Tolkien Reading Day!

Today, March 25, is Tolkien Reading Day. If you haven’t read any of Tolkien’s works recently, this might be a good excuse to start. I plan to start reading Tolkien’s The Book of Lost Tales, Part II today (or soon).

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To Adapt, or Not To Adapt? (a response to Kat Sas)

Why does everybody hate me?
Why does everybody hate me?

In response to my “trolling” on Facebook, my friend Katherine Sas published a post on her blog Raving Sanity in which she discusses why some film adaptations fail even though they seem to superficially resemble the book. In “A Series of Uncorrelated Events,” she notes that adaptations can sometimes get bogged down in trying to convey the details of the source material without paying sufficient attention to the story in the film (a “paint by the numbers” adaptation). Although I generally agree with her argument, I think it worthwhile to look more closely at the different types and range of adaptation choices.

Before going further, let me clarify that I do not intend to engage in a debate with Kat Sas about the Watership Down adaptation. I enjoyed the novel and thought the movie was passable, but truthfully do not feel particularly well versed in either. Rather than pretend to be an expert on that story, I will engage with her analysis of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium.

Continue reading “To Adapt, or Not To Adapt? (a response to Kat Sas)”

Very Merry Unspoilers: Unfinished Hobbit Business

A great overview of some of the plot holes and lingering questions in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy…

The Oddest Inkling

Today and the rest of this week I am participating in The Battle of the Five Blogs about the new Hobbit movie. It’s not really a battle, of course: merely a chance to share ideas in a kind of Round Robin of blogging. Here are the other bloggers:

Brenton Dickieson of A Pilgrim in Narnia
Crystal Hurd

Matthew Rettino at The Vinciolo Journal
James Moffett is of A Tolkienist’s Perspective
Kat Sas of Raving Sanity

(Please don’t point out that makes SIX blogs. I’m an English teacher; I don’t need to know how to count.)

hobbitSince I have already written my official review of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for Christianity Today Movies, this is not a review. It’s a list as long as Bilbo’s contract: a list of Items of Unfinished Business. As I wrote in my review:

There are many pieces of unfinished…

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“The Hobbit” fan edit

In my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, I commented that I’d love to see a fan edit that removes some of the most egregious deviations from the book. There’s a lot of good material in Jackson’s trilogy, but large parts of it simply undercut the story. Well, my wish has been granted! The Tolkien Editor has recut all three Jackson films into a single 4-hour film. It’s not perfect, but it’s a much more faithful and watchable adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. You can watch the whole movie here.

Note that the edit does not include footage from the extended editions. The Tolkien Editor suggests he might release a new version after The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition comes out in November.

What I would have changed in “The Hobbit”…

hobbit-battle-five-armies-bilbo-posterI’ve spent several days reviewing – and often criticizing – Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit. In general, I’ve concluded that the films would have worked better if they had stuck closer to the book. Tolkien’s novel is a tight narrative and adapting it piecemeal is perhaps riskier than simply abandoning the text. That said, I can understand the argument that, in telling his own story, Jackson did not deviate enough from the book. The Riddles in the Dark podcast in particular has noted how Jackson sometimes remains faithful to the book even when doing so undermines the film’s narrative. To emphasize the point that I’m not simply criticizing the films for deviating from the book, let me suggest several changes that Jackson could have made that would have improved his story: Continue reading “What I would have changed in “The Hobbit”…”

“The Hobbit” Trilogy Retrospective

thehobbit-movie-670In my reviews, I’ve been somewhat harsh towards Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. These films have been some of the most difficult for me to review. Subjectively, I can still enjoy these films for what they are. They work as action-adventure movies set in Middle-earth. At times, they’re visually stimulating, even if occasionally they rely too much on CGI. Some of the acting is excellent. Martin Freemen’s performance will likely be the definitive version of Bilbo Baggins for years. Objectively, the movies are flawed and lack emotional resonance. Moreover, the trilogy is not a faithful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Continue reading ““The Hobbit” Trilogy Retrospective”

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” by Peter Jackson

hho8ZnXIf The Battle of the Five Armies (Bot5A) is the capstone of the Hobbit trilogy, there is some payoff, but the payoffs are often too quick to truly satisfy. For example, Smaug’s attack on Laketown was beautifully rendered and easily the high point of the film. But it was over by the time the title appears. If you happened to arrive at the theater a few minutes late because you were buying popcorn or had to use the restroom, you might have missed the sequence entirely. This scene should have been a climax of the story, not an add-on.

*** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD *** Continue reading ““The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” by Peter Jackson”

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” by Peter Jackson

Hobbit-Desolation-of-Smaug-PosterI loved the The Lord of the Rings movies, and An Unexpected Journey had some precious scenes, but… what happened with The Desolation of Smaug? The story is simply becoming convoluted and risks losing track of the main characters. It also completely misses the tone and spirit of the book.  Continue reading ““The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” by Peter Jackson”

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” by Peter Jackson

hobbit_an_unexpected_journey_comic_con_poster

I’m torn over how to assess Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit. Parts of An Unexpected Journey stay very faithful to the book, and those parts generally work well. However, the changes to the book fall flat. I was fine with the changes Jackson made in the LotR movies, but in AUJ he strayed a bit too far from The Hobbit. Unlike in the LotR films, where changes condensed plot points or clarified character arcs, most of the changes in AUJ seemed to divert the focus away from the main characters and plot.

Continue reading ““The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” by Peter Jackson”