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1.30.14 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Film Comments, 1)

1.30.14  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Film Comments, 1)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Line Cinema, 2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Line Cinema, 2013)

Hi, Everybody!

If last year’s installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit brought us through Chapters 1-6 of the tale, then last month’s release made for a very exciting interpretation of Chapters 7-12 (“Queer Lodgings” through “Inside Information”). 

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Before continuing, though, please remember two significant words, “adaptation” and “interpretation.”  In the past month, I’ve seen way too many dismayed reactions on the part of die-hard The-Hobbit-as-Book fans to the release of The-Hobbit-as-Film Part 2’s The Desolation of Smaug. I believe that an essential part of that outrage and/or disappointment is expressed because the reviewers forget the one truism of any film that derives its material from a book, especially when Hollywood gets involved:  you’re going to get some essentials of the source material, but never a word-for-word explication of the written text.  

Tolkien, Hobbiton-across-the-Water

Tolkien, Hobbiton-across-the-Water

Hobbiton (set from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure, 2012)

Hobbiton (set from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure, 2012)

Who’d want that, anyway?  If I want to read a book and follow the author’s intent, I go read the book and remain within the bounds of the tacit agreement I have with the creator that his or her use of language is going to fire-up my imagination (and even that agreement fails sometimes…sit in an English Lit class sometime and listen to debates that occur about authorial intent within just a written work)!  Once a book makes the jump to a completely different medium, all bets are off because completely different demands and expectations come into play.  It’s one thing for me to read Adriana or Seth chapters of The Hobbit at bedtime each night, because by following a chapter-by-chapter narrative of Bilbo’s adventures “there and back again” we are in the same pacing and moments that Tolkien hoped and expected when he wrote the book back in the 1930s.  Should we expect that same kind of pacing and textual interaction to translate to the big screen?  Maybe, but that’s a question of personal taste.  Given some of the irritation that certain reviewers are feeling with the film versions of The Hobbit, I wonder if the Jackson’s films are being judged on their own merits, or against (my belief) some idealistic yearning for a chapter-by-chapter, line-by-line adaptation of the 1937 children’s story.  

See links below for some of the accusatory fingers shakily leveled at Jackson & Co. for having dared to depart so greatly from Tolkien’s source material, but you won’t find this viewer among them.  If I want to see a “faithful” line-by-line adaptation of The Hobbit, I can always turn to the fantastic 1977 Rankin-Bass animated version! (Still holds up after all of this time…). 

The Hobbit (Rankin-Bass, 1977)

The Hobbit (Rankin-Bass, 1977)

For the family and me, we’ve been very excited by (& grateful for) Jackson’s version of Middle Earth as it appeared on 13 Dec 2013 because his approach to The Hobbit is simply that: an approach.  Allowing for the 1977 animated adaptation, by 2012’s appearance of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure, 75 years had passed since the 1937 publication of The Hobbit (and, let’s say we use the 1960 mass-market paperback version as a marker, that’s still 54 years!), with no one able to make a film version worthy of the attempt. 

Ian McKellen, Gandalf

Ian McKellen, Gandalf

Think about that for a second, and then combine that fact with the reality that, for whatever quibbles one might have with Jackson’s attempt (in a couple of blogs from now, I’ll express some things that didn’t quite work for me…), at least we’re finally getting a healthy dose of Middle Earth in a series that does many, many things right! I still defy anyone to point-out anything wrong with the rendition of Chapter 1’s “An Unexpected Party” from last year’s effort, or, similarly, how well-realized was The Desolation of Smaug’s depiction of Lake-town in the adaptation of Chapter 10’s “A Warm Welcome.” 

The Hobbit: DoS (Stephen Colbert cameo, Lake Town)

The Hobbit: DoS (Stephen Colbert cameo, Lake Town)

(And, hey, did you all catch the cameos of Tolkien-fan, Stephen Colbert, and his family in the Lake Town scenes? They were among the informants that reported Bard’s moves to the Master. See:  http://www.pajiba.com/miscellaneous/)

What do you think?  Thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Peter Jackson’s latest effort?

Next time:  More thoughts on the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Link to IMDB’s full cast & creditshttp://www.imdb.com/Hobbit_Desolation of Smaug

Positive Reviews:
Peter Bradshaw, theguardian.com http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/dec/08/
Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway, theonering.net : http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2013/12/07/
Justin Chang, Variety.comhttp://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/
James Hoare, SciFiNow.com:  http://www.scifinow.co.uk/blog/
Nick de Semiyen, empireonlinehttp://www.empireonline.com/reviews/
Ben Kendrick, screenrant.com : http://screenrant.com/hobbit-2-desolation-
Jim, Vejvoda, ign.comhttp://www.ign.com/articles/2013/12/07/
Josh Wigler, CBR (Comic Book Resources).com: http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2013/12/12/

Mixed Reviews:
Brendon Connelly, bleedingcool.com : http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/12/14/
Mohammad Kamran Jawaid, Dawn.com  :  http://www.dawn.com/news/1077526/
Mark Kermode, theguardian.comhttp://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/dec/15/
“Mithril,” onering.net :  http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2013/12/
John Ostrander, comicmix.com: http://www.comicmix.com/reviews/2014/01/26/
Jazz Shaw, hotair.comhttp://hotair.com/archives/2013/12/28/
Peter Travers, rollingstone.comhttp://www.rollingstone.com/movies/

Negative Reviews:
Aidan Moher   http://aidanmoher.com/blog/2013/12/
Robbie Collin, telegraph.co.uk : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Timothy R. Furnish, theonering.net : http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2014/01/11/
Thomas Monteath, theonering.net :  http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2014/01/30/
Emir Pasonovic, bleedingcool.com : http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/12/22/

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