Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy Birthday J.R.R. Tolkein!

On this day in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkein was born in South Africa.  That means that ten years ago today would have been his eleventy-first birthday!  That's one of my favorite neo-logisms to come from his books (along with "second breakfast").

I almost didn't want to go see the current cinematic version of The Hobbit.  I was a pretty big fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, thinking they got the epic scope of the story just right as well as the intimacy of the characters.  And the visuals were fantastic.  But of course the movie makers succumbed to Hollywoodization in several places that left me scratching my head.  And that is what concerned me about what they might do to The Hobbit.

I've read the book three times--first during my college years; then I read it aloud to my class of 7th and 8th graders in Africa in the fall of 1991; then my good wife and I read it to each other in 2001 before the trilogy movies started coming out.  The Hobbit is very different in feel from the trilogy.  I'm afraid the movie doesn't feel any different.  Of course the visuals are still very cool (we saw the 3D version)--especially the beginning with the back story of the Dwarf kingdom under the mountain.  But it feels to me like Peter Jackson et al. said, "Hey, our LOTR trilogy was fantastically successful, so let's apply the same formula and do it again."  There is too much fighting and not enough singing (though the new rendition of "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates" was pretty good).  Look at the movie poster.  Is that really what the book connotes?

I thought Martin Freeman made a pretty good Bilbo.  I really like Freeman as Dr. Watson in the British Sherlock series.  It is interesting that he is very much the same character there as he is with Bilbo.  I guess most actors tend bring their acting baggage with them into new roles (with the notable exception of Matt Damon).

I'm sure I'll see the other movies.  Just like I'm sure I'll go see the Ender's Game and Silence movies when they're made.  But I have a reputation to keep up as an elitist snob who thinks books are better than movies.  So I'll go ahead and reveal to you right now that those books are better than their movies too!

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