Peter Jackson Didn’t Ruin My Birthday

I decided that I was going to have the best birthday ever. After the dog peed in the floor, and yet another Hallmark ornament broke the first time it was out of the box, I made my decision. I get one birthday a year, and I can either enjoy it, or let it be ruined by small things. I opted to make it the best birthday ever, and it was.

I subbed for middle school, and one of my friends there made me brownies and gave me a t-shirt with a stinkbug on it. I got cards, some of them handmade, and lots and lots of hugs. And then I went home to a giant death-by-chocolate birthday cake with whipped icing so thick that the flames the candles were flush with the icing, and four new CDs. Who could ask for more? And then my husband sprung it on me. He wanted to take me to a movie.

“Which one?” I asked hesitantly, knowing the answer.

The Hobbit. Or Thor. Or The Hobbit. I thought you might like to see The Hobbit.” Because I enjoyed the last one so much.

“What if we stay home and you throw rocks at me and tell me all the many and varied reasons reasons you hate my dog? It would make me feel about the same and cost less.”

“I thought you’d really want to go see The Hobbit! And if you do, I will find a theater that isn’t sold out.”

“What did I ever do to you?”

In the end, he was just so persistent cute that I caved. The theater we chose had two showings. We expected to have to go to the later one, but there were lots of tickets left. Everyone else was clearly as excited about this flick as I was. We couldn’t have asked for better seats, unless those seats were in a theater playing just about anything else. I was determined, though, to open my mind enjoy myself. And I did.

Nothing could ruin the night. Not Azog the Mostly Fabricated chasing down elves and hobbits in his vengeful rage over something that never happened. Azog, buddy. Let’s talk about this for a minute. If you really look deep inside, I bet you know who you’re really mad at. It’s not Thorin Oakenshield. It’s Peter Jackson. Why don’t you do me a giant favor and tell him how that metal thing jammed into your arm makes you feel? It might help to clear the air.

Photo credit: lotr.wikia.com

Photo credit: lotr.wikia.com             Caption blame: yeah, that’s all me.

The cinematography couldn’t dampen my spirits. Even though most of the film was shot by a caffeinated toddler whose head was too heavy and kept tipping backward and whose favorite hobby is spinning in the grass until they puke. Had I seen the movie in 3D, I would have. I’ll save that particular joy for the third installment. The sound editing wasn’t all that great, either, and I’m pretty sure I could hear the cameraman over the music.

“Look! Taaaalllll building!”

“Twirlie bird! Wheeeeeee!”

“Oooh! Slavering jaws! Can I touch them? I think that Warg just ate my Beanie Baby.”

“Let’s zoom in real close so Legolas’ head is twenty feet tall and everyone can tell he looks ten years older than he will sixty years from now in Lord of the Rings! Elves are magic.”

Actually, I think there was good reason for those tight shots. Tom Hooper did that with Les Miserables last year to prove that there was no overdubbing. Jackson does it to prove that his actors can say their crummy lines with a straight face. I was impressed.

The cinematography was evocative, and if what Jackson was trying to evoke was *carsick*, he nailed it. Nailed it. Good job, Pete, and pass the Dramamine.

I thought it was great that Jackson let students work on the visual effects? What? No, I’m pretty sure he did. And I’m also fairly certain that they were elementary school students. I couldn’t tell Beorn from a warg, and my pea brain kept screaming “Green screen!” Or maybe I actually screamed it. People did keep throwing their popcorn at me.

I thought Peter Jackson’s choices for this film made a lot of sense. I mean, why wouldn’t orcs trash Mirkwood, and then show up in Laketown? And why wouldn’t Thorin leave half his party behind when he finally set off for the Lonely Mountain? It’s not like Dwarves care much for their kinfolk. They’re kind of loners, really. And of course Tauriel the Completely Made Up would work her healing magic on Kili. With his head in a bowl of nuts. Tree nuts probably have healing properties. I’m just glad he wasn’t allergic.

photo credit: static2hypable.com

They are the victims here, not us. Well, not only us.    photo credit: static2hypable.com

My husband and I argued a bit about which part of the movie was the best. If you’ve already seen it, maybe you can help us decide. Which was the best part  – the previews or the end credits? I know. It’s a tough call.

The movie was awful, but I had an amazing night. I learned that my husband and I are truly of one mind. We snickered inappropriately in all the same places, mimed puking on one another’s shoes, rolled our eyes in unison when Bofur delivered the cheesiest line in the history of motion pictures. And his rant on the way home was like a beautiful Hallmark card telling me we were meant to be together. What Peter Jackson has brought together, no man can put asunder.

An Unexpected Something

The Padawan and I have been reading The Hobbit together in anticipation of the movie’s release. Is there anything better than curling up on the couch under a blanket and sharing a delicious adventure with someone you love? I think not. We went last night to see the movie.

It was the Padawan’s first Opening Weekend, and we were both so excited! We’ve been looking forward to it for months. MONTHS! I’m a cheapskate by nature, but for this event I loosened the purse strings and bought the popcorn and the candy. And let the kid stay up hours past his bedtime. We were so ready to love this movie!

And we didn’t.

Howard Shore worked his magic with the score. Themes, both new and familiar, were exquisite. In this movie, we are treated to Shore’s interpretations of the songs that were so integral to Tolkien’s work. The soundtrack is a must-have. The deluxe edition, if you please.

The cinematography was simply gorgeous. Some shots were even more dramatic and lovely than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The acting was stellar, the cast spot-on.

But without the story, all of the above are worthless. Peter Jackson took a beloved tale of high adventure and turned it into a bar-room brawl.

The characters were unrecognizable. The Bilbo Baggins I grew up with charmed me with his delightful manners, no matter how absurd the situation. I loved him so because, though a party of ravenous dwarves appeared on his doorstep and proceeded to empty his larder, he was ever so polite. Though confused by their demands for cakes and ale, he complied. These simple acts set the tone for the story, both courtly and romantic.

The character on screen last night was rude and selfish, a hobbit from the 21st century. In his heart, Tolkien’s Bilbo wanted the dwarves to leave him to his peace (and his food), but he would not dishonor his guests or his heritage by saying so. The 21st century Bilbo told them to give him back his tomatoes.

Jackson’s rough treatment wasn’t limited to Bilbo. Radagast the Brown was a wizard in my mind akin to St. Francis of Assisi. The person we were subjected to last night was a buffoon with bird turds plastering his hair.

The script was toyed with until it was no longer the story I love. Where there wasn’t enough excitement, Jackson interjected some trumped up drama, twisting the tale and its inhabitants into caricatures of themselves. And there’s falling. Entirely too much falling.

There is no room for graphic violence in Tolkien’s story, but Jackson fixes that. Where the book depicts clean kills, Jackson creates torture and brutality, a goblin king eviscerated in front of the audience, a pale goblin’s arm severed and spurting blood, later replaced by a claw skewered through the flesh of his upper arm.

This movie should never have been rated PG-13. I’d have given it a solid R, and I never would have taken my son. By comparison, many of the Harry Potter movies were rated PG-13. I let the Padawan watch them after he had read the books because those, at least, were fairly true to their original source. I no longer trust Peter Jackson.

My joy for today is the sweet innocence I rediscovered in my Padawan. I think of him as nearly a pre-teen. Last night, my little boy was returned to me, bouncing in his seat with childish enthusiasm and anticipation, reaching for my hand to cover his eyes in the scary parts, delighting in the enormous container of candy in his possession. I treasure last night, regardless of the quality of the movie.

Happy weekend!