I just got back from watching The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies. Guess what. It didn’t suck. In fact, as far as the acting goes, it was probably the best of the three Hobbit films. I suppose it might take three movies for some actors to catch their stride. That’s not to say they all needed to get with it. Martin Freemen did an excellent job from beginning to end. As did Ian McKellan. And I thoroughly enjoyed Luke Evans as Bard. But I don’t want to actually write too much about the movie other than you should see it. You won’t regret spending the money on a good afternoon’s entertainment as I just did.
…Unless you are a self-appointed Tolkien purest. You know, one of those people who believe everything John Ronald Reuel Tolkien ever wrote is canon and must be literally and faithfully copied and handed down from generation to generation as some sort of holy fantasy tome. As if J.R.R. Tolkien is so much better than other artists (writers, whatever,) that no other human being on Earth could EVER match what the father of high fantasy wrote. If you are one of those people, please do not waste your time or your money on Peter Jackson’s movies. They will not satisfy you. No other high fantasy will. They just can’t compare to the Middle Earth epic, blessed by the man himself – as if he was some ring wielding pontiff from whom all blessings flow – which you hold so near and dear to your heart. And as J.R.R. Tolkien is dead, you’ll just have to be satisfied with beating your drum, pointing at his books and telling all who’ll listen how great he was. (Yes, I’m making fun of the purists. Get over it.)
That done, I just want to know two things. And both of these come directly from things purists I’ve spoken with personally have said.
First, to those outraged that Peter Jackson took a single book and made it into three movies. Who the hell gave you the right to have such outrage? I’d ask, “who died and gave you the right,” but we already know who died, and as far as I know he only gave two groups of people the rights: his heirs, and his publisher. And both sanctioned Peter Jackson’s re-imagining of The Hobbit. No, this is not The Hobbit you read as a child and loved for all it’s black and white, good versus evil, pre-World War II politics inspired 1 two-dimensional plot lines. I’m also not saying the movie trilogy is better than that. What I am saying is it is a different interpretation, but not an invalid one. Certainly those who own the rights to the estate didn’t feel it was an invalid vision of where J.R.R. Tolkien might have taken the story had he been alive to guide it. The Hobbit was published as a children’s book. Unless you’re going to make a cartoon movie replete with singing goblins (Rankin and Bass anyone?) you need to grow the story up.
The second thing I’d like to know, and this goes to those who’ve not even seen one of the movies but insist on running them down nonetheless, is what the hell do you know about it? A bunch of stuff that other Tolkien purists have said about the movies? Did they bother to go see it? Or is it simply that J.R.R. Tolkien in the original English is so sacred it’s blasphemy to think any other interpretation should be allowed. I mean really, espousing an opinion on a movie you haven’t even bothered to watch is like believing the Earth is only 6000 years old because that’s what you’re preacher tells you. Blindly following convictions is the realm of religion. If you really want to have this Tolkien versus Jackson discussion with me, at least watch the bloody movies you’re going to run down. That’s all I ask. Otherwise, kindly keep your opinion to yourself. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Here’s the unvarnished truth. The movie is enjoyable. At times it’s even fun. It won’t win any Oscars, but it will make lots of money. That’s okay by me. Actors have to eat too. Now it’s time for more unvarnished truth. The book The Hobbit is enjoyable. At times it’s even fun. But The Hobbit is not a great book. Today it wouldn’t win any prizes except perhaps as children’s literature. Tolkien did not become the father of High Fantasy until 17 years after The Hobbit was published. That’s when the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out. That’s what made Tolkien a legend.
Peter Jackson treated those books properly. I’m willing to give him some leeway to reforge The Hobbit into a story that fits into the Lore of that trilogy far better than the book itself ever has. I’ve read The Hobbit many times, and I always wished for a better link to the Fellowship and all that transpired later. A link that was more than a Hobbit finding a magic ring in a cave by mostly accident. That was always pretty simplistic to me. I’m an adult now. I want a better tale, one that ties in with what’s happening at the end of the Third Age of Middle Earth. Peter Jackson certainly does that. His vision of The Hobbit firmly makes that tale the beginning of the end of the third age of Middle Earth. As The Hobbit should be.
- What, you didn’t know parts of The Hobbit were inspired by world politics in the mid 1930’s? That Sauron was Hitler and Saruman was Mussolini? Really? Now Tolkien did say The Hobbit was, “not about anything but itself. (Certainly it has no allegorical intentions, general, particular or topical, moral, religious or political.)” I believe him. But you don’t really think he came up with all those characters out of thin air do you? All writers of fantasy have to pull from their real lives and experiences, because fantasy ISN’T REAL. I know, real shocker there. But I’ve read Tolkien’s biography, actually two. You can’t really understand the books until you understand the writer. ↩