I have a confession to make.
I am a little apprehensive about watching ‘The Hobbit’.
I blame it on the reviews I’ve read recently, which highlighted the plodding nature of the film, the repercussions of Jackson’s controversial decision to shoot at 48 frames per second, the screenwriters’ absurd decision to stretch a slim book for children into three 2.5 hour long visual extravaganzas. Very few people had anything close to unqualified praise for the movie, with most lingering over one, if not all, of the ‘flaws’ mentioned above.
This is, I suppose, only natural, given what the reviewers are measuring Jackson up against. He steered a large and (what could have been) lumbering ship titled ‘The Lord of the Rings’ safely into the seas of commercial success, even picking up cargo at the Award ports. The movies didn’t satisfy all the purists – I’m not exactly the most rabid purist out there, but even I resent what the movies did to my favourite character, Faramir- but they did attract both fans of the books as well as a more ‘mainstream’ audience. ‘The Hobbit’, the reviewers say, goes overboard to please the purists, and as a result, alienates the larger section of the audience by lingering far too long on obscure bits of Middle Earth mythology that most of them do not care for.
‘So?’ one of my (Tolkien purist) friends asked. ‘Finally, there’s a big movie made for us!’ He has a point. Why not use the multitude of resources available to make a movie that will satisfy the cravings of a very dedicated band of readers? Jackson himself, a passionate reader of Tolkien, must appreciate the scale and depth of the author’s work- why else would he linger so long and lovingly on each bit of dialogue or pebble on the road to the Lonely Mountain.
I’m reminded, suddenly, of Thomas Gradgrind from Dickens’s ‘Hard Times’, and his espousal of Utilitarianism. The greatest good for the greatest number- that is the doctrine that propels most commercial enterprises. Rather, the greatest good comes from satisfying the greatest number. Hollywood, though it runs on art and creativity as well as economic lobbies and other, less personally enthusing, factors, is also utilitarian. So is the publishing industry. It’s the way of the world today- how do you survive if you can’t make a large number of people happy and thus secure some kind of commercial strength?
Hence the blow-up if a man uses millions of dollars worth of equipment, talent, time to produce a movie that does not connect with or inspire an equal number of people to spend their hard earned money. ‘Art’ and ‘Independent Cinema’ use much less, do not impose on the big production houses to fund their risky little ventures- Jackson’s problem was that he got too experimental and literal for the kind of category (financial and entertainment-wise) he was placed in.
I might hate ‘The Hobbit’ movie. I enjoyed the book (I actually liked it more than ‘The Lord of the Rings’ on my first read, but that may have been because I was completely lost when I read LOTR, and missed out on a whole lot of references to the earlier book), and have been looking forward to its adaptation for a while now. But I think the main reason why I liked ‘LOTR’ in its movie form was because I was able to dissociate the books from what was happening on the screen. The movies were different enough, imagined Middle Earth differently enough from my own conception of it, that I didn’t even try to measure them against what I had read. If ‘The Hobbit’ movie is an attempt to literally transcribe the book onto the screen, performing the same ‘suspension of association’ might just be impossible.
Oh well, I’ll take my chances. The alternative is too stupid to even contemplate.
And what can I say- I do want to see Orlando Bloom as Legolas again.