Category Archives: Tolkien

Two film reviews: The Desolation of Smaug and The Desolation of Smaug

I’m just back from seeing The Desolation of Smaug with the family and I’m really not sure what to think. I enjoyed lots of things about it, but still left feeling very dissatisfied. I liked the Tolkien material very much; and I liked the comic barrels-and-dragons action-adventure lots, too. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what they’re doing in the same film.

The entrance to Laketown

The entrance to Laketown

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G. K. Chesterton on Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films

Here’s what G. K. Chesterton had to say about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Wherever his film is bad it is bad from some extravagance of imagery, some violence of comparison, some kind of debauch of cleverness. His nonsense never arises from weakness, but from a confusion of powers. If the phrase explain itself, he is far more a great film-maker than he is a good one. […] Mr. Jackson was in a great and serious difficulty. He really meant something. He aimed at a vivid and curious image, and He missed it. He had that catastrophic and public failure which is, as much as a medal or a testimonial, the badge of the brave.

Actually, Chesterton was writing about the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but the point stands. Jackson’s failures, and they are many, are the failures of over-ambition. For that reason, they are easy to forgive. All three films have moments where I want to scream at the TV in frustration. But they also all have moments of great beauty and real profundity. And that’s why, warts and all, they have so much more greatness than, say, The Bourne Identity, which I watched yesterday. That film is perfectly executed, but it’s not about anything. But Jackson caught a glimpse of Tolkien’s vision and reached for it. That he failed in part really seems neither here nor there.

A movie-piracy moral dilemma

We saw The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey in the cinema when it came out, and with reservations loved it. Today I get notification from Amazon that the DVD is available for pre-order, at £17.20. That seems a bit steep, but it’s definitely a film we’ll watch repeatedly so I might buy it.

Except that Peter Jackson has confirmed that there will be an extended edition (with 20-25 minutes more screen time, and hopefully a shedload of documentaries). So it’s a dead cert that I’ll buy that when it comes out. We love the LotR extended editions.

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My question is this: since the regular-edition DVD is a subset of the extended-edition DVD that I’m going to buy, is it morally acceptable to pirate the regular edition when it becomes available, watch that, and then buy the extended DVD?

A short post on Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings movie

Don’t ever let me hear anyone criticising Peter Jackson’s films again.

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That is all.

Where the Council of Elrond went wrong

Granted that “there is no smith’s forge in this Shire that could change it at all. Not even the anvils and furnaces of the Dwarves could do that […] nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring, the Ruling Ring, for that was made by Sauron himself.”

And let’s assume that the obvious eagle hack can’t be done, for some reason.

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But what they could have done was to drop the Ring into molten steel, shape it into a solid sphere, and bid Frodo cast that into Mount Doom.

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I wish Jackson hadn’t ruined Galadriel’s speech

I bow to no man in my admiration of Peter Jackson’s fine trilogy of Lord of the Rings films (and indeed his ongoing Hobbit). I may not be able to disagree with any of the specific criticisms Andrew Rilstone makes in his fine reviews (Fellowship, Towers, Return), but I am a million miles away from agreeing with his downbeat conclusions. Yes, all the films are flawed; but they are mostly flaws of ambition, and so they are easy to forgive. And they are overwhelmed by the huge amount of good stuff. In fact, the three LotR films are arguably my three favourite films of all time.

That’s why this pains me so much:

galadriel

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No, Peter Jackson is not doing a George Lucas

I’ve read a couple of reviews arguing that Jackson is making the same mistake in the Hobbit that Lucas did in the Star Wars prequels — filling in details that the original only hinted at (“the Senate has been dissolved”, “the Clone Wars”, etc.) with concretised versions that aren’t as interesting as what we independently imagined. But in the case of Tolkien the exact opposite is the case, and the “back story” is actually the primary story that the well-known parts were made up to sit on top of and, if you like, act as an advertisement for. By foregrounding these, Jackson is arguably being more true to Tolkien’s original vision than J. R. R. was himself in writing The Hobbit.