Tuesday, December 18, 2012

two views of "The Hobbit"

Charles offers a positive initial (i.e., spoiler-free) review.

The Atlantic fixates on the non-canonical violence and gives "The Hobbit" a thumbs-down. (With thanks to Lee on Twitter for alerting me to this article.)


1 comment:

Charles said...

Interesting review in the Atlantic. Obviously I'll get into more detail in my spoilerific review, but I do agree that the combat was a bit much. However, I disagree that it undercuts (or parodies) Tolkien's message. As I noted, the dwarves are indeed presented as more heroic than in the book, but their escape from the goblin caves was indeed a bloody affair. I mean, come on--after the Mines of Moria scene in LOTR, what did they think Jackson was going to do with this?

The focus on "Tolkien's nonviolent ethic" gives away the author's prejudices. Nonviolent ethic? Are you kidding me? Yes, mercy was certainly an important theme, especially in "Riddles in the Dark," but the review author is forgetting one very important thing: Bilbo showed no mercy at all to Gollum in the original version of the book, mainly because there was no need to! When Gollum lost the riddle game, he led Bilbo to the exit and that was that. So the theme of mercy was one that Tolkien added later as part of an attempt to make The Hobbit coincide with the LOTR mythos. At least the reviewer notes that Tolkien's "nonviolent ethic" is confused, although I think it is the reviewer himself who is confused. To talk about Tolkien's "confusion around violence" is to betray a lack of understanding. Tolkien saw the merit in mercy, and mercy was what ultimately saved Bilbo from the evil of the ring (Gandalf states this explicitly in FOTR, I believe), but he also saw the merit in fighting evil against all hope. How could the reviewer not understand this?

In sum, I don't necessarily disagree that Jackson is combat crazy, but I think we knew this already. I do disagree that this somehow undermines Tolkien's fundamental message in The Hobbit. (I'll probably come back to this again in my spoilerific review.)