CURSES, Peter Jackson, we hates you! It isn’t that I didn’t love your Lord of the Rings movies, I did. It isn’t that you are stretching your new prequel, The Hobbit, a short children’s book, into a three-film epic because it looks as if it will be gorgeous.
I’m not even worried that you have shot it at 48 frames a second, though I do fret that such hyper-realism is the last thing fantasy needs.
It is hard enough to accept dwarfs, elves and pointy-hatted wizards cavorting about without it looking so real it is hard not to laugh.
Just like bedroom etiquette, fantasy needs some fuzziness around the edges.
JRR Tolkien himself saw this, grumpily dismissing the ability of drama to represent the otherworldliness of fantasy.
‘‘ Men dressed up as talking animals may achieve buffoonery or mimicry, but they don’t achieve fantasy,’’ he once intoned.
But then Tolkien could never have foreseen the cinematic wizardry that has given movie-makers so much power to convince. And here, Peter Jackson, is the problem. You simply have been too damn successful with your cinematic version of The Lord of the Rings, and in moulding The Hobbit to the same vision you have hijacked the stories forever. For better or worse Middle-earth is now part of a New Zealand tourism promotion.
It is as if you found the notorious ring of power yourself while cleaning out your shed, but after so admirably shouldering the burden of carrying it and then producing three beautiful and faithful films, you got to the edge of Mount Doom and, just like Frodo, you couldn’t bring yourself to throw it into the fire.
Alas, there has been no Gollum who could have grabbed the ring from you and made The Hobbit themselves, setting the book and our imaginations free with an alternative vision of Middle-earth and its characters.
I’m thinking of directors of the likes of Terry Gilliam ( Time Bandits, The Brothers Grimm), Tim Burton ( Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland) or animator Hayao Miyazaki ( Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away).
I also would have plumbed for Guillermo del Toro, who created Pan’s Labyrinth, though that seems too dark a vision for The Hobbit.
But of course you had already hitched del Toro to your vision by hiring him as the director for The Hobbit, then took it over yourself when he lost patience with the endless delays.
Peter Jackson, you had the chance to show a heroic humility and let go of Middle-earth so as to give it back the freedom of vision, the free-flowing imagination, that readers of books enjoy and to which film directors can only pay homage with their constraining, but eye-catching, special-effect powered wonders.
But, like some Dark Lord, you are enslaving us to your own, albeit sweet, vision.
I have a wonderful book that pre-dates your films that is full of different artistic visions of Middle-earth and its peoples.
But when my children first began looking through David Day’s Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia they regularly confronted me with indignant comments like, ‘‘ They don’t look like orcs!’’
My children appear to ‘‘ know’’ what orcs look like, having seen your films.
And no matter how I paint up medieval toy soldiers to look like goblins for them to play with, my son and his mates appear unconvinced and long for the overpriced official figures that match their movie memories.
The same applies to the Peter Jackson vision of the Hobbit himself, Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf and the conniving creature Gollum, all characters in The Lord of the Rings.
But there is still hope. The Children of Hurin, Tolkien’s tragic, rebel-without-a-cause tale of early Middle-earth, was published in 2007.
It would make a great film, perhaps set in some dark and claustrophobic Scandinavian countryside rather than New Zealand, and depicting a world in which it is possible to understand how men could fear and hate elves as perilous creatures.
So please god and the host of the Valar, let some other ring bearer step forward before our imaginations are finally colonised by your Academy Award-winning vision that is so fast becoming a shadow.