|30 minutes into the movie|
Tonight I went to see Peter Jackson's final installment of The Hobbit with family, having seen the previous films together the last two winters. Rumors circulated that the third and last film stretched the book's final chapters with some gratuitous material borrowed from other Tolkien sources, which worried His Traddiness, but I decided the eight dollars could hardly be spent on much else that would occupy me for three hours. What a mistake. Only New York State wine could have been a worse entertainment purchase for eight dollars, although the wine would dull my ability to think about films as bad as this one.
Fifteen minutes into the film the dragon was dead, the denouement unraveled, I remembered the novel from fourth grade and said to myself, "This is where the book ended. What could they do from here on?" Make it up. Make it all up.
I know two of my readers are Tolkienophiles and that many of the rest will at least hold the Oxonian philologist in high esteem. I enjoyed The Hobbit when I was young and read The Lord of the Rings books once, but claim no expertise over the broader material that constitutes "middle earth." Still, I could not shake the feeling that Peter Jackson, or his bosses at the studios, were simply amalgamating bits and bobs of reference material from other Tolkien books to excuse the remaining 135 minutes of pseudo-Nordic warfare and slapstick inspired combat scenes. Genuine story and dialogue was substituted with vague, formalistic addresses to "X, son of Y, heir to Z" about fleeting, superficial ideas about friendship, love, and loyalty.
I liked the first Lord of the Rings film, Fellowship, and, aside from mercifully eliminating Tom Bombadil, it was faithful to the original story. Viggo Mortensen said last year that the first movie was the best in the series because it allowed the actors to bond as a fellowship and create the chemistry to make Tolkien's fellowship of the Ring a reality. The movie had a very organic feel and, while it was violent, the fight scenes never seemed self-indulgent. By Return of the King all those good traits were gone. The complex and confusing character of Denethor is made into a mere madmen so we can watch Gimli and Legolas squabble with ghosts.
Forgive Peter Jackson, for he clearly knows not what he does. Let us hope that there is nothing else he can bring to the big screen from Tolkien's bibliography.