I should begin this piece with an apology.
The trailer for the upcoming Peter Jackson film, The Hobbit, was released weeks ago. It has been and gone. Critics have reviewed it – offering up their predictable and (some might say) banal opinions – and fanboys have drooled all over it, their Pepsi-rich saliva dissolving parts of it, like nerdy versions of the Alien. Yet still Johnny Fisher has not commented on it. As a prominent Tolkien expert, this represents a grievous professional shortcoming on my part, and I therefore offer up the necessary apologies:
Sorry for not reviewing the trailer for The Hobbit.
The reasons behind my silence are two-fold. Firstly, my creative output has been stifled by a vexing literary matter. I have spent countless hours trying to tie-up the many contradictory loose ends in my time-travel mini-series, Jackson Solar. Secondly, I have been dealing with the immense emotional fallout resulting from a familial ruckus that occurred at my house on Christmas Day. I don’t wish to air my dirty laundry in public and so I will refrain from going into too much detail, but let’s just say my grandfather very much regrets his ill-considered remarks about my new Battlestar Galactica wristwatch.
Returning to the matter at hand – those who know me (of course, my complex personality and mysterious ways mean that nobody can every truly know me) will recall that I’ve acknowledged Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films are fine cinematic achievements; and furthermore that I’ve accepted them as legitimate interpretations of the original books.
What I have never accepted, however, is the way in which Peter Jackson seems to view himself as JRR’s heir, strutting around the various Middle Earth sets like he owns the place, commenting with profound foolishness on the finer points of LOTR canon, and butchering the source material in tandem with that other dour-handed wielder of a wanton cleaver, Philippa Boyens. Their narrative crimes are uncountable and deeply ruinous to Tolkien’s original message. This pair of hacks had the temerity to employ the term “Fell Beast” as a noun, instead of an adjective, and nobody on the production team did anything about it!
My blood boils just to think of it.
I therefore prepared to watch the Hobbit trailer with a mixture of optimism and apprehension. Probably more apprehension, to be honest, as I expected that it would probably be rubbish and fail to live up to my expectations or fall into alignment with my very specific creative vision.
I must say, it was not all bad. The brief trailer promised a consistency of style with the original trilogy and hinted at numerous exciting set-pieces, including Orcish devilry and coordinated inter-Dwarf cross-table plate-tossing. I was happy when I caught that tantalising glimpse of Gollum at trailer’s end, and I am of course glad to see McKellan return as Gandalf, one of the few casting decisions Jackson got right in his original trilogy.
However, sticking with the theme of casting decisions, the trailer unfortunately hints that a grievous casting error has been made in the Hobbit. In the book, Thorin Oakenshield is a veteran Dwarf captain, a grizzly warrior-king-in-exile. He is not a bearded young rock-star with great skin and chiselled good looks, like the bloke they have used in the trailer. This guy is totally wrong for the part, and I am prompted to wonder if a) this is a massive joke intended to wind up Tolkien fans, or b) they are using this guy as a stand-in, until they acquire an appropriate actor. Because at the moment his inappropriateness for the part reminds me of the fat Irish bloke who stood in for Jabba the Hutt in unused scenes from the first version of A New Hope, in the absence of the budget and technical ability required to portray that obese slug.
Production of this film is already underway, so – if genuine – there is little we can do about this terrible casting error. However, there may still be time for Peter Jackson to listen to another piece of my casting advice.
If the historic Battle of the Greenfields (described only in passing in the book) is shown in a flashback scene, I would support a cameo appearance by Colin Montgomerie as Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took, the warrior-hobbit who knocked the head off the Goblin chief Golfimbul during said battle and inadvertently invented the game of golf. “Monty” certainly has the British-Isles accent and burly shoulders required to portray such a character. Although, thinking about it, having someone who has consistently failed to win a Masters appear in the film might not have much of a positive impact on revenue figures. The ever-popular Tiger Woods is the smart choice for the role, but the rampant extra-marital fornicator is notoriously touchy – he’d probably get a bit arsey when ordered to smear his face in skin-lightening make-up.*
Alas that Smaug the Magnificent did not appear in the trailer. I imagine Jackson and his Weta goons are going to CGI the fuck out of poor Smaug, when really the smart move would be to portray him through a combination of animatronics and “go-motion” filming, techniques used to bring Vermithrax Pejorative to life (easily the greatest dragon in the history of cinema). In terms of Smaug’s actual depiction, I want to see if Jackson cocks up the portrayal of that monster as badly as he did with the Balrog; though I sincerely hope he hasn’t, as I have been advised by concerned medical professionals that my nervous system cannot deal with a further stress spike of that magnitude.
On the positive side, I am glad to see that Jackson has included at least one Tolkien song in this film, namely Over the Misty Mountains Cold, a powerful piece expressing the intimate longings of the Dwarves. Many internet critics deride Tolkien’s song writing skills, claiming his characters’ poems, lays and dirges are mawkish and tiresome. I wholeheartedly disagree with such ignorant analyses, and instead see Tolkien’s rhymes as powerful and evocative Romantic masterpieces, existing on the same plane as Coleridge’s better efforts. Pedestrian Tolkien readers proudly relate how they skipped the rhyme-heavy Bombadil sections of LOTR – for me this equates to writing “I am an ignorant cretin” on both sides of a sandwich board and wearing it around town. Personally, I feel that Bombadil and his good lady Goldberry didn’t sing enough. Whilst “normal” people sing Queen or Bon Jovi songs in the shower or on the toilet, I usually belt out Bombadil classic Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!
Jackson clearly has his work cut out, if this teaser trailer is anything to go by. It does show promise, but it also hints at some fundamental misreading / deliberate perversion of the original text. I appeal to him to pay heed to this blog entry, and gives my suggestions due thought. At the end of the day, when it comes to a love of Tolkien’s work and a desire to see them interpreted honestly, we are on the same team – even if he doesn’t quite understand what teamwork is all about, or even bother turning up for the game or understand any of the basic rules.
*I am no racist, as my Indian acquaintance Ravi might testify, so please don’t claim that I’m trying to get Tiger to go “whiteface” due to bigotry, or intolerance, or anything like that. We simply cannot countenance the idea of a black Bandobras Took, due to canonical limitations beyond our control. Bullroarer was the archetypal Alpha Hobbit, and during the course of his long life the venerable old warrior would’ve sowed his considerable seed in innumerable hobbit maidens. How then do we account for the lack of black or mixed-race hobbit faces in the LOTR films?