Reviews

The Hobbit (1937) and related work:

The Hobbit (1937)

J. R. R. Tolkien (writer).

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The Lord of the Rings (1954)

J. R. R. Tolkien (writer).

I wrote up my thoughts on this novel in On re-reading The Lord of the Rings after 20-odd years.

References here: Berserk (1989), Metodboken — Bibel 2000 (1999), The Stand (1994), “Wales: Great Britain’s Wild West” (2019).

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‣‣ The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) IMDb

Review refers to the extended edition.

Live action with an encyclopedia’s worth of trick filming and CGI. This, the first third of Peter Jackson’s trilogy, is more faithful to the novel than Bakshi’s version. Jackson adds much, especially more crude humour and violence, and subtracts some good stuff.

The whole 2001-2003 trilogy is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the heart of the story is still a universe predicated upon incomprehensible moral strictures. Ugly is evil (and cool) and wants to rule a dead world for some reason, but monarchism is wonderful, nature will literally fight back, and so on. The basic precepts, along with the depiction of the evil horde as asymmetric, bent and vaguely oriental, are all in Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924). There are many fine impulses toward greater realism, and it’s hard to imagine a better interpretation within the flawed framework, but I can’t forget the basic foolishness of blowing up an Aristotelian double plot to epic scales without the other visceral rewards needed to uncouple reason. Also, there are a couple of flaws in execution, notably in the late extended scenes.

References here: Wild About New Zealand (2000).

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‣‣‣ The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) IMDb

Review refers to the extended edition.

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‣‣‣ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) IMDb

Review refers to the extended edition.

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The Hobbit (1977) IMDb

A cel-animated musical feature version of Tolkien’s eponymous prelude. The book resembles traditional children’s literature, and this film resembles traditional children’s animation. Bass and Rankin directing. John Huston, playing Gandalf, sounds a bit like Leonard Nimoy, who recorded “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” in 1967; alas there is no real connection.

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‣‣ The Lord of the Rings (1978) IMDb

An entity seeks to rule through an innocuous magical artifact. Three races convene to destroy the artifact, but who is least susceptible to its promises of power? Dwarfs have little interest in or influence on the surface world anymore. Humans are short-lived, fickle and divided, responsible for not having destroyed the artifact when it would have been easier. Elves, while clearly a superior race, are abandoning the continent to live with their distant gods. A non-human wizard, set apart, realizes that a fourth race is more suitable: a little known people called hobbits. They are childlike in stature and care little for adventure, but seem to resist the corrupting call of the artifact better than the others.

So it falls to a small group of small hobbits, protected by a fellowship made up of the other races, to carry the artifact to where it was forged, a volcanic fire at the heart of darkness. It may be possible to survive the long journey, but not to do so unchanged.

Filming of the first two thirds or so of Tolkien’s epic by the same name. Much of the animation is traditional cel stuff, some of it aided by rotoscoping. As in the battle scenes of the director’s Wizards (1977), cheaper rotoscoping on a larger scale takes over towards the end. A few things are done well enough. With far more time and money it might have escaped the now total shade of Jackson’s version.

References here: The Return of the King (1980).

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‣‣ The Return of the King (1980) IMDb

Seen in 2016.

The last third of Tolkien’s epic, with many omissions and curious changes. Elrond has a glittering halo for some reason. Eowyn gets her crowning moment, while many other major characters are cut. Aragorn’s army, apparently of the living, is lifted away from Mordor by Gwaihir’s buddies, really highlighting the classic plot hole. Weirdly, Gandalf prophesies that hobbits will merge into the human species by gradually becoming taller, which I suppose is an allowance for an audience of children, who will do something similar in real life.

Musical in the style of the original, defying the serious turn of the underlying literature. Less desperate and less creative in its execution than Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings (1978), to which this is not a sequel, despite the timing and minimal overlap of the three projects.

Apart from the leading motif of “Frodo with the nine fingers”, the darkness of the novel is not effectively represented here. It is therefore not clear why Frodo chooses to leave Middle-Earth. The plot can’t make much sense to people who’ve never read the novel, nor seen Bakshi’s film.

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