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!