Thursday, December 11, 2014
A MATTER OF HOBBITS
Pardon my probable bias here, but back in the 60s as a very impressionable reader, I fairly devoured The Hobbit and the Ring trilogy in the order in which they were written. As a result, I tend to regard the former as a prequel, a kind of fireside tale that cozily inducts us into the greater seriousness and scope of the Trilogy. And so it has remained to me. As C.S. Lewis noted in 1937, “The Hobbit will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later. . . will they begin to realize what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true.”
But something has gone wrong in Jackson’s adaptations. The sprightly charm of Tolkien is replaced by a deadly serious tone and a riot of special effects, characters, and concussions. Why not accept the book’s more modest dimensions and charm on their own terms. . . rather than blasting them to smithereens, apparently in the service of pandering to a younger generation of LOTR fans who are presumed to ignore anything that doesn't smack of the outsized pretensions of the Trilogy? And who, if they even bother to check out the original The Hobbit, may find themselves disappointed (?), if not confused, by the different kind of tale they find in those pages.
The effect is like taking a folk tune and serving it up, dressed and basted into full-blown symphonic proportions. To further mix my metaphors, like firing it out of a cannon. Like what Aaron Copland did when he took his starkly impressive "Fanfare for the Common Man" and blew it up in his Third Symphony. Or like what Max Beerbohm said when he took Henry James’s verbosity to task when he charged him with "taking an elephant gun to a pea."
I will forever revere Jackson for what he did with his team of filmmakers in restoring the "Spider" sequence to the original King Kong. Now THERE was an act of respectful, even reverent homage to Willis O'Brien's film. But here, with the Hobbit films, I feel he has seriously gone off the rails.
Please, PLEASE, take The Hobbit films only for what they are. . . and reserve for yourself the more relatively modest, but wholly agreeable pleasures of Tolkien’s book.