the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - The Hob­bit: An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney, the first of the tril­ogy, will be re­leased na­tion­ally on De­cem­ber 26. An­drew Troun­son

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.

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