As I said in my last post, I was “in Middle Earth,” a.k.a. re-reading The Hobbit and re-watching the Lord of the Rings movies for much of January.
I saw the new Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug after it had already been out in theaters for about a month, because I was determined to finish re-reading the book before I saw it. Joel, on the other hand, purposely avoided refreshing his memory on the events in the book because he wanted to be able to see the movie without comparing it to the book.
But me, I’ve already written about how movies based on books can’t be direct adaptations and good moviemakers (like the ones who made The Hunger Games) will use the format to their advantage. I was going in open-minded. I would never unfairly compare a movie adaptation to its source material.
I’m kind of eating my words because, yes, I was disappointed that the movie adaptation of The Hobbit has strayed from the path Bilbo and the dwarves tread in the book.
In my own defense, my argument in the post I wrote about the Hunger Games movies was that successful movie adaptations are “more interested in capturing the tone of the book than recreating every scene and piece of dialogue in the text.”
This is not so much the case in the Hobbit movies*. (So far, anyway.)
Let’s talk for a minute about The Hobbit. (The book, that is.) If I were to ask you to tell me what it’s about, you’d probably say “it’s about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins” or maybe “it’s about taking a journey” or “it’s about a hobbit who goes on an adventure.”
This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the most recent Hobbit movie. I did. But the movies aren’t telling the story of a hobbit and his adventure. In fact, I’d say they’ve strayed so far from the source material that it’s hardly fair to say the movie is based on Tolkein’s novel. “Inspired by” would probably be a more accurate statement.
It seems to me, the intention of Director Peter Jackson isn’t to visually recreate the events of the book – it’s self serving, setting up the events in the Lord of the Rings movies.
In a piece in Forbes, video game critic says exactly my thoughts more succinctly than I ever could: “… with both trilogies, I can’t help but think that Jackson has missed the forest for the trees, turning Tolkien’s story of courage and friendship and the horrors of war into something else entirely. Not something bad, really, just something else.”
The most obvious example is (what else?) the ring. Since the book is fresh in my head, I can say this with some certainty — innumerable times, Bilbo “slips on the ring and steals away.” In the movie, Bilbo instead contemplates the ring, gulps, and then puts it on and stays completely still while a giant spider or dragon or weapon-brandishing elf takes aim at him.
Oh, and what’s Gandalf up to in the book? Tolkein spends exactly one sentence explaining his whereabouts. In the movie, it’s a major plot line as it leads directly to the events in the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring.
And this is where the people who made the Hobbit have gone too far (I think) from the tone of the source material. They’re following multiple story lines: Gandalf’s quest to find the necromancer; the elves involvement in preparing for the battle that’s coming in the third movie; what the bad guys are up to, especially in relation to events that are coming in The Lord of the Rings.
The movie is barely even about the hobbit!
And this is especially disappointing, because Martin Freeman is so good in these movies. It’s sad how little screen time he gets — even as the titular character. There’s a scene in The Desolation of Smaug when he’s on screen, alone (presumably acting in front of a green screen) for two solid minutes with no lines, and it’s riveting and fun to watch.
So I’ve kind of written myself into a corner. I don’t want to be too dismissive of the Hobbit movies. They are, indubitably, well made and fun to watch, and I’ve made it clear that I’m not concerned with 100% accurate adaptations from page to screen. But I was a bit let down by The Desolation of Smaug. I guess it all comes down to how movie #3 turns out.
*I should note that I’m only talking about The Hobbit and its movie adaptations as I have not ever made it past the first chapter in the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.