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“Kill the she-elf!”



Do we have any actual evidence that Peter Jackson has gone through puberty? Yes, there’s the beard, and the children, but his Tolkien movies all look like they were conceived and directed by a ten-year-old. I only saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on TV but we saw The Desolation of Smowg in all its 3-d, 48-frames-per-second glory last night. The dragon is fabulous (and Martin Freeman is a great Bilbo); the rest–and there’s a LOT of the rest–is relentless closeups of fights and frights that the “high frame rate” makes look like Survivor: Renaissance Faire.

While I remain morally offended by the making of three big movies from one little book, the addition of subplots and characters was itself well-done, even the inclusion of not-Liv-Tyler as not-Arwen, although she totally was and was. In fact, the movie seemed like it needed more plot, because what there was got dragged out to inordinate lengths. The spiders, the barrels, the Orc-fighting . . . and near the end the dwarves bustle about Smowg’s lair for what seems like days (Richard asked me what they were doing. “Killing time,” I said.) The amount of attention and detail lavished on the barrel-riding in particular made it look theme-park ready.

Boys of any age and gender will enjoy all the combat, which is what the high-frame-rate stuff was made for, as the fights seems excitingly real. But there’s little sense of actual danger, as we know from the Lord of the Rings movies that Bilbo and Gandalf and Legolas (wtf?) will all be fine. Not-Arwen should watch her back, though.

There are about six chapters left to go, including “The Clouds Burst,” aka The Battle of  Five Armies, which is just the kind of Tolkien Jackson likes. Expect Ian McKellen to have a good time with “Bolg of the North is coming, O Dain! whose father you slew in Moria. Behold! the bats are above his army like a sea of locusts. They ride upon wolves and Wargs are in their train!” Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be there.


Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Ah Roger. How I wish he had made a movie of The Hobbit. How I wish it had not been so very long. And Tauriel, whom I quite liked, only pointed up that there are No. Other. Women. anywhere in this self-indulgent fan-fiction of a movie. Which I will, of course, see over and over again.
    The dragon almost made me forgive everything else.

  2. Elizabeth Law says:

    I hope I don’t get flamed for this, but I read The Hobbit in 6th grade and really enjoyed it. And I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy…once. To me (here comes the part where I would get yelled at in a pub), the movies are just as sophisticated as the books, i.e. not very. They’re enjoyable, but boy do they feel adolescent, or pre-adolescent, male to me. For my money, Jackson’s movies really fit the sensibility of the books.

  3. I agree that the final movie will not need to add in so many battles as that part of the book has a biggie. And I love your answer to Richard re the dwarves activities in the Lonely Mountain. Talk about filler! Having seen the first one, I was more prepared for this one. I do love Martin Freeman as Bilbo and just wish he’d gotten more chances to demonstrate his character’s wit and smarts as in the book. Say with the spiders. Also missed humor — it is in the book, but seemed barely in the movie at all. At least not of the Tolkien sort.

    Elizabeth, I actually think the two are very different. I read the Tolkien’s trilogy often, but it was his smaller stories I loved the most. A confession — in high school I wanted to be an animator. This was in the early 70s so no computers and such. So I took a Tolkien story I loved, “Leaf By Niggle” and did around 30 small watercolors for it to do as an animation. As for The Hobbit, I loved it then and then for years thereafter, reading it aloud to my students, doing murals with them of it, etc. So I can say that The Hobbit book has a very different sensibility from the trilogy. It is a fairy tale with a very strong narrative voice which is part of the charm. The trilogy is a saga, an epic, and totally different. What Jackson has done is function as Frankenstein, piecing together stuff, some from the original Hobbit, some from other Tolkien material. and some from his head to turn that fairy tale into a huge long saga a la the trilogy.

    All that said, I will be seeing the final movie too most likely.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    To me, the difference between the books and the movies is not so much about sophistication as tone. (And I agree with Monica that The Hobbit is very different from LOTR, but Jackson treats them the same way.) I remember when cover art for the Tolkien books by the Hildebrandt brothers supplanted that of Pauline Baynes and J.R.R. himself. Where Baynes was all miniature medievalist and Tolkien misty and Art Nouveau-ish, and both had a strong air of William Morris, the Hildebrandt covers were all brawny and sunlit and literal. That’s where Jackson got his cues.

  5. Grace, there were no women in Tolkien’s Hobbit book, which is why they needed to add one to the movie version. Blame Tolkien, who wrote the book in an era where women were considered second-class citizens.

    By the way, the person who wrote the review seems to think Tauriel and Arwen are similar. That’s laughable. Arwen was royalty and did little to no fighting. Tauriel is not of royal blood is an excellent fighter. Plus, Tauriel is restless and feisty, which Arwen was not.

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