Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Hobbit

Before reading this post, please note the following disclaimer: I haven't, as of writing, actually seen any of the three movies in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. This is based on what I've gleaned from the chatter, both on the interwebs and personal communication.

The Hobbit trilogy is not the abomination everyone makes it out to be.

Now, hear me out. Those of you who know me well realize that I'm a staunch advocate of books over their derivative film adaptations. Books allow our imagination to see things however we want to based on the limited description provided by the author. Our minds are unfettered--for the most part--by visual and audio representations of the textual work. Which means that we get to take part in the creative experience with the author. Movies we just experience what the creators give to us, because the experience is at once visual and auditory. Which means that for the creative mind, a book will always be superior to a movie. It was true for the Lord of the Rings movies. They are still the top three movies on my list--which probably needs some updating, but not a lot, since I've been home--but they aren't as good as the books. It is also very true for the Hobbit movies, I'm sure.

However, there is a key difference that is apparent between the book and the movies. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is fun-story fantasy. The Hobbit by Peter Jackson is epic fantasy. (If you're confused, see here) Everyone complains about how Peter Jackson put all these different things that aren't in the book into the movies. There's a lot to be said about that. It's quite true. A lot of that stuff isn't in the books at all. That doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't things that could have happened. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is a bedtime story--not to be told in one sitting, but a bedtime story. As you read the novel, it becomes apparent that is so. As such, there are all kinds of holes and details that could be fleshed out--but this is fun-story fantasy so there's no need to. It in fact doesn't deserve to all be written in--that's part of what keeps it at the fun-story level. Peter Jackson took the liberty of fleshing out the story and turning it into an epic. Does that mean every addition is OK? Not necessarily. I'm sure I'll have my fair share of complaints when I see the movies. But I can now approach them with the right mind-set.

If you are looking to the trilogy of movies as representations of the book, you will come away sorely disappointed. Simply the fact that it's a trilogy of full-length films can tell you that. However, if you can separate them from each other a little bit and recognize that the films are a epic fantasy rendering of the fun-story fantasy novel, the changes and additions begin to make sense.


  1. I expected some sort of negative reaction, but I didn't think I would actually turn you into a negative emotion incarnate, which is the best way I can interpret the meaning of that slang phrase. Can you explain to me what has caused such a vividly negative response in you?

  2. Dude, I've written like three blog posts on the subject.

  3. I've read your blog posts about it. I'm not saying that everything Peter Jackson did was acceptable or right. You pointed out some major plot changes that I hadn't previously known about--like I said I haven't seen the movies. Some of those are simply inexcusable, much like the Faramir ordeal in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But much of what you mentioned was the changing of the story to an epic fantasy--and giving it the title of fanfiction is apt. It's a fanfiction rendering of The Hobbit as an epic fantasy as opposed to a bed-time story. Beorn would seem more harsh. Focus would be shifted away from Bilbo. I apologize that Peter Jackson hasn't read every word that Tolkein wrote before he made his fan fiction--but I would hope you, as a self-admitted writer of fan fiction, would allow others that liberty.

  4. Perhaps I haven't been clear. I have no problem with fanfiction whatsoever--I actually find it quite entertaining at times. People have the right to reimagine the series however they want to, Peter Jackson included. Human beings are creative; at times, we do this reflexively. But one of the best things about fanfic--and one of the reasons it works so well--is that it's free. You write it up, stick it up on the internet (or not; I never did), and anyone knows that, whether they like it or not, it's not the "real deal." The thing that bugged me was that I paid the price of two adult movie tickets to consume a product that wouldn't have held my interest if I'd found it on on fanfiction.net. That's all. I'll be interested in hearing what you think once you've seen the movies. :)