Hobbit trepidation

November 24, 2012 § 15 Comments

Relatively speaking, compared to most of what Hollywood produces, the Lord of the Rings movies are wonderful art and entertainment. They are right up there among my favorite movies, and I do enjoy movies.

A big part of why they are great movies (as movies go) is because they are based on a wonderful story. I think the story is so good that despite the screenwriters’ best efforts to vandalize it a great part of what is good shines through in the medium of film.

But the Peter Jackson movies weren’t merely a transformation of art from one medium to another. They were also a kind of desecration. The character of Faramir was destroyed, the virtuous warrior remixed as whiny daddy-doesn’t-luuuvvv-me teenager. The nature of the Ring itself went from tempter -qua- powerful weapon – inherently powerless over a virtuous Faramir, as the slut temptress held no sway over a virtuous St. Thomas Aquinas – to a kind of banal science fiction mind control ray of universal effect. The decades-long loyal male friendship between Frodo and Sam becomes a strained, homoerotic bromance: like the paper thin loyalty of insecure teenage girls, their fragile foxhole cohesion cracks under the oh-so-terrible strain of Frodo’s new BFF Gollum whispering lies about that fatty Sam. And those are just off the top of my head.

One thing the Hobbit has going for it is that it was really just a little adventure written for children. It doesn’t share the epic grandiosity and deep virtue of its sequel series. But whether that ultimately helps or hurts remains to be seen, and I await the Hobbit with some trepidation.

§ 15 Responses to Hobbit trepidation

  • Scott W. says:

    For me, Peter Jackson’s Lotro films are like the little girl that had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When they are good, they are really really good and when they’re bad, they’re horrid. I do recall in the DVD commentary that one of the writers all but explicitly confessed that they made a mistake with the direction they took with Faramir

  • CorkyAgain says:

    In a lecture on LotR, Notre Dame’s David O’Connor explains how Peter Jackson “flattened” Tolkien’s epic vision into something more along the lines of a typical Hollywood western:

    http://ocw.nd.edu/philosophy/ancient-wisdom-and-modern-love/videos/lecture-19-video

    I’m not looking forward to what Jackson is likely to do with the closing chapters of the Hobbit, in which the tone and moral thinking begin to rise toward the level of LotR.

  • While agreeing with most of this, I’ll take issue with the characterization of Frodo and Sam’s friendship in the movie as “homoerotic.” I thought Jackson and his cast did a wonderful job of capturing that relationship . . . minus the part where Frodo sides with Gollum, something added, I’ve no doubt, to give the story more “drama,” not to give it hints of homosexuality, of which there were none in either book or film.

  • Zippy says:

    D.G.D. Davidson:
    I thought Jackson and his cast did a wonderful job of capturing that relationship . . . minus the part where Frodo sides with Gollum, …

    FWIW, I don’t know what my impression would be absent that scene and its aftermath; and of course there is no way for me to “unsee” it. As shown, though, I was left with the unmistakably strong impression of a spat between insecure lovers. It certainly didn’t “scan,” at all, as a realistic occurrence between two loyal old (male) friends.

    At the very least I would suggest that pervasively, the movies are completely blind to the nature of long standing friendships between men.

  • Arachas says:

    This. All of this. It’s so perfect it makes me want to cry.

    I have a problem with the movies. I recognize that they are great movies and great stories…but that has little to do with the movies, the script, or any of that. (I’ll grant great cinematography, mostly inspired casting, beautiful music, and great SFX, etc.) It’s because the books are just the best.

    I think the difference between my feelings and most sane people is twofold: one, I’m not a movie person. I’m a book person. Two: The books are very, very important for me. I love Tolkien’s works. I read the books as a child and they shaped my thinking, my tastes, my self. I’ve reread them over and over. I met my wife through our mutual love of the books, and we named two of our children straight out of the Silmarillion. I therefore do not possess objectivity, and can’t separate the movie from the source work.

    And what you said is so true: It’s a desecration. The major changes that you highlight take some important, pious themes in the books and just rub our modern sensibilities and sins all over them. I’d also include Theoden’s “exorcism”, Aragorn’s un-kingliness, as well as his super weird relationship with Arwen. (Maybe I’m wrong in thinking there are parallels between Aragorn and Arwen and the Marriage of the Bridegroom and the Church) It seemed to me that there were no reasons to make these changes other than because of a lack of understanding of or a diabolical aversion to the goodness there.

    (ie, do you want to show a noble figure struggling with weakness and temptation in the second movie? Great! He’s called Theoden. Instead you portray him as under some kind of demonic possession, and take the virtuous Faramir from “Not if I found it on the highway would I take it I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take these words as a vow, and be held by them. But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.” into some sort of Boromir Redux, because you could not imagine a man who doesn’t dabble in temptation.)

    Anyway, I’ve said too much, and must now wipe the spittle off my keyboard.

  • Scott W. says:

    While I agree with the general accepted list of crimes against the books, the only time while watching the films where I actually have to skip over something is when Faramir goes on his suicide mission to retake Osgiliath, Merry warbles some maudlin tune while Denethor eviscerates a chicken dinner. This scene is so overwrought that PJ deserves a knee to the crotch for it.

  • sad says:

    I don’t understand why anyone who loves the books would watch the movies. Tolkien has been dear to me since I was a child, so I have avoided these films; I expected them to be a desecration — or at least to miss the point of all that I loved best about these books. Why would you expect otherwise? And why pollute your mind with such stuff? Can you forget the images once you have seen them? When you return to the books, can you read them without remembering the films?

  • Zippy says:

    They are a desecration but also an homage: the people who made the films didn’t set out to desecrate the books, they set out to do them justice as far as they were able. It is kind of like some barbarian tribe who don’t really understand it putting on a version of the Nutcracker using native drums and pipes.

    For me personally the characters and scenes in the movie do not “overwrite” my own internal possession of what I think of as the “real” characters, for the most part. I read them too many times before the movies ever existed for that to happen. But there is that danger, I expect, and my experience can’t be reliably translated to others’ experiences.

  • Scott W. says:

    I don’t understand why anyone who loves the books would watch the movies.

    For me, they are good books, not sacred books, so when PJ goes off the rails, it is an occasion of eye-rolling and “pishaws!” rather than high dudgeon. And frankly, Tolkien was much more lenient about adaptations relative to his adoring fans. In one letter he was in contact with directors about some preliminary work they did for a film version (which obviously never got off the ground). He liked some of the things they showed him and disliked others, but ultimately he agreed with his publishers on a policy of Art or Cash. That is, if he was generously compensated, he’d approve of it within reason; if a producer wanted it on the cheap, then Tolkien would insist on artistic veto power.

  • sad again says:

    Of course Tolkien’s stories aren’t Holy Scripture. He would be the first to say that. But they do participate in the Good and the True and the Beautiful, in ways that most of Tolkien’s fans (including these filmmakers, apparently) cannot seem to comprehend. I have read the books so many times that I know them by heart; they formed me before I was catechized. They are precious to me! I am not so afraid that the films’ images will overwrite my own, but I do worry that I will have flashbacks every time I pick up a book. Zippy is fortunate if he is not so bothered. I can’t forget things at will.

    This piece is sort of interesting. The author met Priscilla Tolkien at the Oxford chaplaincy:

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8781291/dont-watch-the-hobbit/

  • […] The Hobbit, that is.  Banal, incoherent, flashy in all the wrong ways.   Martin Freemen was very well cast as Bilbo (he is fantastic as Watson in Sherlock); and the Gollum riddle scene was fun if still a bit “off”.  But the great majority of it was just “when does this atrocious thing end?” bad. […]

  • sad says:

    David Mills posts excerpts from an interview with Christopher Tolkien in Le Monde:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/17/tolkien-absorbed-in-absurdity/

    As anyone who bothers to read this far will recall, Christopher Tolkien prepared the Silmarillion for publication after his father’s death. As far as I know, he did not sell the film rights. I for one am grateful.

  • Zippy says:

    Well that settles what the Tolkien’s think of the whole thing.

  • DeNihilist says:

    And the Hobbit was…….

    According to my 19 year old son, who had just finished reading the book, so good that he has seen it 3 times.

    To his father, who last read it when he read to his son’s about 15 years ago, so bad that I will probably skip the next 2.

    Why would you take a story of such grace and turn it into 3 hours of running battles?

    Jackson, you are going straight to………

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