Against the advice of my friend, The Rad Trad, I did go and see Peter Jackson’s final entry into Middle Earth. Since his Traddiness has already offered his thoughts on the matter I feel obligated to do the same.
I first read Tolkien’s books when the films had not been released yet but were well on the way. My first ever introduction to the work was through the 1979 Ralph Bakshi film, to which I still hold a soft spot for and is the basis for my mental images on my first reading. I then read The Hobbit and was introduced to the Rankin Bass films (a guilty pleasure to this day).
Watching The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater was one of the cherished movie experiences I had as a child. I watched The Two Towers the next year and also loved it, though I did notice a few small deviations for the sake of adaption that did not bother me too much (it helps that Lucas would defile Star Wars and Darth Vader the next year with the disaster that was Attack of the Clones). Return of the King was one of the most beautiful spectacles put on film, but I have the following issues with it: the butchery of Denethor, the rushed nature of some points (Faramir and Eowyn), the farcing of Gimli, and the cartoony overpowering of Legolas.
Despite the imperfections, the films had moments of genuine humanity that most action spectacles lack. This scene, for instance, is a perfect example of everything that the series did right to capture the spirit of Tolkien’s work.
I went on to read The Silmarillion a couple of times and then moved on. Tolkien and his work are very important to how I think a story should be told and I remember it when I write my own lesser work.
Now, for the Hobbit movies.
The first was a very good and fun adventure movie. It invented a few things and added stuff from the extra Tolkien material, but still told a coherent story and felt like it was taking place in Middle Earth. The second movie was a slapped-together disaster without a coherent structure and with ridiculous action scenes that would make Jackie Chan blush.
How is the last one? More ridiculous than the second, more fun, more moments of heart (no, NOT the Elf girl and young Dwarf romance), better writing overall, and more pure unadulterated and unrestrained Peter Jackson direction. I will likely never watch the second movie again unless I am doing a watch of the entire series, but I look forward to popping this one in with a few friends over some warm food and cold filling beer. This is a reminder why Peter Jackson should be kept under constraints and what he will do if no limitations are placed on him. The physics-defying feats of Legolas (yes, Legolas is in The Hobbit movies to those who did not know) alone are worth a watch. I do not regret seeing this movie and had a genuinely good time with it. I just wish the enjoyment had come from satisfaction at a good adaption rather than from humor and mockery.
Perhaps Bakshi had it right to begin with. Perhaps we shoud have stopped with the original trilogy and left The Hobbit for a more competent director. Whatever the case, we can still fall back on the source material and remember its greatness.
It is more than can be said for Star Wars.
Final Note: I am tired of hearing the opinion from Tradistan that the Shire is meant to represent the idyllic “Catholic Society” (As if such a thing ever did or could exist in this wretched world!). Just as they do with liturgy, the Trad world as a whole fails to understand Tolkien and appears to only be interested in him to serve its own petty and worldly ends.