There and Back Again (and again, and again)


My wife and I, despite work obligations, were always in the midnight preview audiences at the Senator for all three Lord of the Rings films, the complete director’s cuts! We’d arrive home at 3:45am or whatever and have to be at work the next morning. We were always super-excited to see those.

We didn’t do the previews for this one, and waited a couple weeks. I suppose we’re getting old. But we saw it tonight and despite severe reservations, I didn’t hate it; rather the contrary at times, in fact. If that sounds tepid, it kind of is. There are problems (Steven Hart is as usual spot-on). But Jackson and company faced a huge challenge–how to make a Hobbit film that avoided diminishing the previous franchise. Would the new film connect for legions of folks who never read the books? How to make a rather cute and quaint children’s book fit the mold? Also–when you’ve shot your wad by showing us spectacular settings like Rivendell, Gondor, Helm’s Deep, and The Shire already, how can you re-surprise audiences with Middle Earth without the same old, same old? And how do you get much older Saruman and Gandalf to look 60 years younger?

I think Jackson did reasonably well. A subplot is added to tie in the Lord of the Rings more explicitly, featuring the Brown Wizard and some poisoned hedgehogs (a nod to C.S. Lewis?). There is a lot of orc/goblin Keystone Cops stuff, about 60% of which could disappear. There’s too much inner space dialogue between Galadriel and Gandalf (I always think of Scatman Crothers: “Want some ice cream, Doc?”). But I was never bored, only occasionally grumpy. There’s lots of spectacular falling down. But the dwarves are authentic to the spirit of the book, the goblins and wargs and trolls all satisfy, the eagles do their thang beautifully. I had a good time.

So–not a home run, but not a film I need to watch again and again either. I kind of still wish sometimes that Guillermo had gotten the chance to create Smaug…but I’ll take Jackson gladly.

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