Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cheap Shots, Number 23 In A Series

The idea that Peter Jackson could direct an episode of Doctor Who is obviously ridiculous. The Hobbit is a small scale, rather gentle, leisurely paced children's adventure story. Jackson took out all the charm and magic and replaced it with melodrama, appalling sentimentality and ludicrously hyperactive sensationalist action and violence, most of which didn't even make sense on it's own terms.



Mike Taylor said...

Surely you don't truly think that a Hobbit movie that everyone sees as a sequel to the LOTR movies could be filmed in a kids'-book style?

Gavin Burrows said...

It is true that it was always going to be hard to reconcile adapting the book 'The Hobbit' into a film, and satisfying the audiences who were expecting the fourth part of 'Lord of the Rings.'

But my answer to your question would be that they should have thought of that going in.

Mike Taylor said...

I am sure they did think of that going in. And decided that the overriding concern was to play fair by the large audience they've built up across the last three films.

I understand this isn't the film that Andrew wanted. But if they'd made the one he wanted to see, an awful lot more people would have been disappointed by it.

See also my own previously recorded thoughts.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Please note title of essay.

A clever director would have found a way to "translate" the actual qualities of the Hobbit into the language of cinema (and, indeed "epic-pop-corn-cinema), in the same way that a clever director found a way of translating the actual qualities of Victor Hugo's novel into the language of theatre (and indeed pop-opera musical theatre.) I don't think that the Hobbit could have been filmed in a kids-book style. I do think that the meaning of the Hobbit (and the meaning of the Lord of the Rings) is bound up with the one being smaller and more like a fairy tale and the other being bigger and more like an epic. If you can't see that you are like the fellow who was going to film Mort but "play down the Death angle" or cut the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet because it never gets a laugh. (Wouldn't the right approach to the Hobbit have been a kind of high budget Princess Bride, with Tolkien a physical presence as a the story teller?) But all Jackson knows how to do is turn up the volume, and up, and up. If there's a classic film where a gorilla fights a tyrannosaurus rex, then a modern film where a gorilla fights THREE tyrannosaurus reges will be THREE TIMES AS CLASSIC. I enjoyed the Avengers a great deal.

Mike Taylor said...

Title noted. I don't think it gets you out of the responsibility to have what you write make sense, though. "I did warn you it would be a cheap shot" is a close rhetorical cousin to Jeremy Clarkson-style "It was a joke! Like on Top Gear!"

A clever director would have found a way to "translate" the actual qualities of the Hobbit into the language of cinema.

But that was not the challenge that was set Jackson (or whoever was to be the director). The film was always going to be seen by people who saw and liked the LOTR films. As such, the challenge was to translate the Hobbit into the language of the LOTR films. And in fact that was done pretty close to as well as that can be done.

Your only other recourse, really, is to say "Well, they shouldn't have tried to make a Hobbit movie at all". That would be a coherent position, if a rather impractical one given the financial success of LOTR. But given that the Hobbit was going to made, it would have been both impossible and irresponsible to make something tonally completely out of keeping with what most viewers will think of as its sequels.

Nice plural of "rex" there, BTW. But beyond all doubt, the Kong/tyrannosaur fight in the Jackson version was much, much more exciting -- and, importantly, more delightful -- than the original.

And we both know perfectly well that turning the volume up, and up, and up is not the only thing Jackson knows how to do. Important passages of all three LOTR films clearly demonstrate. You may feel that he has an over-reliance on turning it up to eleven, and I may agree; but let's not pretend it's all he ever does.

Gavin Burrows said...

”But that was not the challenge that was set Jackson (or whoever was to be the director). The film was always going to be seen by people who saw and liked the LOTR films. As such, the challenge was to translate the Hobbit into the language of the LOTR films.”

“That was set” may be a telling phrase there. It seems to me there are two ways you could take what you are saying. One is to say “due to circumstances beyond the director's control, the film of 'The Hobbit' was never going to resemble the book very much.” Which to me is not all that far from saying “well of course there's all those footprints over everywhere. Wht else do you expect after they'd painted themselves into a corner?” It all may be entirely true. But I can't help shake the feeling “of course it's the way it is” is a way of slipping out of saying “of course it's bad.”

Another is to say that not that much of the substance of the original book has been kept, but that hardly matters because it's been replaced by something equally good or better. There are examples of this happening all the time. Famous, well-loved films started out as adaptations of almost completely forgotten books. (Have you ever read Mario Puzo's 'The Godfather'? Me neither.) Or both exist as separate entities, and we now only see the link in formal terms, like 'Brazil' and 'Nineteen Eighty Four'. But then I think you really need to say what is equally good or better about this new film thing.

In short, I am not sure these two arguments mix very well.

My own feeling was that it's the tone and style that marks 'The Hobbit' out as a unique work. As a series of plot points, it's far too close to 'Lord of the Rings' for comfort. Make it in the language of the LOTR films and you have essentially remade the LOTR films all over again. While you could just re-watch them if that's what you wanted to do.

Incidentally, I am probably not as critical of the trilogy as Andrew. I haven't seen all of Jackson's films, and not any of the early splatter shockers. But of the later ones, 'The Frighteners' is probably the most successful, in the sense of being the most problem-free. I like the LOTR films the most, and they're the only films of his I've seen more than once. The larger-than-life characters are more bearable when put in the zoom focus of his histrionic style.

I thought his 'King Kong' was terrible, to be honest. It's only plus point was how textbook an example it was of modern films who get obsessed with spectacle and special effects at the expense of story. Twice the length and not half the quality of the original. 'Heavenly Creatures', the one we were most asked to imagine featured real human characters, was worse still. I kept a country mile between me and 'Lovely Bones.' I shall reserve comment on 'Farmer Giles of Ham Meets the Goblin Hordes from Hell in 3D' until it's made and released.

Tom R said...

"THREE tyrannosaurus reges"

To be pedantic - "THREE tyrannosauros reges", thankee-sai.

Mr. X said...

Actually it should be tyrannosauri reges.

(Or "tyrannosauroi" if you want to be more Grecian, but since the -us ending is already Latinised, it would be a bit odd to switch back to Greek for the plural.)

Mike Taylor said...

I can tell you that the plural palaeontologists actually use is "three Tyrannosaurus rex individuals". It's clunky, but it's pretty much universal.

Tom R said...

No, Mike, it really is "tyrannosauros" in this context (or "tyrannosaurous" if one wants to get oneself to the Grecian) because it's the object of the verb "fight".

('"Romanes eunt domus" - 'People called Romanes, they go the house"?')

Mike Taylor said...

I'm not saying anything about what is or isn't grammatically correct Latin. I'm telling you what palaeontologists actually write.

Tom R said...

Sorry, Mike, I meant Mr X, not you

Tom R said...

Okay, finally rented the DVD this week and even though it was an overnighter I returned it unfinished after lasting only an hour or so. I think I'm over Peter Jackson's swooping-down-from-the-air style: it's seau teautally 12 years ago. And the Radagast scenes were just too Monty Python for a serious movie. I had always thought Tom Baker as Puddleglum held the prize for "Most Embarrassing Performance By A Former Doctor Who As a Fantasy Character In A Story By One of The Inklings" but - unless David Tennant seriously camps it up as King Frank of Narnia in "The Magician's Nephew", or Chris Eck over-chews the scenery as Túrin son of Húrin - Sylvester's got that particular Oscar category safely in the rabbit-fur-lined bag.