Oh goody! John C. Wright Reviews “The Hobbit…

The Desolation of Tolkien”.

It is as thorough and hilarious an evisceration as I could have hoped for. The one and only point he leaves out (for me, the single most offensive moment in the movie and revelatory of a conceptual and moral gulf between postmodern Jackson and medieval Tolkien) is the ghastly moment where Thranduil, having promised freedom to the captive orc if he will talk, then sudden beheads him after his cooperation and explains that he “liberated” his miserable head from his shoulders. In no conceivable universe of Tolkien’s would an elf, or any character of honor, behave so.

But aside from that omission, JCW’s piece is fan-freakin’-tastic. Enjoy!

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  • His lady wife reports it is even funnier if you have it read aloud to you with the substitution of ‘banana’ for ‘stupid’.

  • Dave G.

    I’m curious about those who say they loved the first Hobbit and then say they hated the second. Or vice versa. After all, most of what people didn’t like about either was in both, just in different degrees. From missing the subtle to adding unnecessary story lines to Jackson’s now legendary over-directing, it’s all there in both. True, the first one stuck at least somewhat closer to the basic story, but that’s about it. That’s like saying I loved the Ewoks but hated Jar-Jar. Both are from the same mold and point to the same issues, IMHO.

    • Imrahil

      I don’t say the first was bad.

      However, the first did have times when it went to – as to what I remember – a hardly credible roller-coaster journey under the mountain, full of enemies, but they repeatedly got out by one inch. This was not so much present in the second.

    • Imrahil

      On the other hand, Mr. Wright makes good points. Just read.

      • Dave G.

        More why the second is so bad rather than why the first, which has much of the same, is any better (though according to my son, it is worse, but that’s not saying much).

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I’m baffled by Jackson’s HOBBIT films. I’ve only seen the first one, which I disliked so much that I have yet to muster the courage to sit through the second. Jackson’s LotR films, while they certainly had their problems, really went out of their way to be respectful of Tolkien’s work and worldview. The times where they really missed the boat (like Faramir) seems to have been honest misunderstanding rather than willful disrespect.
    With THE HOBBIT, it’s almost as if Jackson said to himself, “All that effort to remain true to Tolkien’s work … man that was hard. Sure it made the films wildly popular, but this time I think I’ll just throw all that out the window and make a Dragonlance movie!”

    • The only respect to the source material I’ve ever seen in Jackson’s movies has been set and costume design. The movies themselves feel like Brave new World adaptations.

      • Chesire11

        I watched the first of his LotR movies, and found it tolerable, at least until they reached Lothlorien, at which point Jackson did such a graceless job with the temptation of Galadriel, and then botched the whole ending. He did well enough that I was willing to plunk down my money for the second installment, only to walk out of the theater halfway through, after wincing, cringing and writhing in agony at his prolonged act of vandalism.

        • Oh, I watched them all. I even own them all. But I maintain that when Rankin & Bass can write a better Eowyn than Jackson, that he ought to slink away from Tolkien’s work in shame.

      • Subcreator

        I strong feel, however, that while the visuals of the movies are mostly fantastic, Jackson doesn’t deserve any credit for this. The most he deserves is credit for being clever enough to hire people like John Howe and Alan Lee to help with the design of the movies. Howe and Lee are brilliant Tolkien artists. Gandalf, for instance, who was visually just right, was directly out of a Howe illustration.

        • Mark S. (not for Shea)

          Hiring Howe and Lee was the best decision Jackson made. You don’t make a Conan movie without looking at Frazetta, and you do NOT make a Tolkien movie without hiring John Howe and Alan Lee.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Great review from Mr. Wright. Reading it, I noticed something I hadn’t before. In this pic of the lovely Evangeline Lilly: http://www.scifiwright.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/lilly.jpg
    It occurred to me: Anyone who has ever shot a bow can take one look at that and tell you she isn’t going to hit anything. Her arrow is going to go wildely off to the right because she has it nocked on the wrong side of the bow.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Well, I have no intention of seeing the movie, as I am a card carrying Tolkien geek from early childhood, and don’t know why Peter J. couldn’t just have filmed the damn book, which is a rocketing good story and would have made a great film.
    That being said… elves in Tolkien are indeed capable of doing great evil deeds. The Silmarillion is full of such things – Feanor and his sons abandoning their Noldor kinfolk on the ice to a near certain death, the Noldor themselves killing the ship building elves (whose name escapes me) to steal their ships, various slayings of dwarves by elves (and vice versa). Elves are noble creatures in Tolkien, but hardly free from sin, and (if I remember the book correctly) Thranduil and his wood elves are fairly paranoid and self-protective, and it’s not beyond possibility that they would kill an orc like that. Not in the book, mind you, but not outside Tolkien’s ‘elfology’.

    • Chesire11

      The elves are succeptible to avarice, and obsession as in the case of Feanor, and his sons’ obsession with the Silmarils, as well as Thingol’s lust for the Nauglamir. Galadriel likewise succumbed to trhe call of the Silmarils, though she later redeemed herself by rejecting the One Ring.

      The common thread running through all of these events is that it takes a lot for an elf to fall from grace – they don’t do it lightly nor gratuitously with a glib line. They succumb only to great passions, and once they do, they are “in for a penny, in for a pound.” The offhand execution of a prisoner for no purpose simply wouldn’t have occurred to them, to say nothing of the fact that it would be very much out of character for the elves to even take an orcish prisoner in the first place. (The battles between elves and orcs were generally to annihilate each other.)

      • Fr. Denis Lemieux

        I bow to your superior Tolkien-lore!

  • ” The one and only point he leaves out…is the ghastly moment where Thranduil, having promised freedom to the captive orc if he will talk, then sudden beheads him… ”
    I think Mr. Wright missed that scene because Peter Jackson had knocked him to the floor with the Stupidity Hammer.
    But yes, his critique was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more!

  • Shawna Mathieu

    The part that really pissed me off? Jackson apparently caved to all the people who screamed about the lack of strong female characters in the books (usually blamed on Tolkien’s Catholicism), and that he has to rectify this. Therefore, Tauriel , the strongest elf character in the movie.
    I don’t find this affirming – I find it condescending, like, “Women don’t like fantasy – we have to stick a female character in there, even if we have to make hash of the source material.”
    The feminists who’ve cheered on Tauriel have, I noticed, ignored the usual sexist thing that happens to the token SFC – a romance shoehorned in so you can see the “softer side”.

    • Dave G.

      See Arwen, Warrior Princess in the first trilogy. As young as my boys were, they asked ‘if she’s not afraid of the Nine, why doesn’t she go with the Fellowship?’

      • Shawna Mathieu

        In “Fellowship”, I could accept the way they did Arwen, because, instead of just flat making things up, they merged her with another character, a male elf who’s one scene is taking the ailing Frodo to Rivendell. It was the later stuff (the whole BS her life is tied to the ring, blah blah blah)that made me mad.

        • Imrahil

          Also, the line “there is no ship no that could bare me hence” is an actual Tolkien line. It comes from “the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” and is uttered in 120 IVth Age. At the time it is supposed to be said in the movie, it is plainly wrong…

      • Shawna Mathieu

        They really wanted to do the “Arwen Warrior Princess” thing even more in “The Two Towers” – they wanted her at the battle of Helm’s Deep. I know they actually shot some footage of that. Apparently someone realized it would have screwed up the storyline badly (what do you think Aragorn would have done if she was there, for one thing?), and it was taken out.

      • Imrahil

        Well, because the point of an elf princess is not going on quests of course…

        But, to do Peter Jackson justice, the same question might be asked in the original: why does not Glorfindel, or Elrond himself for that matter, go with the Fellowship? Elrond actually discussed that w.r.t. Glorfindel and choses the 9 for some precise reasons (including a certain magic about the number 9: if Pippin had been sent back as Elrond intended, then Glorfindel surely would have been sent with the Fellowship).

  • Ciaran in Ireland

    I strongly dislike all of Peter Jackson’s adaptions of Tolkien’s works. Yes, the special-effects are good but the man can’t handle pacing or tension. Even the most simplest of scenes in his movies always culminates in a near-excruciating emotional crescendo. His worst crime was having Frodo banishing Sam on the Stair of Cirith Ungol in The Two Towers.

    Upon learning Legolas and some made-up elf babe were in part two of The Hobbit, I deliberately boycotted it and have no regrets.

    What irks me the most is that, to a certain extent, these dire movies are transplanting the general public’s perception of books whereby the latter wrongfully become secondary. For example, I heard this quiz question on the radio yesterday. ‘Frodo & Sam are friends in which movie trilogy?’

    I bet Jackson is already planning to ruin The Silmarilion in movie form.

    • bear

      I believe the Tolkien estate decreed that Jackson shall not get the rights to any more of Tolkien’s writings after seeing what he did to LOTR. However, by that time he already had procured the rights to the Hobbit.

  • dasrach

    I’ll admit it: I greatly enjoyed Jackson’s take on LotR. There were problems, but none of them ruined my enjoyment of the movie. However, as someone who absolutely adored the book of “The Hobbit,” I’ve found Jackson’s adaptations instructive. I never really understood why people hated the LotR movies so much; now I look at how much I hate the “Hobbit” movies and realize that LotR purists hate his versions of those books with the same vehemence that “Hobbit”-purist me hates his version of these.

  • Terry Mahoney

    My favorite review of the Hobbit Smaug movie:

    I really liked the new Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug theme park. I rode on all 5 of the rides, and the only one that was a little boring was the part with the barrels in the water.

    Other than that, all the rides were thrilling. It was nice to not have think and just sit back and enjoy the physical sensations for once.

  • John C Wright

    The only reason why I did not mention that atrocious scene with Thandruil acting like a bad guy from a MAD MAX film and betraying a prisoner to whom he promised clemency is that I clubbed myself in the head with a box of popcorn when it happened, producing a severe and butter-substitute-flavored skull wound, producing short term memory loss. But now you have reminded me, and the pain, the awful pain, returns.

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    Not true! Caranthir would have done that — especially to an Orc or a Dwarf or another Elf or a Man or a Hobbit.

  • Diana

    I like “Taurisue” but one of Mr. Wright’s commenters calls her “Taurible” and that’s awesome too.