08 December 2014

diversion/rant: PJ and the Hobbitses

Sir PJ has done amazing work on the Hobbit trilogy. 
No, that is not a compliment, coming from me!

When I look back on life to see things that shaped me, Tolkien's classics come quite early - before Tangerine Dream (1974), my first really good camera (1972), both Yes and dreams of wilderness treks (1970) -- even just before my first telescope (early 1969).  My sister handed Middle Earth to me in sixth grade, so in 1968 I began my 'unexpected journey'.  I read it countless times over the years, and willingly stood in line three times for opening-night showings of the Lord of the Rings.  I felt several serious disappointments in its execution but overall found them to be good story-telling with insights I hadn't caught on my own (e.g. Saruman being the prime antagonist and not merely serving Sauron after the wraiths' fall at the Ford of Bruinen).  What was done with Faramir was inexcusable and lamely explained away as contrary to the Ring's evil - yet Tolkien himself had no issue with Nûmenor overpowering Sauron both here and in the Second Age.  (yes, go ahead and say it: I am a Fundamentalist Tolkienist!).

I was looking forward to the Hobbit as a film.  When it was rumored as two I was still cautiously OK. Once it reached three I feared that Sir PJ had far more story to tell than Tolkien himself did.  This came true swiftly as Azog failed to die at Nanduhirion and became a major player (diminishing Dain Ironfoot in the process, my favorite non-human just as Faramir was my favorite human in LOTR).  When the childhood tale mutated from a tedious jaunt in failing weather to a life-or-death chase to Rivendell, all I had left was the Gollum scene.  That went quite well, though even there it did not sit right: Bilbo held Sting at Gollum's throat before reconsidering, which would glow regardless of the Ring I'm thinking.  The Great Goblin scenes were silly enough to be in Tolkien's original intent for a scene, but other than CGI gone wild it did nothing for me other than allow me to roll my eyes away from the screen.

The second movie was as ugly as I expected, though PJ was kind enough to allow Beorn a few lines and Bolg to be introduced.  Radagast is insulting, Tauriel gratuitous - and Dol Guldur never captured Gandalf by the way.  Early scenes at the Lonely Mountain was nicely done, up to Smaug chasing dwarves  - then off it went over the top again with molten gold waiting for a lever to be pulled and everything being just in the right place and time.  Ugh.

Now I've watched many snips of the final part in trailer form, and while shocking nothing surprises me in its telling of a story I do not know.  I figured that nothing could be diminished by my seeing them, and I was correct.  Doubtless a few great scenes await, but oh the annoying sideways plots to endure...

What really rankled though was the interviews with Sir PJ, Phillipa and the other WETA masterminds.  They spoke in reverent tones of their treatment of the work, noting with certainty that the Battle of Five Armies was Sauron's first real stroke in the War of the Ring which ties the two stories together so well.  This allowed them to create transitional scenes that would fit nicely into the previous work in the Fellowship and beyond.

That's entirely crap.
  • The Sauron that JRR introduced me to was well ahead of circumstances except for Smaug's demise; he was feinting his dissolution when the White Council cleared Dol Guldur, to reappear in Mordor as planned.  Fighting a major war would sorta show too much strength in Tolkien's happy-ending Hobbit book, and that's the ending this movie should have if Tolkien's intent were respected.
  • Sauron was not controlling the Misty Mountain goblins in their dreams of conquest; gold and radically annoying Dwarves was more than enough motivation!
  • The Woodland Elves must have been miffed at Thorin, but shoot to kill anything on the Mountain?  Oops, teaser.. :p sorry
  • Other than High Elves leaving Middle Earth (and Frodo did NOT meet any High Elves in the Shire!) that's about the only 'transition' that could be correct.
  • Sir PJ puts me entirely on the Tolkien family's side on the interpretation of events by their father/grandfather and I am relieved that so much extra material was withheld.  PJ and crew's arrogant statements that their work on the Hobbit movies transitions well into the flaws that they  introduced in LOTR?!?  To that I can only quote Thráin: 'this cannot be borne!'
There: I believe I am done.  I can move on without further expenditure of venom or any consideration of this work of fantasy that claims to reflect in any way the Tolkien material that I have savored for over forty-six years of my life.  Please keep these people away from the Silmarillion, Histories of Middle Earth and every bit of mythology, genealogies, botany, languages and other parts of Middle Earth that they might try to use for their gain.  

Ted Sandyman would be proud of Sir PJ and his team.  Oops, one last venomous drop!