Okay. Now that my spleen has been somewhat emptied into the totally productive activity of writing and publishing to the internet a semi-serious fixfic outline, I feel I can slightly more critically evaluate this film.
Before the spoilers, I will say this.
When I first came away from this film – which, again, I did actually enjoy while I was watching it – my attitude was one of disappointment and not a little resentment at Jackson and co for having lost their touch. Whatever it was that made LOTR so fantastic had not carried over to The Hobbit franchise, and I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the director, scriptwriters and producers, which is mostly the same team that did LOTR, with the addition of Guillermo Del Toro.
And then, after talking to a friend about it over fancy cafe breakfast with extra hash browns instead of disgusting fungal growths that some people seem to enjoy ingesting due to whatever quirk of evolution it is that has stunted their ability to reason, I realized the awful truth.
No, they haven’t lost their ‘touch’.
They were always actually this bad.
And I mean yeah, ‘bad’ is a harsh word, but my point is that the only major difference I can think of between these films and the original trilogy (ugh, we now have another Original Trilogy vs Prequels war) is the source material.
Here’s the thing: in LOTR, there was actually a lot of annoying bullshit that they did in terms of creating ‘conflict’ or ‘drama’ that I flat-out overlooked because the rest of each film was so fucking amazing. But it was there, from Aragorn not wanting and never having wanted that power, to Faramir being a totally different character to who he was in the book of Two Towers yet ironically no less annoying, to Elrond showing up in Return of the King to tell Aragorn that Arwen is dying for … some reason. I mean from the look on Aragorn’s face I just assumed Aragorn interpreted Elrond’s speech with a sense of ‘oh, right, Elves’, and that ‘dying’ to Elrond is just run-of-the-mill mortality. But no, it seems that for some reason Arwen really was dying, and … again, why?
There’s lots of ‘insert drama here’ stuff in those films that does not need to be inserted, is what I’m getting at. And it’s the same kind of ‘insert drama here’ that is used in The Hobbit.
Which is where the main difference comes in: with LOTR, those instances of forced conflict constituted a bare minimum of what was going on, because they were working with three of the most data-rich literary tomes ever written, at least in terms of fiction, and they had to cut things out. They were spoiled for choice, basically; they hardly had to make anything up to fill in the blanks, and when they did, I think it mostly worked. There are people who don’t like the Elves showing up at Helm’s Deep and I can respect that, especially given what the Elves are all about and that it’s not necessarily about being good neighbours, but for my money it’s just more satisfying. They’re right there (although how the fuck did they beat the Uruk-Hai to Helm’s Deep?), and they hate Sauron, and it just makes them a little more likeable to have them help out instead of running away. Again, I totally get the critique and I kinda agree with it in terms of thematic resonance and heralding in the Age of Men, but still.
Whereas with The Hobbit, they’re stretching a single book into three two-and-a-half-hour films. The source material does not stretch that far. Therefore, they have to make shit up to fill in the running time they’ve allocated themselves to utilize, and this is exposing the problems that have existed in terms of direction and artistic license with this team from the beginning, not revealing some new evidence of how power corrupts or whatever. And yes, I hate the CGI Orcs as much as the next person (I really do), but that is not the main problem. The main problem is that nothing has changed, the team has not gotten any better …
And I really have not given enough credit to the source material for the first three films, because now that I compare these two franchises and look at the creative decisions that Jackson and co made, it all comes down to the source material for me. And I already love the books. Tolkien was working overtime from beyond the grave to make those films what they are.
Although, again, they did take one book – one children’s book – and stretch it into three films. I’m not saying that power hasn’t had any influence on their decision-making process. But I shall stop myself before launching into a tirade about what happened with actors’ rights and legislation changes during the whole ‘we’ll take it overseas’ debacle before the films started shooting, which I do think is despicable, but may also have been beyond Jackson’s power to stop, and perhaps also in his best interests to allow. There’s enough to get through just focusing on this film.
And speaking of creative decisions: did you ever feel that what Tolkien’s work was really missing, the one ingredient that would have made it complete, was a love-triangle?
Apparently Peter Jackson did.
Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/70053949760.