Monday, December 17, 2012

Fixing A Hobbit-Hole

I saw the Hobbit! And absolutely nothing else happened this weekend. Certainly nothing that sickens me to think about and could have been easily prevented by better legislation and...


Writer-brain is fascinated by "broken" movies. My friends have heard me go on and on about Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. That movie had a fantastic premise, and some amazing acting, and incredible sets, locations and actors, but it thuds around a lot of the time, saved only by a few transcendent bits.

It's a hard movie to diagnose, other than some obvious flaws. Scott should have cast someone other than Orlando Bloom who could carry more gravitas, and given the villain more depth and less scenery-chewing. It would still be an impossibly complex and hard-to-tell story.

Other movies are easier to diagnose. Although I'm tempted to say The Phantom Menace was impossibly broken, the structure actually holds up with one simple rewrite. Have Darth Maul kill off Qui-Gon early on, and make it Obi-Wan's story, about an apprentice trying to protect a princess and a "chosen one" on a dangerous desert world. Ramp up emotional stakes by having Anakin ripped away from his mother. Crucify me for saying this, but even Jar Jar could have been saved. We never got any sympathy for him, nor any admiration, throughout the entire film. Even at the end, he turned and ran. Have him do something heroic and he starts to redeem himself.

This is a good thing for writer-brain. I still can't rewrite my own stuff to save my life, but at least I can use the intellectual exercise.

So The Hobbit interests me. It was as padded-out and wandering as I thought it would be, and call that a self-fulfilling prophesy, but I actually did enjoy a lot of it. It just needed a good cut.

The film would have been more satisfying in the original two-part format, ending at "Barrels Out of Bond" when Bilbo's really proven his heroism. But this three-movie format could even work... at two hours. If Jackson had chopped thirty-five minutes, he'd have a movie the length of Star Wars! Jeez, man.

Somewhere on the Internet I saw a prediction for the film that would have been a huge improvement; replace or augment the Radagast sequence with the Barrow-Wight sequence from The Fellowship of the Ring. Post-encounter-with-trolls, the dwarves and Bilbo wander into a land of nasty fog and open crypts. Gandalf is distracted by the suspicious open crypt of the Witch-King himself. The dwarves make for the treasure in the tombs (which actually makes more sense than when the hobbits in FotR wake up wearing the jewels) and Bilbo has to hack a Barrow-Wight's arm as Frodo does. This would introduce the idea of the Witch-King's rebirth. We could still get a chopped-down sequence of Radagast and the spiders.

Mostly I kept seeing stuff that could be cut. Everything in Bilbo's hobbit-hole was great, but it needed to be chopped down! Dwarves arrive, make a mess. Thorin arrives. Bilbo reads the contract. Bilbo faints and has his talk with Gandalf. The dwarves sing. The intros: cut old Bilbo and Frodo, or give them a brief montage, and reveal the Arkenstone later.

This is an entirely different subject, but I could have lost the PG-13 violence. There's nothing in the book or the appendices that would make The Hobbit more than PG, although the Barrow-Wight sequence could have worked on a PG-13 level.

On the subject of long and Tolkien, though...

If you've got forty-five minutes to spare, which Peter Jackson obviously did, take a look at my Tokienesque pastiche Blade and Branch and Stone. As you can tell from my self-recrimination, I can see its flaws, but it was an attempt by me to complicate and twist some of Tolkien's themes of environmentalism and colonialism:

No comments:

Post a Comment