Friday, January 4, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Well, that was unexpected.

This goddamn badass motherfucking picture, the centerpiece of the crisp golden 1986 Ballantine mass market paperback of The Hobbit, immediately ensnared my fascination and enkindled my love of not only fantasy, but also boss-ass birds big as fuck.

It may come as a surprise to the majority of film critics, then, that I actually enjoyed An Unexpected Journey, despite its several and distinct deviations from the book's original plot. I have my structure issues*, of course I do, but overall, it had thirteen dwarves, three trolls, one ring and a slew of boss-ass birds big as fuck. I was well-satisfied.

What does not well-satisfy me are these assertions, made by many Tolkien diehards and book enthusiasts, that Unexpected Journey is not, in fact, an adaptation of The Hobbit. I take extreme exception to this analysis. Yes, there are several large deviations from the actual text, there's more context given for many of the events that occur and a greater scope is applied with several villains only mentioned in the book's background.

However, with the exception of like, three goddamn scenes you didn't like (Radagast, the White Council and Azog), the movie's about a fucking hobbit who lived in a hole until Gandalf and thirteen dwarves showed up, took him on a quest and then they encountered three trolls, met Elrond in Rivendell, crossed the Misty Mountains, were captured by goblins, the hobbit plays a riddle game, finds a ring, loses his fucking brass buttons, is chased up a tree and carried to safety by eagles. Unless you're a fucking moron, you can clearly see that bears a 90% similarity to the plot of The Hobbit.

Stop saying it's "loosely-based" or "inspired by" or "not my Hobbit". Stop all that pretentious ass bullshit.

Certainly, Unexpected Journey is no Fellowship of the Ring. Certainly not. I do, however, think that the rose-colored glasses of audiences and critics are helping them forget certain other radical changes they'd otherwise have accepted in the Lord of the Rings. Here are a few, in case you forgot:

  • Aniron – Aragorn and Awren's entire relationship plays out off screen, namely in the appendices, not to mention Arwen's substitution for Glorfindel.
  • Gandalf's Battle with the Balrog – woulda been cool to see, but, just like the Nercomancer in the Hobbit, is never depicted in text.
  • Most of Rohan's politics – Eomer's Banishment, Theoden's fleeing to Helm's Deep rather than riding to the ford of Isen, bringing all the goddamn women and children with them, Eowyn even fucking being around then.
  • The Warg Attack En Route to Helm's Deep – Happens in Fellowship to an entirely different group of people and then, it's just wargs, no orcs. Aragorn going AWOL, falling off the cliff and being revived by psychic smooches from Arwen, then, doesn't happen either.
  • Haldir at Helm's Deep – Even showing up, not to mention dying, has no grounds, what so ever, in any continuity. Nor do all Elrond and Galadriel's psychic back and forth.
  • Osgiliath, Anyone? – Literally, unless I'm mistaken, Osgiliath is never depicted first hand once in the books. Lots of people talk about it, several characters go there, but Frodo and Sam are never brought there by Faramir, we never see the successive Fall of Osgiliath when Faramir retreats nor  is such a huge dramatic deal made out of Faramir's doomed attempt to take the city back. Apparently Billy Boyd singing is enough to excuse added material, but Sylvester McCoy riding a rabbit sled isn't?
  • Sam's Abandoning Frodo Before Shelob – Nope. Simple device to make Sam the rescuing hero.
That's just the stuff off the top of my head. That doesn't include the buckets of boring ass shit they cut out – Old Man Willow, Barrow-Wights, Bombadil, Beregond – or things they livened up, like the Last March of the Ents, which is all told by Merry and Pippin after the fact and you never actually see any of.

I guess my point here is that people expect adaptations to be these clean-cut one-to-one transitions from book-to-movie, with no regard to pacing or structure or any discrepancies between mediums. If they can't read the book along the movie and have each beat play out exactly as they want, they'll make wild claims that forswear any connection between the two, over the smallest of added details. No, Unexpected Journey wasn't my ideal interpretation of The Hobbit either, but it was still a more or less faithful adaptation of The Hobbit.

Grow up and thanks for reading.

• The way the opening exposition was divided was very wonky – why would Old Bilbo relate all the history of the dragon, when the dwarf song is included strictly for this purpose? Also, while I don't object to his usage in the new trilogy, there was absolutely no reason to foreshadow the Necromancer this early if he isn't gonna manifest in any real way until the second film. Why waste that time?

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