Please hear me out before you start hurling stones at me. I’m a fan of everything that Peter Jackson and his crew have accomplished over the past 13+ years. Peter has done wonders for Tolkien’s work by bringing it to the forefront of popular culture. He’s made it possible for the masses to not only enjoy the stories but to know everything about Middle Earth without ever having to endure the books. Sure a few details might be altered here and there but when does a book ever get translated into a movie word for word?
The first time I watched the Hobbit was at a Cub Scouts “lock-in” over at my local elementary’s gymnasium. I was probably around 8 years old and had never heard of the Hobbit much less J.R.R. Tolkien. The group consisted of around 15 boys in the age range of 7 to 10 with at least 6 fathers in tow, one of which was my own. One of the dads started pushing in the huge cart thing that held up the now ancient television with it’s VCR and gave us a little intro to what we were going to watch. As soon as I heard tell of wizards, dragons and elves I was instantly hooked without ever seeing the opening sequence. The movie played on for around an hour and fifteen minutes or so and I was glued to the screen the entire time. Some people say that the animated version of the Hobbit was a little too intense for a younger audience, but when you’re a boy who spends time drawing dragons and trolls in his sketchbooks, it’s the best movie ever. I wish that I could go back now and watch the dad’s faces as their sons embarked on the epic quest with Bilbo and the dwarves. I’m sure they were thrilled to introduce what’s arguably one of the best “children’s” stories to their offspring without having to bore them with the actual text.
Some of you might say that nostalgia persuades me to think that this animated classic from 1977 is better than the trilogy that Jackson has presented us with. I would maybe concur with that if it wasn’t for the simple fact that I had just watched it again this past weekend. I was amazed at how entertained I still was with the film and found myself wishing that I had it on BluRay so that I could avoid the damn commercials. This movie solidly holds up, in my opinion, and is still a better telling of the Hobbit than the new trilogy.
GET TO THE POINT LUCAS!
Ok ok, here’s why…
Howard Shore has done a brilliant job with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and did a fine job with the Hobbit’s too. Yet, when I watch the new movies and find myself humming the songs from the animated film, that’s when I know that something is better than the other. I love “the Greatest Adventure” from Glenn Yarbrough along with some of the others like the one above – “Misty Mountains Cold”. Just something about the folkish tunes that seem to bring the book to life far better than the resounding scores of today’s movies.
Epic Creepy Gollum
Sorry that I’m using YouTube clips to illustrate my points, but if you haven’t seen what I’m talking about then everything is for not. Andy Serkis and what they did with Gollum from LOTR was phenomenal and a game changer when it came to CGI motion capture. Though I always wonder how much of Serkis’ performance pulled from the animated Gollum? The way he slunks around the caverns, touches himself on the face, and freaks out when his ring is found missing all seem to be pretty on point with how Gollum was depicted within the animated version. The look of the animated creature seemed to better fit what I read in Tolkien’s description far better than how he was displayed on screen in the recent adaptations. (especially the eyes, the way they were soulless and gave Gollum a ghoulish look) Also, I find myself really enjoying Gollum’s voice from the 1977 classic because it’s all that more creepy and chilling. When the first film of the trilogy came out, the only highlight that kept getting praise was the Gollum sequence – and while I would agree that it was probably the most entertaining part – it just didn’t quite do it for me compared to the animated version.
The Creature Design
The only creature design that I find rewarding from the new films are the Great Goblin and Smaug. (let’s face it Smaug is so completely bad ass … he could easily be one of the best depictions of a Dragon to ever grace the silver screen – and Cumberbatch’s voice = perfect for the part) Ok enough of me getting all mushy about that … moving on. No really though, the animated feature easily trumps the live action in creature design because they actually look like what I had imagined within what Tolkien described. The orcs (which, why are they even in the movie?) are just behemoth men with overbites and really look more like LOTR’s Uruk-hai. The goblins could’ve been styled more like the Great Goblin with grotesque features. The trolls were ok, but the CGI seemed completely wasted and if you look above – those trolls are a far better design. I can go even further and say that the Weta workshop should’ve tried to take some cues from the animated vision because for me – all the creatures start to blur together in how they look. Similar facial features and disfigurations tend to come across as “been there done that”. Exaggeration can go a long way within creature design and the mark was missed with Peter Jackson’s version.
It Only Needed One Movie
I see the light at the end of the tunnel – this post is coming to an end!
This is the easiest thing to compare. The 1977 Hobbit needed one film to tell the tale, yet for one reason or another Peter Jackson needed not one, not two, but three entirely lengthy films to get the story across. WHY!? He could have easily made it two films and probably would’ve gained more respect for it, but he felt compelled to not only tell Bilbo’s journey, but every forsaken character of the entire book. He even threw in plot lines that have nothing to do with the book. They are only included to help complete his masterpiece which is what I like to call Peter Jackson’s Version of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Volumes 1 – 6.
Again, I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining about the vision and films that Jackson has given us. I find them entertaining to some degree but I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my watch so many times within a single movie as I did with “An Unexpected Journey”. If you’re able to find an hour and fifteen minutes, do yourself a favor and watch the animated version. For anyone who is a fan of the book or the new films, it’s just an added treat that I’m sure you’d enjoy just as much if not more.
Hey guys & gals, my name is Lucas Tetrault and if you like this post or any of the others I’ve written – please feel free to venture over to my Blog and take a gander at some other stuff I write about. Heck, you can follow me on Twitter if you want. I promise I don’t intend to waste your time.
I work as a Creative Director and spend time away from my job with my family, writing for Unreality, and trying to be creative with my own personal projects.