People who have known me since I was a teenager would be shocked to hear me say that. I was/have been/still am one of the most devoted Tolkien fans ever – since back in the 1970s when the first wave of Hobbit hysteria hit.
I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I sat in the theater reciting my favorite lines along with the actors. I curled up in my seat in a fetal position and sobbed when the characters left to sail West. These were my friends and they were leaving.
I knew that Peter Jackson had to make some choices in order to film three books. He could not possibly put in everything. Indeed, some fans were upset that favorite scenes didn’t make it in (Tom Bombadil, for example). I was upset by what they put in that wasn’t in the books (the whole Arwen-is-dying nonsense).
Which brings me back to The Hobbit. At first I fully expected to see it. Then I started hearing things that made me doubtful.
It was going to another trilogy. You make a trilogy of films from a trilogy of books; that’s fine. You make a trilogy of films out of a single book and a short one at that, no good can come of it. You will have to add and pad and then Gad! Stuff that Tolkien never wrote – lots of stuff.
It was another dramatic epic struggle between Supreme Good and Primal Evil. The Hobbit was a children’s story, for crying out loud, that Tolkien wrote for his young son. A simple quest story – There and Back Again. The Lord of the Rings came later, featured more complex and grown-up themes, including sweeping battle scenes with thousands of extras. The Hobbit was not a “prequel.” It was a stand-alone book. But The Lord of the Rings, which was and needed to be a sweeping dramatic epic struggle between powerful, apocalyptic forces, made money and lots of it. So let’s do it again, whether that’s what the first book was about or not.
The characterizations and tone had been changed to make the films more dramatic and serious. My husband was watching it in another room, and I asked him what was up with all the screaming and yelling and battles. He said, “I was watching The Hobbit.” My jaw dropped.
Conflict, sure. Danger, sure. But so much yelling and screaming that I thought it had to be a war film (or Robocop without the guns)? Much of the book was sweetly comic, with just enough threat, suspense, and fighting to keep its intended readers – children – interested. Millions of us as teens and young adults loved the book as it was. We recognized the value of children’s literature, and still do. The Harry Potter books and films had a massive following that included me and my friends in our 40s and 50s and beyond. We don’t need the works revised for “mature audiences.”
The last straw for me, though, was Radagast the Brown, a brother wizard of Gandalf’s. He was mentioned ONE TIME in The Hobbit and had only a tiny role in The Lord of the Rings. He was essential to no plot, subplot, or theme. He was, as they say in opera, a spear-carrier. Or in this case a staff-carrier.
At first I shrugged. More padding. So what? Then I heard what they did with the character.
They PUT A BIRD’S NEST ON HIS HEAD and had him drive a SLEIGH PULLED BY BUNNIES.
There is no excuse for that sort of thing and I am not paying money to see it. I’ll stay home and re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read the book.