“Desolation of the Imagination”…

is Fr. Dwight’s first subtle clue that he has some issues with the latest Hobbit movie.

Like Steven Greydanus, I give it a C. It’s not Tolkien’s Hobbit. It’s fan fiction based loosely on the Hobbit, by a man who has millions and millions of dollars to waste on trying to indulge every epic action movie permutation he and his pals can think of, plus a dumb romantic triangle and a couple of really tin-eared appeals to a culture that now believes in pagan, not Christian, virtue. For me, just as Faramir was a massively deaf misreading of the character, so there is a moment in this movie when a character who would never in a million years (in Tolkien’s universe) harm an enemy in his power chooses (in the pagan mind of Peter Jackson) to both promise a prisoner his liberty and then murder him in cold blood when he has trusted that promise and divulged what he knows. There is a nightmare gulf between Tolkien’s moral universe and that one and the fact that Jackson seems to be oblivious to it, as he was oblivious to the fact that Aragorn would never kill the Mouth of Sauron during a parley is a reminder that Jackson and his screenwriters don’t really get Tolkien very deeply. They have gotten talented artists to master the visual aesthetic. But with the Hobbit, Jackson’s tendency toward excess is now unchecked he chooses hurry and visual spectacle every time. It’s a pity.

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  • bear

    I saw the movie. It vaguely reminded me of a book I read when I was

    I have been frustrated by the LOTR and now the Hobbit movies. There are
    times when Jackson comes ever so close to the books, but in the end he gets it
    wrong. He is trying to do a post modern take on a set of writings that were a
    rejection of modernism, and he never once misses the opportunity to miss the

    Further, I would say his take on Faramir was a misreading in the same sense
    that stating that Hamlet is a play about a little girl who wears a red cloak as
    she goes to visit Grandma’s house in the woods is a misreading. There are such
    things as differing valid interpretations. That is not a misreading. There are
    interpretations that go wrong- that is a misreading. Faramir was no
    misreading. He was flat out wrong.

  • Dan

    “It’s fan fiction based loosely on the Hobbit.”

    I saw it as a prequel to Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies that used The Hobbit and the appendices of The Lord of the Rings as source material. I disliked it because I really like The Hobbit and Jackson’s movie sucked out the whimsy and light-heartiness out of it. I think the second movie, especially, took out the soul of the book and replaced it with needless CGI violence.

    What makes it worst, for me anyway, is that most people seem to like Jackson’s version over Tolkien’s children’s book.

    • That’s my biggest disappointment in the Hobbit movies. I would have loved to take my children to see them, but they are too intense and “dark.” The Hobbit was a children’s book, and it should have been a children’s movie(s). Done right, it would have been just as appealing to adults (well, some of us).

      I’ll still be seeing this movie, however. Especially because it’s been getting reviews all over the map, which tells me there is something good in it.

      • Rachel K

        I taught “The Hobbit” to a seventh-grade class. I wouldn’t be allowed to show this film to a seventh-grade class. This is a problem.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    How did they manage a love triangle? I don’t remember any women in the book at all (and I think even I would have heard if it was an all-male triangle).

    • Jackson added a female elf (which I am ok with), and then created a love triangle (which I am not ok with because dammit, women do care about stuff other than romance).

  • I knew it. I disliked An Unexpected Journey the first time I saw it and hated it the second time. I think my chief task if I ever become a father will be keeping my children away from these abominations. (Slightly TIC, but only slightly.)

  • bob

    The males can’t speak, only yell or rasp in a hoarse, seething laryngitic whisper. Very little character, lots of testosterone. Too much. Tolkien has left the auditorium. READ THE BOOK.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I find that in general I don’t like movie adaptations of books primarily for the fact that their vision of the characters, scenes, etc will supplant my own formed when reading the book.

    I agree with what you’ve written of Jackson’s approach. I saw the LotR films, and based on those decided not to see his Hobbit film. I’m thinking that a wise decision based on posts like this one and those you’ve linked.

    If you’ve got to watch a screen adaptation of The Hobbit, watch the 1977 animation. You can’t argue with this sort of memorable music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkqjc23yqs

    • HornOrSilk

      Although it skipped a few things, the Hobbit cartoon is FAR more faithful to the book than Jackson’s and I am glad I have it on DVD.

      The new movie, imo, if you go in, not thinking “Hobbit” but “Dungeons and Dragons movie loosely based upon the Hobbit” it is an ok film (and felt better than the last). However, the Hobbit it is not. Jackson’s hubris is all over it. The elf love triangle is enough to show this (it totally ignores the relationship of the races, and why Gimli’s veneration of Galadriel later was so special!). Smaug starts off fine, but then Bilbo takes off the ring (!) and the Dwarves play chase with Smaug for 20 mins. Seriously, again, fine for a “fantasy film” but not for “The Hobbit.”

      I would give the movie as a movie a B-. I’ve seen a lot worse. But I would give it a D- for representing Tolkien. It’s not the worst Jackson has done (Two Towers, to me, is the worst), but, I hope one day someone does a “fan edit” of the Hobbit films, to cut out what can be cut, and we might get a “C+” version out of such an edit.

      • Dave G.

        My family and I watch the R&B Hobbit every November. For my money, it’s the best over all adaptation of Tolkien. It skipped a few things, and simplified a few others, but for a TV version, it gives what is needed. As my oldest said comparing things, R&B skipped the Arkenstone, Jackson skipped the Hobbit.

        • chezami

          The R&B Hobbit is okay, but I think the hiphop Hobbit is outstanding.

          • Dave G.

            Hiphop hobbit? Missed that one!

            • ivan_the_mad

              Then you should be sure not to miss this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGF5ROpjRAU

              • Spastic Hedgehog

                Aaaaaaaaand it’s stuck in my head. Thanks guys!

                • ivan_the_mad


              • Oh, I hadn’t thought of that in ages. I first discovered it way back when I was working 15-hour days, 7 days a week, on a federal trial. It didn’t help my morale or my sanity.

              • Rachel K

                My brother-in-law’s review of this movie was, “Do you wish the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins were nine hours long? Then these are the movies for you!”

  • Dave G.

    My oldest saw it. He gave what I think is the worst rating of a movie a person can give: it was forgettable. He said the next day, he couldn’t think of anything in the movie that was worth remembering.

  • Dave G.

    BTW, a little trivia for all us Tolkien fans. When Jackson was doing the rounds for King Kong, he was saying that this was his lifelong dream, to remake Kong. I caught an interview with him on one of the early shows on the networks (CBS or something). He was asked how that squared with the assumption people had that he had always wanted to make LoTR. I remember his answer well. He said since he saw the original, his dream was to remake Kong. He and his girlfriend/partner wanted to do a ‘swords and sorcery’ movie, but never had time to build a believable world. At that point, he thought of Tolkien and figured that would be a good place to start. Then he went on about talking about Kong. I’ve thought of that often as I see where the series has gone. I’m inclined to believe him, that he just saw Tolkien, in the end, as a good launch pad for what he really wanted to do all along. Fair enough, but it makes sense.

    • HornOrSilk

      Also explains why they constantly belittle Tolkien’s narrative. They really do not get him. I mean, I can understand some changes for the sake of a movie. Tom easily was skipped, but when you think “women are not well represented by Tolkien,” they undermine the real women who were in Tolkien’s works. Plus, they have to understand Xena isn’t real and couldn’t really exist, even if it was filmed in NZ!

  • Elmwood

    I figured out that this movie was going to stink when I watched some scenes online of a giant golden thror statue and smaug flying around covered in molten gold.

  • Rachel K

    Having never read the appendices or the Silmarillion, I’d always assumed that the Mouth of Sauron was basically Sauron’s meat-puppet–an empty body that was an extension of his will. The scene of Aragorn killing him never shocked me because with that reading, it would have been the moral equivalent of clipping Sauron’s fingernails. Then I read the reactions on the Internet and found out that I was apparently wrong. Sigh. Now I can’t watch that scene the same way.

    • Dave G.

      That was a massive switch from Tolkien’s universe. The book itself says that he was an individual with a history. That scene was just one change of course. But a flagrant example showing that Jackson has little interest in maintaining the heart or message or morals that Tolkien conveyed. That’s what sets Jackson apart from the other attempts. No matter how convoluted or lacking some of the other attempts were, they at least tried to maintain the heart of what Tolkien was after. By now, Jackson has thrown just about everything out the window. Like my son said, the only thing missing from The Desolation of Smaug was the Hobbit.

      BTW, it could be that he’s making these movies for a generation that really doesn’t care. I noticed that if you put Character names in from Twilight or Harry Potter (even such as Dumbledore or Hogwarts) there is no ‘spell error’ indicator. But Smaug, Gandalf, Eldrond? All errors. It is, as my boys say, a target audience generation that thinks Empire Strikes Back was boring and stupid, but Phantom Menace was awesome. That could explain much.

      • Rachel K

        Really? That was in the book itself? This is what I get for posting about my vague recollections of something I haven’t red since high school. Mea culpa.

        • Rachel K

          READ since high school, autocorrect.