The idea of a quest has long been a feature of literature and story telling. From Gilgamesh, to Odysseus, to Aeneas, to Galahad and Lancelot, to Don Quixote and even through to Holden Caulfield. The characters go off in order to resolve something and generally find themselves changed. Or sometimes dead.
And so we come to the latest Peter Jackson film of a Tolkien work. Bilbo Baggins, a homeloving, peaceful hobbit, is recruited to go on a quest with a gang of dwarves [or dwarfs although, technically, the plural of dwarf is dwarrow] and off we go. There are, as you’d expect, orcs, elves and the suchlike. And adventures. Well, I say adventures but this film is about as exciting and carries as much threat as an episode of Miffy.
I’ll cut to the chase. I hated this film. It bored me rigid. And it bored me rigid for a long time. It looks spectacular and I can only applaud the people who have imagined the scenes and worked to make them appear as “real” as they do. But spectacular will only make up for so much of a lack of immediacy in story-telling. The technology is impressive as far as the CGI is concerned but again I struggled to find 3D interesting. This technology still hasn’t developed into anything beyond a gimmick and, in my view, will never cover for anything in the cinematic experience that is lacking in terms of plot and character. Since the development of film, I can only see the introduction of sound as being a monumental shift in story-telling and film-making.
The original book is three hundred pages long. This film is part one of three and I was in the cinema for three hours. I would expect to have read much of the book for myself in that time. This film is bloated and stodgy, even in the scenes that are supposed to be exciting. Here’s an example: The dwarves are captured by goblins. The scene is fantastic and a triumph of CGI. Thanks to Gandalf they make their escape. And off they go slashing and stabbing and running through an incredible scene of rope bridges, and rocky underground paths, fighting thousands of goblins. ” Wow!” you say as they charge about. But they carry on charging about and slashing and stabbing. And carry on, and on, and on and well, you get the gist. It goes on for so long that it’s fair to assume that they’re all going to get through it and so the sense of threat is lost. But still they go. On and on.
And this happens over and over. There’s little in the way of character here [a flaw shared with Tolkien] and so it’s hard to really care whether the dwarves succeed or not and the excitement is not exciting so the film really starts to drag. Tolkien was heavily influenced by early English, Norse and Icelandic sagas. These stories are short, immediate, believable and engaging. This film and many of Tolkien’s works are the very opposite. They are plodding, repetitive and tedious. So I guess Jackson is true to his source material. And that’s not always such a good thing.