Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Hobbit: What Peter Jackson did right and what Tolkien couldn’t have understood…

            When I was twelve, I read the Lord of the Rings.  It was one of the best books I’d ever read.  This book was probably what put me on the road to loving fantasy fiction.  I had also read the Hobbit way back then as well.  But I have to admit my memory of it was lacking when I saw the first of the Peter Jackson movies.  I also remember the animated film of it quite a bit better than any of the written material.  However, recently due to beginning to play Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.  I decided to reread all of the books, just to have a better idea of the more detailed world.  Also, I felt like Alexa Ray Corriea probably knows more about the works or J.R.R.Tolkien than I do and I I can’t have that(just kidding Alexa).  But enough backstory.  Suffice it to say that I recently finished the Hobbit and I’ve seen both of the released Peter Jackson Hobbit movies.  I also, just started the Lord of the Rings, which seems just as good as I remembered.  But the Hobbit was a completely different story.

            The Hobbit is not a very long book; around 300 pages or so depending on your edition.  Too long for a single movie, which is probably why Peter Jackson broke it into three.  However, the movies and the book hardly bare much of a resemblance to each except in extremely broad strokes.  I won’t go blow by blow here.  Rather I will make some assertions to reveal some of the more obvious problems correlating the two works.

            Many people feel that the Peter Jackson movie is a bad imitation of the book.  Many people feel that Peter Jackson, has changed the plot and themes of the Hobbit to more easily run into the Lord of the Rings; rather than just the prologue that it was never meant to be until the Lord of the Rings was done to begin with.  Peter Jackson has already explained that the movies are a combination of the original story along with some things from the annotations, appendices, and so on.  The first and second movies were great in the sense that they do work well in the themes and tone of the Lord of the Rings movies.  The actual action of the plot was also wonderful.  Not in correlation with the novel, but on it’s own.  Which is a very good thing, because a faithful retelling of the Hobbit in the 21st Century would certainly flop.

            The Hobbit, the novel; is not a well written or plottedl.  The book is not interesting to the modern reader at all.  Less happens than in a similar book of that length.  Also, very few of the characters, even the heroes are interesting or very heroic.  The main characters of the Hobbit are Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf.  The dwarves are not in anyway heroic or very interesting.  Other than Thorin and Balin, they are little more than a list of names that Tolkien continuously goes over.  Tolkien takes any chance to go over the names.  I don’t know why, but he does this at least two dozen times in the book.  I don’t know what he found so fascinating about creating situations where he could do this.  But every single time, it takes the reader out of the story completely.  The Elves are proud and a bit apathetic.  They are little more than wraiths and even when things go well toward the end; there was little to discover about the Elvish race in the Hobbit.  All you know about dwarves by the end is that they are a bit dishonest, very cowardly, and very greedy.  Men fair little better.  The Bard is the only man who really fairs well in the Hobbit.  Bilbo and Gandalf are really the only characters who come off as heroic.  Gandalf less than Bilbo.  I’m not sure why Tolkien had this animosity toward people in general, whether a made up race or his own.  But it seemed like he was quick to point out people’s flaws and slow to show their strengths.  Even the hobbits, who he seemed to love above all others, were shown in less than a flattering light most of the time.

             Now, the Peter Jackson movies are a completely different story.  From the tidbits and pieces that they must have gleaned from the appendices and such.  They created not only one plot but three.  Probably because they were making three movies.  But creating these plots and characters make the movies much more interesting and far more modern than the book.  The book on the whole is rather boring and the fact that majority of the book takes place over months rather than the way the movies run over probably a few days.  The pacing of the two is what I’m considering here.  While the movies may be argued to move too quickly; it is hard to argue that the book does not move far too slowly.  The slow movement gives the narrator lots of time to make the characters complain about their lot.  Which I found rather funny considering they aren’t saving the world.  They are going after a dragon’s gold.  So why complain?  If you don’t want to do it anymore, don’t.  This was also quite prevalent in the book, that one could simply give up and go back home.  Yes they hundreds of miles from home, but I guess they just jump on the Middle Earth Mass Transit and go home.  If you are in the middle of no where hundreds of miles from home; you really don’t have the option to just give up.  But it certainly seemed a constant theme.

           I found myself being less and less sympathetic toward Biblo, the more he complained.  I also felt the dwarves, especially some that were little more than names, were even less sympathetic considering it was kind of a,”fair weather friend,” situation.  Where in, they were more than up for anything as long as it was easy and didn’t involve any danger.  These maybe relatively realistic responses from the average person, but not something I want in my fantasy fiction protagonists.  Also, I would say that in retrospect; not seeing EVERY SINGLE travel sequence played out in the movies is wonderful.  Because there is practically no benefit in them; in the book they just add to the word count.

            One of the other things that sticks out toward the end of the book; are some of the insinuations about the “dragon’s hoard effect” or “dragon’s gold fever.”  Both of these referring to people who get a bunch of gold and then worry that people are going to try and steal it from them.  So they go off and start killing people or making life miserable for their fellow man in the pursuit of keeping all the gold for themselves.  Which is mentioned but never explained in the story. In the Peter Jackson film there is definitely this effect on the Arkenstone.  So much so, that it almost mirrors the effect of the One Ring. But much like many other things in the book, people seem to be the only ones susceptible to this.  Being that dwarves seem to act this way anyway, dragon’s gold or no dragon’s gold.   The Arkenstone is rather a small thing in the book, a kind of postscript, or icing on the cake of betrayal and greed that the final few chapters show.  But in the movies it is much more prominent and rather than creating non-heroes which was what the book seemed to be trying to do.  The movie tries to make corrupted heroes.  Which, personally, I prefer.  I would rather a heroic person become corrupted than make a relatively relatable character greedy and cowardly for the sake of the story.

            I think many people remember the Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien from their childhood and probably remember it a certain way.  Which I can certainly agree with and relate to.  I wish I hadn’t read the book as an adult.  Because in there I didn’t find a wonderful children’s book that filled my mind with wonder.  Rather a poorly written book about people who just wanted gold and didn’t care what they did to get that gold or who was hurt in the process.  There is a lot more that I could say about the novel version of the Hobbit but suffice it to say none of it would be good.  I think J.R.R Tolkien did an excellent job with his first book and certainly the first REAL example of Epic Fantasy.  But by modern standards the Lord of the Rings is far more like what we expect from Fantasy Fiction today.  Perhaps, back in the 60s people just took books at surface value, especially those aimed at children and didn’t discuss them properly.  Also, I feel this may have been one of those instances of adults getting one message from the book and children getting another.  Much like Chronicles of Narnia.  It also could be just another example of some things not holding up with age.  I don’t believe I read about a single female character in the entirety of the book for instance.  But again, I could speak at length about what Tolkien did right and wrong.  Suffice it to say; I applaud the creativity and earnestness of Peter Jackson; because if in twenty years everyone remembers the Hobbit the way he portrayed it and not the way Tolkien did, we will all be better off.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fire in the Blood Book Review

Fire in the Blood

Erin M. Evans

Wizards of the Coast

Pub Date: Oct 14 2014

4/5 Stars


          When I heard that Erin Evans was doing a sequel to Adversary I was pretty surprised.  Not because Wizards of the Coast is unknown to do sequels even sequels within a series as Adversary was in the Sundering Series.  But more because, the book was so middling.  It seemed like the author created it for something else and then transplanted it into the Forgotten Realms rather than making completely from the ground up for the world.  When I read the book, I kind of imagined that the author owed Wizards a book and this was her way of fulfilling your obligation.   I guess I was wrong and I must to some degree apologize to Erin Evans for this supposition; because Fire in the Blood is an excellent book and while it took me almost a month to read it.  When I reached the end I could hardly believe that I didn’t want it to end.

        Everyone from the first book is back and while I was very critical of the characters the first time around.  I have to admit they grew on me.  I was less excited about the setting as the whole Netherese War is REALLY wearing out it’s welcome.  But the actual plot and the characters who participate in it are interesting and I was surely hooked all the way to the end.  Also, as this appears to be the first in a series of it’s own.  I was pretty happy that the author executed on it so well.  All of the things I disliked about the first book seemed better explained and the quality of the writing itself was better.  The end was especially well done.  While I was a little put off by the fact that one of the major plot lines that at least is represented to the reader as a major plotline, is not dealt with in the end.  I can certainly understand that the author is using this to get people to read the next book in the series.  Which is good, often Wizards books have no through line plot which makes each one almost too self contained. 

      While this series is definitely not my first choice in the worlds of Wizards of the Coast; I have to say that from my perspective it gets the award for VERY MUCH IMPROVED.  If you even liked the characters from the Adversary you owe it yourself to read this book.  But if you haven’t read the Adversary you need to, I’ve seen a lot of people complain about not being able to follow this book coming to it cold.  Which is understandable, and while I didn’t love the first book; I did give it three stars.  So it isn’t bad, it just wasn’t great.