Once Upon A Hobbit

As a diehard Peter Jackson fan my mind blew when I learned he was going to be adapting the epic fantasy series. I had followed Jackson’s career since I first saw the VHS box for his firs film BAD TASTE.

There was something fun and outrageous about his style that I adored and in seeing his LORD OF THE RINGS I was utterly taken with the world he created. Fantasy films are a genre I have always liked but there just aren’t a whole lot of them that I like or that are, well, good. At least to me.

LORD OF THE RINGS though hit all the notes to make a perfect tune for me.

I remember when there was talk that there was going to be an adaptation of the earlier book in the series, Tolkien’s children’s book THE HOBBIT. Along with Jackson I also adore Guillermo Del Toro and the notion of him taking a turn in this world was amazing. I love the dark worlds that Del Toro created and thought that him working int that world would be fantastic.

Then there was the drama of the studio behind the adaptation hitting money trouble, stopping production and that dream of a Del Toro HOBBIT faded away.

In came Jackson to save the day.

I can’t imagine it was an easy YES that came from him when thinking of adapting the book, but it had already gone deep into pre-production and so much money had been spent and work done that he took the job. I remember that there was excitement in the fandom but also weariness.

We fans love our movies but we also love to turn heel and hate those same films for giving us too much of what we want.

As the two film HOBBIT adaptation became three films eyes rolled, shoulders slumped, and fists shook.

Then when it was all said and done and there were more extended editions and fans and pundits alike pulled out the spit so they could roast Jackson for all to see.

Here’s the thing though, if THE HOBBIT adaptations are ‘bad’ then brother, I will take more of those sort of bad movies.

When people go on and on about bad movies I have to laugh because they really need to see more bad movies.

REAL bad movies.

Just like the hate for the STAR WARS Prequels.

I get it.

They weren’t the core series, but they weren’t meant to be.

They took risks on tech and story and they tried to walk a tightrope between being for kids and adults.

They weren’t entirely successful, but they were fun and kept the same heart of the newer films. The thing too is that it’s OK not to like a movie, or a series.

Totally cool.

But the modern contrivance of needing to burn everyone and everything down that you dislike is the pettiest and most childish nonsense in town.

Get out of there with that.

With the world where it is my wife and I decided to delve back into the world of Middle Earth and thus we started with the HOBBIT trilogy.

I get it, these didn’t need to be three films.

These didn’t need to be nine hours of films.

This is Jackson catering to himself and to the fans. This is him taking the story and stretching it out to make room for new material, old material, and to add bridges that lead into his previous films.

And here’s the thing, on that end, I love it.

I love that he had the guts and the opportunity to make this one world, and one series.

I would have loved to see what Del Toro would have done but I live what we got.

This big, rich world of horror and danger and adventure that tells one big, epic story.
I love that.

I love that the HOBBIT films give us a different look at Middle Earth, full of song, and family, and strangeness.

Again, there’s a lot that is meandering here, for sure, but if you are into these films and this world, I dunno that you mind.

It is rare indeed to get a world this rich, this well realized, and this dense, I am happy to sink into it.

That said, yeah, there’s too much in here to consider it ‘The Hobbit’. Which I suppose is why each chapter gets its own subtitle. Each film is, in its way, its own story. Think if these as a mini-series.

Is this true to the book?

Yeah.

It is.

The heart of it, the story of it.

It is truer though to the heart of the Tolkien world though, filling the film with mythology, backstory, history, and characters, characters, characters. Tolkien was someone desperately in love with his lore and the work he put into creating it and these films are the same. They are decadent and stuffed to the point of being overstuffed. These are the work of a fanboy as much as a master filmmaker. I think though, it’d be hard for Jackson to have done these films any way other than how he did. With Del Toro, he could have adapted the book and done it his way, with his view, and yeah, it’d be ‘part of the world’ of LORD OF THE RINGS but it’d be able to stand aside from it as well. With Jackson returning it would have been false for him to take all he’d learned, created, and the teams he’d put together to not make a film that bridged to his grand epic. In some ways it’s as if Jackson and company took THE HOBBIT and told it through the prism of the storyteller that Tolkien became. Whether he should have done that or not is up to Tolkien scholars to argue over.

For me, it makes sense.

The films can be taxing

They can be eyerolling in some of the choices that are made, but these are fun, engaging films.

I can’t imagine how much fund I’d have had with these as a kid discovering these.

The biggest flaw, for me, with the entire story is that Smaug is clearly the star of the tale but he isn’t in but half of the book/film. Hey though, it’s called THE HOBBIT though, not the big old dragon guy.

I have to say that while when I saw it earlier the humor that fills the HOBBIT films didn’t really do it for me but on this re-watch it’s charming, and for as dark as it gets, it’s needed.

I can absolutely see why folks would take issue with the decadence here though. With the navel gazing on hand. For me, it’s forgivable. Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens pack too much into the film and add characters that were never a part of the series, but you can see WHY they did it. They add women into a series that was HEAVY with just men doing man things. There’s a love story slipped in to play up the themes they were digging into and the notion of how segregated this world was. While it doesn’t completely work, it still works overall and adds some sweetness and tragedy to the whole of the story.

I have to say too that I love the arc that some of these characters have. Bilbo feels more a part of things in the films, and sure, sure, he’s the start of the show in the book but my man also sleeps through a chunk of the climax so it’s nice to see what the heck was going on and not being told what happened.

Highlights of the HOBBIT series for me –

There And Back Again’s humor and the introduction of the party at Bilbo’s. This is where the film shines, in showing the personalities of the dwarves and that they are funny, and why they are driven to do what they do.

The Desolation of Smaug’s portrayl of Smaug is fantastic and captures the grandeur and terror of the great beast.

Battle of the Five Armies really caps the series off with the climactic battle and the sad irony of all the needless death that fills this film. Greed and ‘dragon sickness’ are alive and well today and causing just as many wars and deaths.

         For me, the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy of films are some of my favorite films of all time. I love the world they created and the story they told. While I don’t hold the HOBBIT films in the same esteem, I still do love them and would rather lesser films of that same ilk than most of what we get down the cinematic pipeline.

I certainly prefer these to most of the other fantasy films we get.

Even if it’s Jackson forcing it, mimicking himself, I’d rather that than to not have had it at all.  There’s for sure too much here, action scenes go on, and on (and on), they force story where there didn’t need to be any, and they take what was a sorta simple adventure story for young people and make it into a grand and expansive epic.

So be it.

I’ll take THE HOBBIT series at its worst and love it all the same. Clearly, I’m a fanboy so the sins in the series I am willing to forgive, like the STAR WARS series. I can see them, but I can let them go. The films take liberties with the original source, but they adapt the heart of the series and treat THE HOBBIT not as a side story but as an integral part of the whole that sets up the conflict to come. The themes of greed, revenge, friendship, brotherhood, and the price we pay for war are still there, just fluffed up a little like a lovely pillow for a big old bed.

Maybe it’s the American of me but darn it, I’ll take too much of this good thing happily, treating it as the appetizer to the main course of the LORD OF THE RINGS films.

Bring ‘em on.

…c…

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