and hope sprung eternal.
And, somewhere, across the multiverse, Other Me is sitting down to Christmas lunch dreaming of Guillermo del Toro's concluding part of The Hobbit duology.
posted by Mezentian at 5:30 PM on December 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I mean... in the book the dwarves are on a medieval romantic quest, full of tales of yore and ready to bring back the golden days with their valour and courage... and then they show up and thanks to Bilbo and Bard get the prize by default, without really having made any sacrifice. so Laketown is smoldering rubble and Thoren is all "fuck you I got mine" even though he didn't do anything to deserve it... but he doesn't have his precioussss Arkenstone.

forget changing details out adding characters, PJ basically fucked up the whole story for no apparent reason. I mean he could have told that story and still had hot Lady elves and egregious barrel riding fights.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:33 PM on December 24, 2013


I was so angry watching Smaug because it felt so self-indulgent and bloated. Nothing about this movie is fun, and The Hobbit is a fun book.

It's a while since I read the Hobbit, but I remember it getting pretty self-indulgent and bloated itself towards the end, starting about two-thirds of the way through when Tolkien apparently forgot he was writing a children's book instead of a Norse saga. I don't have much hope for the third film.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:00 PM on December 24, 2013


The third film is the only one that has a chance, IMO. The war scenes in Jackson's LOTR were amazing--even off-book, I thought they were terrific for their own sake. I expect the last film is going to be two-thirds The Battle of Five Armys. I haven't seen the other Hobbit movies because they don't matter. The Battle of Five Armys plays to Jackson's strengths. It's his best shot at doing something awesome. (Although, honestly, the Mirkwood sequence should also have been good, but I don't really hear anyone raving about it, so I suppose I should steel myself for disappointment.)
posted by wobh at 7:11 PM on December 24, 2013


Maybe now that The Hobbit trilogy is pissing everyone off so much, Jackson will finally get back to doing what he does best: making deliberately awful movies like Bad Taste, Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:31 PM on December 24, 2013


In some other universe he went off in the direction set by Beautiful Creatures.
posted by Artw at 7:39 PM on December 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


HOWEVER, the second Hobbit movie departed so much from the Hobbit that I actually enjoyed it a LOT more than I would have had it stayed closer to the original story. There were so many differences that I was able to enjoy it as an homage to the book rather than a filming of the story in the book.

I agree here. The key to appreciating or at least tolerating this flick is understanding that it isn't actually an adaptation of the book, but rather, a fantasy action flick with an original story loosely inspired by scenes from the book (or possibly just illustrations from the book). It's kind of like Roger Corman's The Raven.
posted by baf at 7:43 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd pay a lot of money to see Harvey Korman's The Hobbit.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:27 PM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a lifelong fan and have read the Hobbit many times and LOTR at least twenty times (including one time last year). I've even waded through the Silmarillion, and I wrote in the phonetic Feanorian calligraphy for a good bit.

I liked the first Hobbit movie, and I downright loved the second (in spite of some slow bits). Tauriel was excellent, the Arkenstone made sense to me, and I had a good time. It's a movie.
posted by Peach at 8:48 PM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, I didn't really like the first Hobbit movie. And I was going to go to this one anyway, except I just...haven't. But one of the big reasons I was excited about Desolation of Smaug was because Beorn was going to be in it - but I haven't heard anybody talk about him. Will he be in the third movie instead? Do they skip him? Is my favorite occasional berserker given short shrift? I am myself desolate at the thought.
posted by PussKillian at 9:48 PM on December 24, 2013


If you close your eyes, you can pretend it's just a really weird episode of Sherlock.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:39 PM on December 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


but why would he withhold the stone that would allow Thoren Oakenactor unify the dwarves to fight the coming of Gozer, the Gozerian? in the book Thoren is personally obsessed with the stone, its his precioussss...

Naw, this ain't no thang.

In the book, the Arkenstone shows up at the tail end of robbing Smaug as something that Thorin wants. After Smaug falls, Thorin summons the iron mountain dwarves because they are his friends & he wants to keep everything secure. Meanwhile, Bilbo is holding onto the Arkenstone himself. He sneaks out and gives the stone to the elves and the men to try and get the dwarves to share out their loot.

Here is how I predict this will go down in the next movie. Bilbo, who has the Arkenstone, gives it to Thorin. Because Thorin has the Arkenstone, he can summon the iron mountain dwarves to help him secure the rest of the loot from the men and the elves. When Bilbo gets tired of being under siege, he'll swipe the stone back from Thorin (bonus scenes of Bilbo pickpocketing!) and hand it over to the elves and humans, as in the book. Everything is back on track.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:44 PM on December 24, 2013


If you close your eyes, you can pretend it's just a really weird episode of Sherlock

especially as benny crumbles looks exactly the same

tee hee
posted by elizardbits at 10:45 PM on December 24, 2013


But one of the big reasons I was excited about Desolation of Smaug was because Beorn was going to be in it - but I haven't heard anybody talk about him. Will he be in the third movie instead? Do they skip him? Is my favorite occasional berserker given short shrift? I am myself desolate at the thought.

Beorn is in it, though fairly briefly: a decent amount of bear, maybe ten or twenty lines as a person, very campy make up). In fairness, much of the time at Beorn's place in the book is lackadaisical, hanging out eating honey & drinking cream, and not really suited to action-heavy film. That said, it's a shame that they cut out the whole dwarves-come-out-two-at-a-time bit. That would have been great to include, and instead you get a kind of vanilla we-must-hide-out-in-this-house-that-belongs-to-a-guy-I-know chase sequence. Fun but blah.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:49 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


In some other universe he went off in the direction set by Beautiful Creatures.

Maybe that was in Britta's timeline.
posted by emcat8 at 10:50 PM on December 24, 2013


In some other universe he went off in the direction set by Beautiful Creatures.

Um, Heavenly Creatures. (Which introduced Melanie Lynskey, who's more recently been on some sitcom everybody but me has seen, apparently.) But yes -- it's one of my favorite movies, and in some ways gave me confidence that Jackson was the right director to helm the trilogy.

I dunno. I accepted most of what was done in the name of visual storytelling in those films. I thought ti was interesting to see how they had torn apart the original two-movie structure in order to flesh out the third, and that's despite wishing that we'd had Tom Bombadil and The Scouring of the Shire instead of about seventeen false endings. I think Jackson/Walsh/Boyer have an understanding of the necessities of screenwriting, and most of the time when they bet on those necessities versus slavish accuracy, they bet correctly.

That said I was underwhelmed by the first Hobbit and actually remember very little of it (from two viewings). It wasn't so much the ancillary material aspects, it was just the tone, the grimdark coup if you will, that seemed to completely miss what is delightful about the book. You get some of this if you note the tonal change in the beginning of LOTR, where Tolkien starts out writing all light, child-friendly scenes in the Shire, and then it rapidly takes a couple of turns for the dark, finally reaching epic proportions by the time they reach Rivendell.

I didn't feel that much in Jackson's Hobbit, where it seemed to get dark altogether too quickly and even more so, by comparison, than either the LOTR book or movie. And in the wrong ways, as the book is more about this little hobbit creature feeling very tiny against the scary Brothers Grimm world into which he's been thrust. Maybe that point of view is just the problematic missing piece here.
posted by dhartung at 11:03 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everybody is welcome to their own tastes of course, but I find the whole "Peter Jackson is ruining Tolkien" contrarian hipster nerd bit pretty tiresome and often coming from people with a James Franco level of previous interest in the books.

If you know Tolkien you know he was more than willing to rewrite, reinterpret and retcon whatever he thought would better knit together the grand narratives of middle earth. In that regard, Jackson's spirit is undoubtedly in the right place and the level of workmanship, care and detail he's put into bringing the vast, complex world of these books to life is downright astonishing.

It's easy to take armchair potshots and quibble about this or that bit, but Jackson's contribution to the Tolkien world is Herculean.
posted by young_son at 1:21 AM on December 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


But one of the big reasons I was excited about Desolation of Smaug was because Beorn was going to be in it - but I haven't heard anybody talk about him. Will he be in the third movie instead? Do they skip him? Is my favorite occasional berserker given short shrift? I am myself desolate at the thought.

Oh man. Beorn is one of my favorite characters, and the reason I went to go see this film.

I just signed up to Metafilter (after lurking for years) to tell you that they turned him into a stereotypical werewolf. I mean. Just look at this. I noticed when he was in motion that he had werewolf legs as well, even though bears, like humans, walk plantigrade. Much sadness.

That said, even though I didn't really enjoy all the extra nonsense PJ added to this film, I did enjoy the movie for what it was. I think the fanfiction label is appropriate.
posted by Feyala at 2:26 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Battle of Five Armys plays to Jackson's strengths. It's his best shot at doing something awesome.

The barrel riding sequence is amazing, one of the action clips I've seen in years. Utterly masterful.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:48 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe now that The Hobbit trilogy is pissing everyone off so much, Jackson will finally get back to doing what he does best: making deliberately awful movies like Bad Taste, Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles.

According to many critics, he never stopped.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:44 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it interesting that most discussion and criticism doesn't seem involve the central theme of The Hobbit, which is the blossoming of Bilbo from safe little hobbit who never went on adventures into a hero. I mean... THE HOBBIT. Yes, the first film shows scenes of bravery, and I've read reports of the barrel scene in this new film, but in the book Tolkien develops this over many chapters. During my most recent re-reading I became generally irritated with Thorin because he consistently criticizes Bilbo and generally makes it clear he thinks he is a useless, bumbling idiot. And in the beginning he is, but he changes, such that by the time they reach Dale the dwarves are actually following Bilbo.

In the film this theme seems lost and the story poorer for it. I understand why Jackson has fabricated a female elf for his film, but I wonder if he would have found it necessary had he portrayed or emphasized the already present coming-of-age story.
posted by grimjeer at 6:26 AM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


find the whole "Peter Jackson is ruining Tolkien" contrarian hipster nerd bit pretty tiresome

So do I. That doesn't mean we are contrarian hipster nerds, so dial it back a bit maybe. There are reasonable and valid criticisms to be made of PJ's adaptations, and if you would like to refute said criticisms then please by all means do so, maybe without casting needless and inaccurate insults.

often coming from people with a James Franco level of previous interest in the books.

what the actual fuck does this mean
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:29 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


the blossoming of Bilbo from safe little hobbit who never went on adventures into a hero.

The hobbit that faints at the reading of a contract in the first movie, just because the contract included some graphic descriptions?

Well in the second film (which it sounds like you haven't seen yet, so I hope this isn't too big a spoiler) he decidedly does not faint, when confronted with much worse.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:37 AM on December 25, 2013


The war scenes in Jackson's LOTR were amazing--even off-book, I thought they were terrific for their own sake.

Until they got over-the-top ridiculous: Legolas surfing down an oliphaunt's trunk.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:46 AM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everybody is welcome to their own tastes of course, but I find the whole "Peter Jackson is ruining Tolkien" contrarian hipster nerd bit pretty tiresome and often coming from people with a James Franco level of previous interest in the books.

It's awfully damn presumptuous to claim that critics of Jackson's films were previously disinterested in the books. I haven't liked Jackson's work since Two Towers and I had read most of History of Middle-Earth before Fellowship hit theaters.

If you know Tolkien you know he was more than willing to rewrite, reinterpret and retcon whatever he thought would better knit together the grand narratives of middle earth.

Tolkien was trying to make a cohesive mythology in a form that would be publishable. He included some elements of an early draft of the myths in a children's story he wrote, and subsequently revised it to fit later drafts. That doesn't mean anything goes.

In that regard, Jackson's spirit is undoubtedly in the right place and the level of workmanship, care and detail he's put into bringing the vast, complex world of these books to life is downright astonishing.

Tolkien would have probably been completely disdainful of the films, as in fact his son is. (The film's fans never acknowledge that they are made over the objections of the Tolkien estate, and much of the merchandising done is probably illegal.)

It's easy to take armchair potshots and quibble about this or that bit, but Jackson's contribution to the Tolkien world is Herculean.

Well, Hercules did kill the Nemean lion and wear its skin, so I guess there's a parallel.

But seriously, he's not making any contribution to the world of Tolkien. JRRT was not some obscure author before 2001 whose work was virtually unknown, he was the most popular fantasy author of the 20th century. There were shelves full of his work. His Silmarillion was finally published after he passed, then the Unfinished Tales, twelve volumes of his attempts to craft the tales of Valinor and Beleriand and Arda, and even minor tales like Roverandom. Jackson is a hack director who would remain thoroughly obscure if he hadn't gotten to turn the most widely read fantasy novels ever into juvenile action flicks.
posted by graymouser at 6:53 AM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Until they got over-the-top ridiculous: Legolas surfing down an oliphaunt's trunk.

I thought that was a) a cute little bit of physical humour to leaven the grimdark of the rest of the battle, b) trying to indicate the resourcefulness/perfection of the Eldar, c) giving the character something to do other than standing around looking pretty and blond and uttering Captain Obvious statements.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:25 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's awfully damn presumptuous to claim that critics of Jackson's films were previously disinterested in the books.

For serious. I received The Hobbit as a 7th birthday present, and first plowed through LOTR when I was 9, followed by Silmarillion once I'd had a year or two to unpack and reread slower (my first reading would best have been described as devouring. Thank goodness it was summer break and my mother didn't complain about me having my light on past midnight hungrily sucking down every word Tolkien wrote).

Tolkien would have probably been completely disdainful of the films, as in fact his son is.

The first part of that statement is pretty bold, and I'd guess totally wrong given the second half of the statement. Christopher Tolkien is a hack who's made a career on Daddy's capacious coattails. (Which, yes, doesn't distinguish him from about 95% of all post-Tolkien epic fantasy writers, to be fair).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:29 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's awfully damn presumptuous to claim that critics of Jackson's films were previously disinterested in the books.

I didn't presume anything of the sort. "Peter Jackson is ruining Tolkien" is a far cry from "critics of Jackson's films". There is plenty of room to be critical without outright dismissing what is really a pretty singular achievement in cinema. And before you typecast me as some sort of raving adolescent movie fan, I don't even particularly like Peter Jackson or his directorial style, but to say that he didnt have any contribution is just... baffling really.
posted by young_son at 7:37 AM on December 25, 2013


I used to be a pretty hardcore Tolkien fan and was even lucky enough to catch a semester length course on Tolkien leading up to the release of the Fellowship of the Ring. I completely enjoyed the LOTR trilogy, and I've been enjoying the Hobbit films, as well.

One of the things I've found interesting with the Hobbit films are the slide from bright to more muted colors. As time progresses in the movies, it seems like Jackson is sliding the color and tone of the movies closer toward those used in the LOTR.

I don't think one should approach any adaptation with a fierce interest in how well the movies adapt the books, page for page. Obviously, one can disagree on whether the tone or spirit of adventure is carried over, but for myself, I don't think Jackson is doing a bad job at his task. I doubt there are many directors in Hollywood (or elsewhere) who could have adapted Tolkien as well as Jackson, if any at all. For creating these movies against the Hollywood industrial machine, I give him praise. I doubt we could get better, and I'm positive, we could have gotten a lot, lot, worse.
posted by Atreides at 7:41 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I doubt we could get better, and I'm positive, we could have gotten a lot, lot, worse.

Well, yeah. For me in a lot of ways my criticisms are of the "...and the portions were so small" variety. PJ did something pretty damn impressive. The problem is, for me anyway, he (not to devalue the rest of the team especially Boyens and Walsh, but he's the media star) knocked it out of the park with LOTR, on balance, and I suspect maybe that made him overconfident about what he could do with The Hobbit.

Still, when all's said and done, I think he's the only director I'd trust to film A Song for Arbonne or Tigana.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:46 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Would love to see Del Toro take on Thomas Covenant though...)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 AM on December 25, 2013


One factoid that struck me when watching the extras on the Hobbit extended edition release is that Jackson states that due to losing Del Toro, he had to step into the job of director with about half the time he had on LOTR to prepare. I do wonder if that resulted in some of the issues that folks are finding with the Hobbit.
posted by Atreides at 7:55 AM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the things I've found interesting with the Hobbit films are the slide from bright to more muted colors. As time progresses in the movies, it seems like Jackson is sliding the color and tone of the movies closer toward those used in the LOTR.

While a desire to wed the two trilogies to each other may be part of it, the color difference between An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug is largely in part a reaction to the claims that his High Frame Rate version of the former looked like a Daytime TV Soap Opera.

This time around his choices in color grading were driven by a desire to make it feel more cinematic. It's also why he took all those expensive 5k resolution digital cameras and slapped filters over the lenses for this installment.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:56 AM on December 25, 2013


I'm really hoping the Hobbit is considered a success, mostly because I would LOVE to see some film adaptations (perhaps a series?) from The Silmarillion. The simplified mythic style of the stories could be absolutely incredible if paired with a good screenwriter. Imagining The Tale of Beren and Luthien done well gives me shivers.
posted by young_son at 8:12 AM on December 25, 2013


I'd pay a lot of money to see Harvey Korman's Harmony Korine's The Hobbit.

I hate doing this on The Blue, but I totally fixed that for Rory.
posted by Mezentian at 8:14 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Silmarillion lends itself, I think, to an ongoing HBO style series like GOT or Rome or something. Each season, do one story; the creation of middle earth, Beren and Luthien (and maybe somewhere someone could point out that Aragorn is marrying his great-great-n-great-aunt), the Fall of Numenor, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:29 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Silmarillion lends itself, I think, to an ongoing HBO style series

HAWT ENT SEX NOW
posted by Mezentian at 8:39 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


HAWT ENT SEX NOW

If we use the reddit definition of ent that happens frequently in my apartm... ent.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:48 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


*drops mic*
I'm going away for a while.
Peace out.
posted by Mezentian at 9:01 AM on December 25, 2013


I'm really hoping the Hobbit is considered a success, mostly because I would LOVE to see some film adaptations (perhaps a series?) from The Silmarillion.

That will not happen. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films were made based on licensing deals from decades ago; in fact, the film rights being used to make those films are the same rights purchased in 1976 that were used to make the Bakshi LotR and the Rankin-Bass Hobbit. Christopher Tolkien has been vocal in his displeasure with the films and would not be likely to approve any film based on the Silmarillion.

Of course there is one possible end-run around licensing issues; Aragorn tells the tale of Beren and Luthien in a short form in The Fellowship of the Ring, and there is further detail given in the Appendices. It wouldn't be able to use the details given in the Silmarillion, or any of the History of Middle-Earth volumes, but in theory they could make a film out of that. They'd probably have to call it something like The Lord of the Rings: The Tale of Tinuviel for legal reasons, but that's really the only Silmarillion film I could ever see happening.
posted by graymouser at 9:07 AM on December 25, 2013


Someone upthread said The Hobbit is a delightful children's story and PJ is ruining it by trying to make it into a serious adult movie. I kind of agree with this, which is why I'd like to see The Hobbit done by Peter Greenaway. Because that would Rock.
posted by sneebler at 9:23 AM on December 25, 2013


Damn, now I wish they'd gotten The Rock to play Thorin.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:26 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you ask me, the problem with The Hobbit movies is not that they depart from the book. Some departure was inevitable, even welcome. I expected that the movies would depart from the book somewhat, and that they would probably deviate more than I personally would've preferred. And yes, three films is probably too many – but to be honest, it was probably a no-brainer for the studios because each movie is guaranteed to make tons of money.

My problem is not with the fact that things were put in to pad the movies and make the adaptation more "cinematic". My problem is that what was put in was terrible. The writing was lazy hackwork, the acting was wooden, the plot points were trite, and the action scenes were frequently so over-the-top as to just totally blow my suspension of disbelief. Even the CGI was hokey, and it's not like they lacked the budget to do better. Setting aside the fact that the movies are an adaptation of a beloved book, I thought that simply as movies they seemed incredibly lazy and halfhearted.

The issue is not that they are unfaithful to the source; that could be forgiven if they could stand on their own merits. The issue is that simply taken as movies, they blow.
posted by Scientist at 11:00 AM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


My problem is that what was put in was terrible.

Yes, this! LOTR had some stuff added that strictly speaking was not part of the story, but it worked in context.

The Hobbit (1) had stuff added that was just why the fuck is this here Jackson/Boyens/Walsh there was good stuff to start with let's not gild lilies and shit
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:19 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


My problem is that what was put in was terrible.

pretty much everybody seems to agree that Evangeline Lilly's Tauriel was a great addition, as is the development of Kili with the romantic subplot. you get the opportunity to explore more about the dynamic between the races, which in my opinion is excellent world-building and was very fun to watch. do you disagree with that?
posted by young_son at 12:38 PM on December 25, 2013


The Tauriel romance felt very shoehorned and generic to me - of course we're going to have two of these characters of different species have a romance to show that everyone can get along and things are hunky-dory. Further, from that first meeting you can see that the romance is going to happen; it's not just generic, it's predictable. There's also very much an aspect of "Tolkien's elf-dwarf bromance in LOTR worked, so let's add our own to the Hobbit!" It's a retread, which makes it more boring.

That isn't to say that Lilly does a bad job with a role, and her action scenes are quite exciting. But the character is completely stereotypical & one-dimensional, lacking any distinctive traits. (In fairness, this is a problem that afflicts some of the other folks as well.) (& there's a hint of depth with her hinted romance with Legolas - but that cross-class romance is itself done in an entirely tired way.)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:03 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought Tauriel was the device to get Legolas in the story... he'd need some significant motivation to leave the mirkwood (where his home is more or less being encroached on).

I don't really have a problem with that, and I guess I don't mind more Legolas. And bringing a female character into a story where there's really no others is probably good on its own.

But the execution was... very uneven. For example, I couldn't stand the Kili healing scene, I just felt like it was beating the audience over the head. Layering on the glow (particularly for non high elves) made me feel like I'd just encountered the cinematic equivalent of a Thomas Kincade painting.

In fact, that might be my overarching problem with the film: a lot of the time the aesthetics seemed very heavy-handed rather than deft.
posted by weston at 2:00 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Tauriel romance felt very shoehorned

It was:
Evangeline Lilly had 1 condition to sign on for The Hobbit (but Jackson broke it)

If you thought that condition was there being no love triangle you may claim your prize.
posted by Mezentian at 2:34 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tolkien would have probably been completely disdainful of the films

For those curious how Tolkien might have viewed movie adaptations of his work, I found this reddit thread to be interesting. It quotes a letter from Tolkien discussing his problems with a proposed LOTR screenplay not being true to his work, particularly its preference for fights to the exclusion of the tone/heart of the story.
posted by Feyala at 2:59 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just signed up to Metafilter (after lurking for years) to tell you that they turned him into a stereotypical werewolf. I mean. Just look at this. I noticed when he was in motion that he had werewolf legs as well, even though bears, like humans, walk plantigrade. Much sadness.

Nooooooo.

Welp, looks like it's going to be American Hustle, then. I think in retrospect, I liked the first movie even less than I realized, because I assumed I'd go to this one and just haven't felt like I wanted to. And with no awesome Beorn, bah.
posted by PussKillian at 4:09 PM on December 25, 2013


If you close your eyes, you can pretend it's just a really weird episode of Sherlock.

I enjoyed the first film, haven't seen the second, but if it's as bad as the second season of Sherlock I'd be shocked. That's new Doctor Who/Star Wars prequel, Battlefield Earth bad. It's the kind of bad that takes talent.
posted by juiceCake at 7:08 PM on December 25, 2013


from that first meeting you can see that the romance is going to happen

This does actually happen in real life not uncommonly.
posted by flaterik at 12:56 AM on December 26, 2013


Battlefield Earth bad

Now, there's a phrase that reflects how bad a film The Hobbit 2: A Lot of Talking By Smaug Near The End is.

Tauriel was a welcome addition, but... sweet Jesus, everything else was awful. I went in with low expectations, and they were not met.
posted by Mezentian at 1:02 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am sorry, I was just reminded about "the scene in which Thorin surfs through a molten river of gold" because I had blotted it out. WHAT THE HELL? What was that even about? I'm no alchemist, but I am pretty sure that made no sense.
posted by Mezentian at 7:14 AM on December 26, 2013


I liked Tauriel and Legolas ass-kicking their way out of Mirkwood, but the shoehorned love triangle is just awful.

It's obviously there because someone decided there needed to be A Romance in the movie, and it cheapens the Legolas-Gimli friendship in LOTR: it takes them the better part of two movies to become friends, but Tauriel randomly falls for her prisoner in five minutes because reasons? Argh.

(Sure, it happens IRL quite a lot, I'll grant that. But movies aren't real life, they need to make sense and hold a narrative. In real life falling boulders also crush people randomly but that didn't happen in this movie.)

I absolutely loved the LOTR trilogy when it came out a decade ago, and I really really wanted to like the Hobbit movies too. But I don't. The first movie was too long and expanded every scene in the book into a huge action sequence; this second one was basically a bad fanfiction rewrite of the book. I don't think I'm watching the third.
posted by Xany at 8:16 AM on December 26, 2013


I think we need some honesty here. Let's face it, if we were passionate enough about our hatred of these first two installments to take to the internet about it, then we're all going to be seeing the third installment, even if just to confirm our hatred. Whether that's in the theater or on TV later on, you're going to watch the freakshow.

My take on why folks are so mad is that this was the one chance in our lifetimes that this beloved book could be done correctly, whatever that really means. There's a sense that Peter Jackson had a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the author's vision, but the source material is a novel which is interpreted differently by each reader, and so we're really expecting him to uphold the integrity of our interpretation. It's not an easy task. As for making up new characters, that's where I think he stepped out of bounds.

Here's to hoping someone makes a new cut of the trilogy once it's complete, one that cuts out the extraneous bits and reduces the length to 2.5 hours total.
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:00 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honestly, this hate is odd to me. Ultimately, it's a movie adaptation, one everyone knew was being stretched to 3 films, so artistic license was always going to happen.

If you love the book, go read it again and spend time with that thing you love. Hating on the film seems doesn't really do or change anything, except leave you unhappy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had a lot of problems with Jackson's LOTR films, but they had their positive points, too. I saw them in the theaters, and own them now.

I was very skeptical of his version of The Hobbit, starting when I heard it was to be three films. I read this book frequently to my children, and I KNOW there isn't enough story for two films, let alone three. So, I decided to wait for what people who saw it said. All of my worst fears were fulfilled, and more.

If you enjoyed the films, I am happy for you. I will not be seeing the films, now or ever.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2013


I'm of two minds on this one. I think the thing I like most about the LOTR books is that, having reread them every few years basically from the moment I could read a longer book, I find that the meaning that the books have for me change as I change. When I was a kid I focused a lot on the action and battles, the flight from the Nazgul, Gandalf fighting the Balrog, etc. Peter Jackson's trilogy was definitely the kind of film version I would have wanted at that age - lots of action.

But it's definitely not the film version I want of LOTR now. To me the entire point of the books now rests in the Scouring of the Shire, and the way that Frodo sails off into the West as a fundamentally broken, damaged person, and how the elves go away and you can't go home again. Jackson made a movie that was all about the excitement and danger of war, but Tolkien also wrote a book about how war irrevocably changes the landscape and people involved in it, and that's the movie I'm afraid we'll never get now. I do think Jackson's movies were faithful in their own way to the spirit of the book, or at least a spirit of the book. It's just not a spirit of the book that particularly interests me anymore.

As far as the Hobbit is concerned, I thought the second movie was better in some ways because it had almost nothing to do with the book and was instead a fun fantasy adventure set in Tolkien's middle-earth. Tamriel was a welcome addition for the most part, but the Romeo and Juli-elf stuff was just awful, I've seen more convincing romances in video games. The action sequences seemed much better than in the first movie, and the hallucinatory trip through Mirkwood was well done and makes me wish Jackson had not elided out the Barrow-downs or Old Man Willow from the first movie.
posted by whir at 12:41 PM on December 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


As for making up new characters, that's where I think he stepped out of bounds.

I am no fan of The Hobbit film franchise, but for me this objection, at least, may be answered with two words: Sherif Ali.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:04 PM on December 26, 2013


I presume you mean the fictional character in Lawrence of Arabia. I think there's a difference between trying to adapt a true story for the screen, where several real life people are conflated into one, and in creating a new character in the adaptation of a fictional story.

That's not to say that it should be totally forbidden to ever come up with a new character, but you have to ask what the point is. In Lawrence of Arabia, it was to try and avoid confusion from having a bunch of characters playing essentially the same function in a sprawling story. In The Hobbit, it's...well, I guess it's because Tolkien didn't write female characters in the story, so they shoehorn in a very unlikely love triangle?
posted by Chrysostom at 7:42 AM on December 27, 2013


it doesn't bother me that he made changes or thought the whole world needed to see a dwarf/elf romance on the big screen, but the whole point of the conversation between Bilbo and Smaug is that Bilbo is invisible and Smaug is trying to sweettalk him into revealing himself... making Bilbo visible makes the while thing make no sense.

Oh lord this drove me CRAZY. That's one of the best scenes in the book, the entire point of which is that Bilbo is using stealth and cunning against Smaug... because he could OBVIOUSLY NEVER HOPE TO OUTRUN OR OUTFIGHT HIM... because HE'S A FUCKING HOBBIT
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:44 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


because he could OBVIOUSLY NEVER HOPE TO OUTRUN OR OUTFIGHT HIM... because HE'S A FUCKING HOBBIT

Ser Ian is making that puffed-up, sad-eyed Gandalf face right now, and is telling you not to under-estimate Hobbits.
posted by Mezentian at 2:54 AM on December 29, 2013


In the movie, it's clear that Smaug knows why Bilbo is there and is toying with him. And there's no way that scene doesn't sound ridiculous, considering that Smaug can smell him, hear him breathing, etc. So why not make Bilbo visible for the movie.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:02 AM on December 29, 2013



The only telling of the Silmarillion other than the book...

posted by bastionofsanity at 11:12 AM on December 30, 2013


« Older The BMJ analysis of 007's alcohol consumption....  |  World Order's latest, "Last Da... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments