The Epic Shoehorning of the Hobbit

12/17/2012 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments

So, I need to watch the Hobbit again in something other than HFR 3D.  I loved the experience, I would just like some contrast.  I also want to find out if I hate it as much the second time through.
I'm one of those people that was frustrated by the changes from the books in the original series.  I could swallow them, because some were understandably necessary and others were true to unpublished Tolkien material.  That's all cool, but the biggest frustration was the way they remade the characters to fit into the simplistic archetypes you can find in every movie, specifically with the Hobbits.  Frodo was supposed to stand out because of his character in spite of his physical disadvantage and difficult road, but instead I feel they made him cave to every temptation and trip over every obstacle possible.  It was a fundamental misinterpretation that was difficult to get past (and still is), but I learned to come to terms with it.

Now, I don't know if Peter Jackson has no real ability and just got lucky with the original series due to the quality of the source material, or if he just got cocky and misinterpreted critical success for an artistic licence to do as he will, but he went too far with the Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey.

First of all, the same critical misinterpretation of Bilbo's character turned him into a one dimensional character that was difficult to watch (same for most characters, but specifically Bilbo).  They also turned an intimate story of a difficult journey into another chase scene that seemed eerily reminiscent of The Fellowship of the Ring.  The number of scenes that were literally just recast that we've already seen were too many to count.  The term I keep on using to describe the story treatment is "shoehorned."  Elijah Wood was shoehorned into an unnecessarily drawn out opening scene.  Gandalf's booming voice a la FOTR was shoehorned in the discussion over the journey at Bilbo's table.  Unnecessarily foreshadowing to set up  the LOTR trilogy was shoehorned in.  Galadriel's appearance (and awkward romantic interaction with Gandalf?) was shoehorned in.  Azog, the "Pale Orc" was completely fabricated and shoehorned in.  A recreation of the stairway scene from Moria in FOTR is awkwardly (and just as unrealistically as the first time) shoehorned in every time Jackson get the opportunity.

I could go on.  I'm not mad because it's different.  I'm mad because it's worse.  The inherent problem with many of the changes is that they take heroic actions or decisions out of the hands of certain characters and hand them off to chance (or Gandalf).  Bilbo is shamed and shoved onto the journey where he is hesitantly accepted by the dwarves who were also shamed into accepting him.  Gandalf encourages Bilbo to take Sting instead of letting Bilbo discover and choose the blade for himself.  Thorin is motivated by retrieving the dwarve's treasure instead of adventure and honor.  All very small subtle seemingly innocent changes, but all unnecessary and character changing.

I have this mental image of Jackson finish his first reading of the Hobbit, setting the book down, and saying "Now, how can I make this a story someone would care to follow."  If it's going to be changed, why does it have to be in a way that changes and flattens characters instead of added content to draw out the intricacies of each person?  After recovering from my initial shock (and complete boredom of sitting through this flat uneventful movie), I will re watch it and hopefully find it more enjoyable under a different context, but if this movie didn't have the Hobbit branding I would have left before the party arrived in Rivendell.

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