|They Fled Their Halls, To Dying Fall, Beneath His Feet, Beneath The Moon
||[Jan. 3rd, 2013|03:32 pm]
We saw The Hobbit – or, perhaps I should say, Peter Jackson's Hobbit – New Year's Day.
(There may be spoilers. For a book published in 1937.)
I promised my wife faithfully that I would only complain about 117 errors and poor decisions, no more, at least not that day. However, two – no, three – no, four – no, five – major themes stuck out for me.
The first, of course, is that I can hear the writers and producers in the background singing a Padding Shanty. Some review pointed out that Jackson had a time of it trying to fit all of LOTR into 9 hours. Here, he's desperately trying to come up with 9 hours of material from a much smaller, simpler, morally simpler book. Pad, me boys, pad it on! Pad this bastard until the dawn!
I know precisely why they added a third movie. Some suit somewhere said "Remember how much money the third movie made the last time! We need a third movie to capture that revenue!"
Second, it was filmed as a 3-D movie. That still means that it has a lot of Bwana Devil in it. It means that at all times, everyone will Throw All the Things directly at the viewer. Nothing moves except perpendicular to the screen. I haven't seen anyone throw an axe yet, but they will. They will.
The figures stand out from the backdrop, of course, and that means we will swirl the camera constantly so that you can tell. We will find reasons to have vast chasms everywhere. If you notice, about two-thirds of all action and dialogue occurs at the very lip of an unrailed abyss. (One railing is furnished, but it is immediately dragonated.)
No wonder people report nausea from the high-density 3-D image; they have motion sickness. It's like Late Night Horsefly Cam – the point of view swoops and swirls and darts and circles and bobs and yaws and never, never just rests on anyone or anything.
Thirdly, I noticed a lack of continuity. Rivendell didn't look all the same; the dwarves clothing and gear had almost nothing in common with what Gimli carried only eighty years later; even Bag End was bigger and different. (And still absolutely awesome.) The goblins looked nothing like the punk Ferengi of the LOTR movies. Elrond looked different, too, but that's because they had to spackle Hugo Weaving (as well as Elijah Wood) to regress his apparent age. Hard playing an immortal when you're not.
The last two have to do with Jackson's vision and technique. Once again, Making Movies ran away with him.
• Anything CGI'd is stupendous – the Stone Giants are half a mile high and locked in mortal combat, rather than of a scale Gandalf could talk to, and playing catch, as they really were.
• Someone else pointed out that there are five "Nooooooooooooooo"s, despite the fact that no one, anywhere, ever, has ever yelled "Nooooo!"
• Again, as in LOTR, everything had to be turned up to 11. If there's plot or character development going on – let's throw it out and film something cinematic! We'll throw people off cliffs! The scene where the dwarves, Bilbo, and the Wizard are up trees with orcs attacking them – this is boring! Let's have all the trees suddenly fall over toward the huge cliff and pep it up some!
• Despite the dwarves and the goblins being expert tunnelers (when the goblins bother), let's film random chasms full of ramshackle walkways! Everywhere!
• Considering those walkways – remember to work in references to the video game and the amusement park attraction you'll market later!
• Swoopy swoopy swoony camera work!
• Quite a bit of what the characters went through – mostly in the goblin caverns – would have been instantly fatal. Such as several thousand-foot falls. Such as having a half a ton of dead Great Goblin land on you at terminal velocity. But, hey, Wile E. Coyote can do it, and we need the comedy!
• A lot of borrowing and outright stealing. Why the frack did the Great Goblin have Salacious Crumb? (And why was the imp a secretary? Is there a Goblin Post?) The characters tumbling from swaying and collapsing cliffs was right out of the worst part of the escape from Moria. And let's not talk about the giant round boulder rolling through a tunnel…
Fifth – and this sincerely troubled me about Jackson's Lord Of The Rings as well – despite the fact that much of this is heroic fantasy, no one is allowed to be heroic, or decent, or generous. The Dwarves – Thorin's family and allies, trying to be as prepared for a hard job as they can be, focused and determined – are all comic relief or cynical Stepanie Meyer Fan fodder. Half the time, I would have sworn I was watching the Mac Nac Fleegle instead. Thror becomes paralyzed and besotted with greed, hand-carried out of the disaster instead of escaping with his son and a way back. Gandalf has twice been into the dungeons of the Necromancer himself – it's where he found Thrain and received the map – and twice rescued the dwarves (from the trolls and from the goblins); most of this is eliminated or blurred over. When they run into the trolls (who are dressed and shod in the book), Gandalf is off scouting the road ahead, not sulking after loosing an argument. Bilbo is caught trying to pick a troll's pocket, not used as a handkerchief by accident.
Also – sixth, I suppose – Jackson compresses things so. You may remember in the movie LOTR, after the Long-Awaited Party, he rides off and comes back a day or two later with the full story? It was actually nearly twenty years later. You could see both the movie Barad-Dur and Orodruin close to the Black Gate, despite their all being a couple weeks journey apart. And so forth. Well, here, he compresses most of the Third Age into a week. The meeting of the White Council probably went off much as he showed – a hundred years earlier. A dark power had re-occupied Dol Guldur and Greenwood had become Mirkwood – eighteen hundred years before, not that Tuesday. (There was a meeting of the White Council around this time, but they were sure it was Sauron re-risen by then, and Sauruman was assuring them the Ring had washed out to sea long ago. They did get his growing greed for power nicely, though.) Azog (wtf?) had been dead 150 years or so. Compression!
Though, what he does well, he does well. I had not actually processed that Balin does most of the talking for the Dwarves, but he's well-done. There was no contract, but there was an offer letter with the same language; close enough. The maps and the riddles were unmolested. And Gollum – ah, Gollum. We can't, of course, now un-know who Gollum is. And sifting in actions later revealed in LOTR (especially the appendixes) actually makes sense. JRRT, in 1936, didn't know a lot of this, but we do now, and much of it fits. I would have done it absolutely differently (and kept, of course, a lot more of the original language), but so far, not terrible.