Mangling A Myth

Jordan Jeffers considers how J.R.R. Tolkien approached fiction in The Hobbit:

Tolkien is a storyteller, a myth maker, for he believed that myths demonstrated truth, that truth cannot actually be understood apart from myth. We can have no true vision of the stars unless we can first see them as “songs of living silver,” no true understanding of the earth until we can first understand it as our mother. Our myths matter a good deal, and how we think of elves is of vital importance to how we think of ourselves.

He goes on to argue that such an understanding of Tolkien’s work is what Peter Jackson fails to grasp:

Jackson is neither a communicator nor a mythmaker. He is a spectacle maker, a ringmaster, a showman. And he is very, very good at this. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug manages to be both overwhelmingly big and manageably entertaining, balancing the actions of all the important characters quite deftly, allowing each of them just enough heroic moments to justify their presence in the movie. Basically, Jackson made The Avengers: Middle-Earth, and it is this very bigness that breaks the movie so forcefully from the books.

Tolkien’s book is not a story about superheroes. It’s a story about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, one of the smallest of folk, shorter even than the dwarves—a fat, ordinary person who does a lot of brave, ordinary things.

Ethan Gilsdorf unreservedly pans the movie:

As a fan of Tolkien and a fan of Jackson’s first trilogy, it’s difficult to distance myself from my desire for the movie that I’d hoped The Hobbit would deliver. This Hobbit Peter Jackson is less impressive than the Peter Jackson I came to know, respect and love in Lord of the Rings. This is an undisciplined director on display, showing no restraint. To me, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is too too loud, too fast, too much focused on action and distracting plot threads. I prefer the relative simplicity of Tolkien’s first Hobbit to the over-inflated, overblown, over-the-top epic Jackson aims his bow at here.

Larison also has brutal review, writing that “the second installment in this trilogy is a mockery of Tolkien’s story and insult to the audience”:

It is well-known that Peter Jackson has added a large amount of material to the story of The Hobbit in his quest to expand a short adventure story into a bloated would-be epic, but it is hard to appreciate just how silly and unnecessary these additions are until you see them. Thus we are treated to quite a few characters that never appear in the book, plotlines that have no relevance to the main story, villains that serve no purpose except to remind us of The Lord of the Rings, one pointless love story that functions at most as a lazy plot device, needless rewriting and mangling of key scenes, and frequent additions of battles that exist solely to fill up time in a movie that should never have been made.

But Cromercrox defends the director:

Jackson couldn’t possibly have made a film of The Hobbit that was ‘true’ to the original text – whatever that means, and leaving out the significant alterations Tolkien himself made to it. For, unlike The Hobbit‘s original readership, and unlike Tolkien himself when he wrote it, we can only come to The Hobbit backwards, as it were, through The Lord Of The Rings. There are those for whom nothing but a word-for-word treatment will do. I am not one of them. For one thing, I see no artistic merit in such faithful transliterations. What would be the point? For another, I think that to do have done a vanilla treatment of The Hobbit would be to have done Tolkien and his audience a grave disservice. Jackson’s treatment has its flaws, of course it does. But it’s much deeper, more honest and more Tolkienian in its spirit and execution than many people appreciate.