I settled down to watch the Hobbit on tv one evening last month, having missed the cinema release of the first, and then realising that they’d made it into three (and wondering how). As I watched it I had lots of thoughts, mostly culminating in the idea of comparing books and their films on here every now and then. I watched Prisoner of Azkaban for the umpteenth time earlier in the afternoon (I was slightly poorly, hence the tv-fest), so maybe I should do that too.
I’ve reviewed the Hobbit on here, of course. It was a re-reading, since I’d read it after I got hooked, lined and well and truly reeled in by Lord of the Rings when I was about 16. When I got around to reading the Hobbit I had been disappointed. The re-read, maybe thirty years later, left me feeling kinder towards Bilbo, more aware of Tolkein’s story-telling style to juniors, and filling in gaps in the tales of Middle Earth.
To be fair to Peter Jackson, this is what he’s tried to do with the films of the Hobbit. Fill in the gaps. I realised that when Bibo turned up in Rivendell (really?) with Galadriel and Saruman paying a visit to Gandalf and Elrond (I bet those four loved having a re-union – I mean the actors, of course) and filling in a whole load of visually rich stuff about Radagast getting evidence of a Dark Power re-emerging in Dol Guldur. Radagast was one of my favourite characters, so at first I was dismayed to find him caricatured, but then I quite enjoyed the visualisation of the Shadow falling on the Greenwood. I’m glad [spoiler alert] that he saved the hedgehog!
But it seems to have turned The Hobbit into a relentless chase/fight continuum. It was tiring watching all the WETA-enabled CGI, magnificent though it is, occasionally spotting the switch between CGI and real actors. Some of the fights were so fast and furious I wondered what on earth it was like on a big screen, because it was dizzying (and not in a good way) on my quite reasonably sized small screen.
Violence. I really don’t understand what is acceptable, either the detail or the amount, in a kid’s book, let alone the films. To me this was unnecessarily violent as a film, and almost continuous. That’s really why I started thinking about a blog post – as relief from the fighting.
The set pieces in the book were well done in the film. It’s visually amazing, and I think it deserved a crock-load of technical Oscars. But has it made me want to watch the others in the series? It has not. I might go and watch an extended version of one of the LOTR films again, though. Eye candy galore 😉 Although hats off to whoever cast Thorin Oakenshield!
The winner… the book, for Middle Earth afficionados. The film, for CGI geeks. For entertainment? I don’t know, it probably depends on your age.