I went to see The Hobbit, and it was everything I thought it was going to be: a beautifully designed but completely overblown piece of self-indulgence on the part of Peter Jackson. As soon as it was announced that Jackson had assumed directing duties and that the movie would now be in three parts, I knew what we were in for, and indeed, that’s exactly what we got.
There’s this idea out there that Jackson is a natural “story teller” of some kind, but nothing I’ve seen in LOTR or in The Hobbit (or God help us, King Kong) indicates anything but that he is completely unable to resist stopping the plot cold while he shows off his cleverness in some ludicrous “action” sequence.
Two thoughts on the matter: after The Return of the King won the Oscar—after—Jackson went back and shot that stupid skull avalanche in the Paths of the Dead. Note: he didn’t edit it back into the film from the cutting room floor, he shot it and inserted it, a scene that adds nothing to the plot or the characters, nothing to the mood of the sequence, nothing to the film. It was the very definition of completely unnecessary “whizbang/stupid,” and that’s the sum of my impression of Peter Jackson’s vaunted ability to tell a story.
Second thought: the dwarves’ escape from Goblin Town is ten minutes of video game/pinball excess—fourteen tiny figures fleeing across rickety bridges, collapsing paths, etc. etc. Their progress is hardly impeded as the camera swoops over, around, and through the cavernous space. (I can only imagine the thing in 48 fps/3D… oy.) Thousands of goblins/orcs swarm over everything, yet never seem to have the least effect on the outcome. In fact, nothing has an effect on the outcome; by the end of the sequence, not one thing has changed. It’s one big messy nothing-burger. (Cf.: the collapsing stone arch in Moria…)
Compare this to the Escape from the Death Star: four different groups of characters who are all trying to get back to the Millennium Falcon without getting caught. There’s suspense, action, and all of it is wrapped up in plot: rescue the princess, shut down the tractor beam, get the Death Star plans to the rebels. Once we hit hyperspace on the way to Yavin, things are different than they were ten minutes earlier.
But Dale, you will object, a) the Goblin Town sequence had no such built-in plot point; and b) Lucas was working without the benefit of the technology we have now.
My point exactly: a) no plot point to drive? Then skip it. Give us a workman-like “flight through tunnels” with some twists, perhaps ending with one last bit of swordplay at the back gate (which, quite curiously, Jackson decided to leave completely unguarded)—and get them out of there. Maybe take the time to give us some dwarf banter that might help define which one of those beings we’re supposed to know and like.
And b), that’s the mark of a “story teller,” isn’t it? To use that amazing technology in service to the story—that’s the trick. Peter Jackson seems unable to do that. I have dire fears for the next six hours of this movie. What do you want to bet that Bilbo’s cleverness in smuggling the dwarves out of Thranduil’s halls in barrels will be jettisoned in favor of yet another whizbang/stupid fight sequence?
As for Parts II and III, I intend to enjoy them—but only with a fast-forward remote in my hand.