Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Review: The Hobbit, An Unexpected Silmarillion

Peter Jackson's movie has ruined my childhood memories, so I thought I'd write a review.

I read The Hobbit in fifth grade. It's the first "adult" book I can remember reading. A child has a narrow view of the universe. There is home, school, but anything more than a few miles away doesn't exist. Santa Claus is plausible not because we believed he could visit a billion homes in one night, but because in our minds, the world simply wasn't that big. It's this point of view that's at the center of other children's books, from Peter Pan, to Harry Potter, to the Hunger Games.

The Hobbit begins with this small view of the world, where Bilbo is content with his little corner of the world, where nothing but the Shire really exists. But, in going on the adventure, Bilbo grows up. He comes in contact with the much larger world, full of evil and beauty, in which the Shire or "home" really is just one small part. It's exactly the journey a child will go through.

I'm probably just ineptly repeating what sophisticated literary criticism has already came up with. I don't know. I'm not trying to analyze the book as an adult, but communicate how I felt as a child.

Jackson's movie isn't this children's story of the book. Almost immediately, it starts in the real adult world. Jackson warps the story to serve as a prequel to his Lord of the Rings. It draws heavily from Tolkien's backstory and lore, such as that found in books like "The Silmarillion". The "Silmarillion" was a crappy book and makes for a crappy movie.

As such, Jackson's movie misses all the child-like whimsy of the Hobbit. It becomes the same dull story about walking around Middle Earth, with brief periods of running from orcs. If you liked Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, then I guess you'll like seeing more of the same. My point is that it really is just more of the same, and nothing new.

Here is my recommendation: Ignore the movie. Don't let you kids see the movie. Instead, read the book, and encourage your kids (11 years or older) to do the same. If you've already read the book many years ago, read it again. I mention this because the way Jackson has drawn out the Hobbit into three (long) movies, it'll take a lot less time to read the book than watch all the movies.


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Unknown said...

On the other hand, my 8-year-old daughter picked The Hobbit up from her school library after seeing the movie in the theater. I agree the movie is a warped and pale version of the book, but that's often the case. The positive spin is that more young people will read the book.

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