The Hobbit – Look past the CGI

January 4, 2014 2:08 pm

This December marks the release of Peter Jackson’s ‘Desolation of Smaug’, Or The Hobbit Part II. Admittedly this is set to be the film of the festive season, but given it is Christmas time, when frantic materialism often clouds the true meaning of the season, it seems only right we look to the story’s origins.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit“. J.R.R.Tolkien’s famous line which began the book that immortalised one Bilbo Baggins, to the delight of children and adults alike. Whilst Tolkien’s words flow through the novel, it is Jackson’s work which has claimed the voice of Mr Baggins, and along with him a host of other characters, even some who do not exist. However, one cannot fault Jackson’s work, which is always exciting and fast paced. The presentation of Bilbo and Gandalf are particularly good, played so imaginatively by Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen. The films both move at a thrilling pace and captivate the audience, once again, in the marvels of middle earth.

However, the bright lights of Hollywood have, for a fourth time, significantly driven the magic of Tolkien back into the hobbit hobbit bookhole from whence it came. The printed words of the author have broadened the minds of young and old readers alike for decades, and yet I fear for the effect defining it on the ‘Big Screen’ will have. What is left for the imagination?

The Script too fails to grasp the story in its entirety, something which films rarely do. We lose the arduous and lengthy journey, as after a couple of hours  it is already the end of the film. The brevity is, to say the least, unsatisfying. This is not to say Jackson’s script is without its merits, in fact, one of my favourite lines in the first film is an addition to the book. When Gandalf remarks, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay“, it reminds me of Tolkien’s deeply thoughtful tone that permeates his writing. These moments are a rarity however, instead we lose such words, such as “So comes snow after fire” and “even dragons have their endings”, an ever present reminder that all bad things end, just as good ones do. This children’s novel captures the very cyclical nature of life.

But there are few metaphors to be found on the screen. A moment of thrills and then nothing more to offer. In truth, Jackson’s films have helped give a valuable story even greater renown than what it once had, I hope far more will want to experience the magic of Tolkien in his pages as opposed to Jackson’s reel. This is no battle between screen and scribble, both have their worth. But, whereas the value for cinema is shown in the billions of the box office, a novel’s reward is the  planting of ideas in the mind, after all even the smallest things can slay a dragon.

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