I’ve often wanted to be a hobbit. I have big hairy feet, enjoy food and live in the country. Unfortunately I don’t smoke a pipe and I’m 6’4. If I wandered into Hobbiton I would probably be bullied for not smoking and being tall, such is the way of things.
But I have been a life long fan of Tolkien. Well, not for all my life obviously. Not when I was two years old, for instance. I was a fan of pooing and saying “Sma smee smoo sma” back then. No, I have been a fan roughly since the age of eleven in 1982, when my best friend at that time, Wayne Weston, was bought a sinclair ZX Spectrum, complete with a copy of The Hobbit.
It was one of the first graphical adventure games available on a UK home computer. What this meant was that instead of just reading bare text, you got to see a picture too. Adventure games were quite popular in 1982 although the parser was quite primitive and fitting in a large vocabulary into the program was nigh on impossible. You might be faced with the description “The cave is blocked by a large boulder. To your left is a lever and on the right wall is a strange hexagram. Strange wailing sounds can be heard behind you and the magical orb in your pocket begins to glow.”
But if you tried typing in “Pull out my orb and throw it hard at the boulder while I begin the third incantation from the book of Bangor” you would receive the response “I do not understand.”
Most often, all the program would accept would be “Pull lever.”
In my teenage years I finally got around to reading The Hobbit, swiftly followed by The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. By the time I was 16 in 1987, I had also read the wonderful biography of J.R.R.Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of Tolkien, The Silmarillion and Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, which disappointingly had nothing to do with Middle-Earth.
Let’s fast forward twenty six years. I am now living in Avebury, on a large farm with horses, dogs, cats and enchiladas. It is Christmas and part two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy is out in the cinemas.
Yep. I know.
The original book has just 255 pages and yet Peter Jackson has turned it into three films each lasting three hours. The reason he has done this is because he likes the number three. It isn’t because he thought the Lord Of The Rings trilogy of films were so successful and spawned such a huge amount of lucrative merchandise that he wanted to repeat that to put more coffers in his pocket.
No, of course not. That would be obscene.
So on Christmas Eve I have a wonderful Christmas dinner with my landlady, landlord and landchildren.
“Hey, would anyone like to come and see The Hobbit on Boxing Day?” I ask, coyly.
Marcus and Theo were the first to respond.
“Sure,” they said in unison (that’s as in ‘together’ and not as in ‘representatives of the trade union of nurses and teachers’)
Imogen, Tarquin, Orlando, Diana and Adam also professed extreme interest in this anarchic night out, so the following evening we set off for Greenbridge.
Greenbridge. Now there’s a name. If ever you go there you will notice a distinct lack of bridges. And of green. There are, in fact, no green bridges in Greenbridge. It’s a retail park that has a cinema and tons of eateries all positioned haphazardly on grey lifeless concrete. There’s nothing green about it at all, apart from the radiation left over from the experiments into superhuman strength that were conducted here back in the sixties.
So we all piled into the auditorium and the film began.
To sum it up simply, Peter Jackson has turned it into a chase movie. The threat of pursuit and capture is constantly reinforced with the audience, with shots of the ugly twat-faced orcs lumbering some miles behind the squat bearded topically plump dwarves. The book is not like that at all. The book, published in 1937, has a far more sedentary pace and the characters are fully formed and not painted with the broad brush strokes that Peter Jackson has painted them with in his bloated excuse for a film.
In the book, Radagast the Brown is just fleetingly mentioned. In the film he is given a huge amount of screen time. In the book, Gandalf’s involvement with the Necromancer in Mirkwood is explained with the line “I drove the Necromancer out of Mirkwood.” – and rightly so as it had nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with the plot in the original book. In the film, this story line is given just as much weight as the quest to kill the dragon.
As Inigo Montoya was so fond of saying, “Inconceivable!”
However, this brings me to the redeeming feature. The Dragon.
Smaug is rendered majestically and through the art of computer graphics, has been brought to life in a way that Tolkien himself would have been proud of. Smaug retains all the smugly smirkiness that was apparent in the books, and his interactions with Bilbo towards the end of the film make the wait worthwhile.
So to sum up, if you like chase films watch it. If you like fantasy films, watch it. If you like dragons, watch it.
If you like sensitively directed hardcore Japanese porn accompanied by a classical soundtrack, then this isn’t the film for you.