The Hobbits

this will always be the cover for me

There being nothing else on, and it being NaNoWriMo, I’ve had a variety of things on for background noise.

In general, my writing music is Frank Sinatra, which I like having on, but which doesn’t demand my full attention. I could probably cope with Hiss Golden Messenger on in the background, because I find M C Taylor’s voice so soothing, but in general I stick with Sinatra.

Alternatively, I can have something on the telly that I don’t feel the need to watch. This year, I put on the Hobbits (it’s on Amazon). I have, in dribs and drabs, watched the fucking horrible Lord of the Rings (to give them their full titles) films in the past, but I never wanted to watch the Hobbits.

Let me give you my bona fides. I picked up The Hobbit (novel) in my middle school bookshop when I won some kind of prize at the age of (I’m going to guess) twelve. I read and enjoyed it, and a couple of years later tackled my sister’s Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. I enjoyed that too, apart from the shit bits, which I knew to skip in my subsequent readings, of which there were many over the years. I also enjoyed the Radio 4 version of Lord of the Rings, which was on in 1981. I have a clear memory of listening to that in my bedroom when I was living down in Kent, having left home in December of 1980.

So a lot of affection for the books, and even the wider genre, which we have spoken about before. And then came the films. And they were so fucking bad that I have never been able to read the books since.

What is it about them that’s so awful? I’ve been giving it some thought.

First of all, they’re cartoons. You might have some proper act-ors under some of that makeup, and they might even be capable of delivering a line or two. Martin Freeman is good, right? But I think there’s more honesty in a watercolour-style animation with some decent voice actors than there is in this CGI wankfest. Just seeing those armies lined up makes me think, yeah, it’s a cartoon. Nothing at stake, nothing is real. It’s like the difference between the entirely CGI and ridiculous/impossible car chases of modern movies and the actual car on actual streets of Bullitt, or, let’s face it, What’s Up Doc?

So there’s that. It’s just a cartoon, and it’s stupid and the threat level is zero. Practical effects, in-camera effects: good. CGI: wank.

I don’t like the production design either. Everything is uglier than it needs to be. Again, there’d be more honesty in a few prosthetics and a much smaller cast, with tighter angles and a lower budget. Let the actors act.

And then there’s the size problem. It will never not look preposterous to show a so-called elf or man on the same screen as a so called dwarf or hobbit. You cannot believe in the heroism, bravery and fighting skills of a dwarf once you have seen them miniaturised next to a tall girl with Spock ears. It’s just stoopid. I’ve read a lot of fantasy: I’m reading a Robin Hobb at the moment. And I’m perfectly willing to suspend disbelief and get into the story and characters and love and care for them. But you show me a miniaturised human actor next to another human actor, or said miniaturised actor on the back of a CGI goat, and you’ve lost me. It just looks ridonks.

Finally, the storytelling. I knew the Hobbits would be bad, because obviously stretching out a 300-page book over 97 hours is going to be a terrible idea. How do they do it? By eking out every syllable of every word into minutes of screen time, and by supplementing the story with bits from the later book to bulk it out and turn the light children’s story of Bilbo Baggins into some super serious everything-at-stake dwarfocalypse.

Explosions and burning buildings and collapsing cities and smashing and bashing and it’s all just background noise to my diligent daily typing.

Fucking awful. And tainted forever. Good books, ruined, by people with no taste and too much money.

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