O Come All Ye Unfaithful
This is gonna be a bit of a thematic departure from previous posts (all three of them). Rather than going off on a vitriolic frothing rant about my imagined slights as a misunderstood writer and how that makes me inherently better than you, I am going to do something else I'm good at: going off on a vitriolic frothing rant in defense of one of my many obsessions because some people are too dumb for words. And yes, this also makes me better than you. You know who you are...
So the new Hobbit movie is out. I haven't seen it yet, this is obviously the top of my list of things to accomplish because I was very fond of the last one and Martin Freeman is my spirit animal. Of course the reviews are already out and I haven't seen many, in fact I have seen one, but it already feels like I stepped through a time portal and am somehow back in last year because the crap these people are poo-pooing is the exact same stuff they were poo-pooing last year. And I am not about to get butthurt about people dissing a franchise I enjoy, especially as I haven't seen this new installment and for all I know it could suck donkey dick. I just don't know. But that isn't what this is. You can love it or hate it, I don't care. What I care is that you stop bitching about the same things over and over again, because to be honest, you aren't even bitching about the right things.
I am tired of all these critics blubbering over the "extraneous" detail they accuse Jackson of cramming into these movies in a supposedly bacchanalian attempt to glut himself on power, or whatever they think the reason is. If your opinion is that the way this material is handled makes for a slow, plodding, and overall worse movie, fine. However, I find so many of the assertions that one single movie would have sufficed to be pretty damn erroneous. The Hobbit is a short book; it isn't that short. What really bothers me, though, is that most of the "additional" material people are whinging about isn't even "additional." Hell, most of it didn't even come from the Appendices where all the other belabored points and expansive genealogies went to die. The bulk of this material that everyone seems to think of as an indulgence of Jackson's are actual events that actually are mentioned in the story that he is choosing to dramatize rather than include as exposition only. In the style of children's books, the narrator is almost interacting with the reader and explains things to the reader as though omniscient. The narrator knows everything that happened "off set" but doesn't mention it until later.
Imagine, if you will, that after the big climactic Battle of Five Armies, Bilbo and Gandalf have a sit down over a pipe and all of a sudden Gandalf goes, "Oh, and the reason I wasn't there to help out when you were getting attacked by giant spiders and imprisoned by xenophobic Elves was because I was engaged in battle with one of the darkest powers ever to plague Middle Earth, along with three or four of the most powerful beings this side of Valinor and BTWs, he got away. Yolo."
Now imagine you just paid upwards of $11 to watch that moment in a major motion picture. Want these movies kept "pure" with the exact layout of the book? It would be full of shit like that. Most of the "extra" stuff, the White Council, the battle at Dol Guldur, the very identity and presence of the Necromancer; it's all in the actual book, all brought up as asides or somehow mentioned by the characters. Is that what you want? To watch characters sit around making passing reference to awesome/obscure/complex things they did off camera with no elaboration or explanation? The book was written for kids, a fact everyone uses in support of the argument for the movie being more streamlined and simplified, whereas I view that as support for the exact opposite. Yes, it was written with kids in mind. Kids are typically not deep thinkers. They can't handle side plots, time skips, flashbacks, sudden unexplained shifts in POV or scenery. That doesn't mean Tolkien didn't plan for things to be happening, parallel to the main plot; he just didn't remove the narrator's focus from the main plot to explore it. Hence the post-crises exposition, Gandalf's long-winded explanation for why he left the company at what was clearly about to prove the most complicated part of their journey. Wouldn't you rather see this potentially badass skirmish dramatized as it happened temporally, with full context? Wouldn't that be a better use of resources instead of resorting to an abbreviated flashback, a dragging verbal recap, or simply not bothering to mention the fact Gandalf keeps flitting away and back to the Company for seemingly no reason at all?
So go ahead and question Jackson's decision to extend what had been two movies to three (I do). Go ahead and think including all of this slows and confuses the movie if it's not done right. But if you've read the book, don't sit there and pretend that leaving those blurb-moments as is would be any better or make any more sense than this does. Go ahead and be disappointed in the directorial vision, the pacing, the impact of invented characters, the fucking frames per second, whatever. Including the expansions is the least of these movies' potential concerns and in fact, after casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo, this was the decision that made the most sense to me. This isn't Jackson trying to recapture the glory days of LotRs, or giving into a fanboyish obsession with foreshadowing the rise of Sauron for all the Tolkien nerds to winkwink-nudgenudge each other over. This is Jackson trying to make a movie-going audience understand the full scope of this story, it's full impact, to the fullest extent he could manage. If you want to bitch about something, bitch about Tolkien dropping allusions to other stories and events in his pre-thought-out world when he had no intention of explaining any of it.
This is not a rant directed at non-book readers. This is for those critics who have maybe read the book once, and are making asinine comments like they actually know something. If your only experience with Tolkien is the movies and you offer a critique of them as movies, completely unto themselves and divorced from the books that's one thing, that is fine, got no problem with that. But if you have only a cursory understanding of the books and assorted other materials and talk about them in your review with impunity when you clearly don't actually know what you're talking about, that I have a problem with. Don't bring it up if you can't back it up. You misrepresent the movie, you misrepresent the novel, you look like an idiot and most importantly you piss me off. This is a universal principle, really. Simple stuff. Don't mouth off on a topic if all you know about it is gleaned from Spark Notes or other people's synopses or reviews. You will only be decimated as a result. You're probably whining now, "But freedom of speech, man, I have the right to express my opinions!"
And I have the right to use my freedom of speech to express what a goddamn moron you are. And now we're both miserable.
Just kidding. I feel great.