While some bits of the world are enjoying the opportunity to see the Battle of the Five Armies in the last of The Hobbit franchise, I’m waiting (like many others) for its release in Australia. Which is Boxing Day. Soooo far away. That means Doctor Who Christmas Special and BotFA in the same 24 hours.
Anyway, to tide myself over there are all the official trailers, unofficial trailers, interviews, launches and Lego versions I don’t have enough hours in the day to study. The film better be long, otherwise it will feel like I’ve seen it already. In the meantime, I did get my hands on the precious (are we over precious jokes yet?) Extended Edition of the Desolation of Smaug.
Surely I’m not the only one excited by this? Hours of background information about scenes and decision-making. There are all those interviews with film makers, artists, crafters, actors, CGI gurus, writers, stunt and make up people and relatives of individuals who once knew someone who worked with a New Zealander who had a cousin visit the set once.
I’m making fun, but as a person interested in the creation of things, I do want to see behind the scenes. I love the result (mostly – where I’ve had issues, I’ve mentioned them). I’m on board with the documentary making. Some people think this steals the magic from the main event, but I can manage to get caught up in the narrative, while also considering the decisions and choices that went into the creation of such a behemoth of an experience.
But the very best thing aspect is the extend plot. More story! Who doesn’t want more story? It’s the one thing fans demand with their favourite series – more time in the world. This time we get it.
I do appreciate that there are critics of Peter Jackson’s vision and story telling. That’s fair enough, we don’t all have to like the same things, but surely we can agree his work rate over more than a decade is pretty inspiring? Surely we can’t doubt his love of the world? And he kinda reinvented the NZ economy too.
If you can’t see the effort, that’s fine, you can make your own film versions or appreciate the books. I do appreciate the books. Always have done. But a film is different to a book and my imagination is different to Jackson’s imagination. To me, he is not wrong and I am not right: we are different. I would make a different film. For instance I imagine Beorn quite differently, but his house was congruent to what I pictured in my head. And you too would make a different film. Because interpretation (even if budget and skill were equal). I am willing to consider the films on their own terms.
Where my disagreements really lie are in those moments I am pulled out of Jackson’s Middle Earth by an awkward shift in tone, or by some scenes that seem a bit video gamey, or by a mismatch in perspective (some characters look gigantic next to the Dwarves and Hobbits). I’ve mentioned this before, but what stood out particularly is Tauriel being hurled the apparent insult of ‘She Elf’. The word She is not an insult.
Overall, however, I’ve enjoyed the ride and look forward to the finale. I’ve appreciated Jackson’s efforts to infuse The Hobbit series with the kind of gravitas LoTR naturally had, by strengthening the links between them more overtly, mirroring themes in LoTR, and making the worlds more cohesive by reducing all the problematic elements of Tolkien’s endearing, but sometimes condescending story telling.
While The Hobbit becomes a children’s story book prelude to the epic saga of LoTR, the films rightly elevates the main narrative of the story, which is the heroic arc of Thorin and his kin. As much as Bilbo is transformed and is important as a thread for the stories, Thorin is the centre of the action. Bilbo is the narrator, watching Thorin, even as he is involved. Bilbo is gracious enough as a writer not to make himself the hero of his own memoir.
Forgetting the sheer scale of all the films, and the detail, Jackson’s main achievement is lending the Dwarves more dignity in their quest, without dismissing entirely all of the light heartedness in Tolkien’s portrayal of them.
This should be better appreciated. All such quests deserve their time in the sun.