• Sticky Stories: The Tolkien Legendarium

    7 January, 2013 • 1 Comment

    There are some stories that just seem to stick. Some stories that latch on, and stay with me, never leaving my brain, and resurfacing every now and then to make me ponder the intricacies and details and themes they explore. Stories that I periodically just have to read or see or experience again.

    The Myst franchise contains such a story. As does The Dark is Rising Sequence. And the one that’s currently bubbling around near the surface is the vast story found in the works of Tolkien.

    Obviously, what has brought this fit of bubbling thought on right now, is the first Hobbit film. I’ve seen it twice now, and enjoyed it greatly both times. It has its flaws – I’m basically of Dave Kellett’s mind here. While it is a very entertaining film, I am far from convinced that it needed to be split in three. And when it is split in three, it does not need to be three hours long.

    But while the film is greatly entertaining, it isn’t the book, isn’t the depth and mad brilliance of Tolkien’s writings. Much like the Lord of the Rings films, it is a good, nay great, effort to tell that story in film form, but it mostly just whets my appetite for rereading the books. I want to see again how it all fit together in the text.

    The Encyclopedia of Arda did a series of articles back when the Lord of the Rings films came out, the Movie-goer’s Guides, which listed some of the most important changes from book to film. I wish they’d do more of those for the Hobbit, I’m always game for a good explanation of Tolkien’s work.

    I did find another list of changes, but it seemed less thought through and coherent in its presentation, listing even the most minor of quibbles as its own huge point, and I was so annoyed by its Cons section I eventually couldn’t read on. Oh, no, this change means using a word of dialogue that Tolkien didn’t write! Horreur!

    The point is, I’m now in a mood to revisit this story. The best way would be a reread – Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion all – but considering how little reading I get done these days, I doubt it’s be the best idea. Maybe I can just do the Hobbit, and contend myself with that.

    Or maybe I’ll just watch the Lord of the Rings films again. Yeah, that sounds nice and lazy.

    One Response to Sticky Stories: The Tolkien Legendarium

    1. Loki
      7 January, 2013 at 11:06

      I’ll comment more fully when I’m not sitting at an airport without any sleep to speak of, but suffice to say for now, I absolutely loved it too — and (maybe because I was expecting it to feel stretched out to the ridiculous), I didn’t find it slow at all. The dwarf meeting is a huge, long thing in the book, surprising me every time I read it at how long it goes on and on, even considering it is introducing _fifteen_ main characters. So if anything, I was impressed they managed to not drag it out further. It’s long, yes, but not as long as I thought it would be going in. The prologue (especially the bit with Frodo), okay, that was largely unnecessary and slowed things down a bit too much for the non-initiate, I get that, but it framed the story right before the first of the old films, which should make it feel very organic as the first part of a six-movie-marathon when that becomes possible some years down the road. Much like the longer introduction in the Extended Edition of Fellowship of the Ring, I think this choice, in spite of worse pacing for the individual movie, was the overall better one for the cohesiveness of the series as a whole.

      As for the three films, I’m getting the distinct impression they’re doing the Hobbit mostly in two films, save only the giant battle at the end which will land in film 3. Which means film 3 will probably deal mostly with appendix-stuff from Lord of the Rings, like driving the Necromancer from Mirkwood. As Tolkien’s annoyingly vague on awesome stuff like that, I’d love to see them flesh it out, and I have no problem with them spending a third movie doing it. Honestly, at this point, every three hours of my life spent watching McKellen be Gandalf the Grey is not likely to be something I regret.

      And, as I told you already, I was (for the most part) very thrilled with their changes, additions and tweaks, feeling them for the most part very organic and never too obtrusive. My only major quibble is not grasping the opportunity to explain the eagles-ex-machina in the one spot that Tolkien himself at least made a small effort towards it. That, and that I could have wished for the intense darkness that he described so well before, during and after the Riddles in the Dark-sequence to be part of the (otherwise excellent) adaptation of said scenes. I get that the audience would be bored watching a black screen for minutes on end while Bilbo fumbles about, and I get that they want to show off their amazing Gollum in actual colours, but the darkness is a huge thing in the book in those scenes, and it wasn’t really of any consequence in the film at all. Unlike the eagles-thing, that’s more of a disappointment than it is a complaint, though.

      I seem to have commented more fully than expected!

      Man, I want to watch it again.

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