“Every good story deserves to be embellished”, winks Ian McKellen’s Gandalf part way through this part-way-through said story. The validity of this meta-commentary is questionable; Jackson, del Toro, Walsh and Boyens burrowing deep into the Lord of the Rings appendices, placing Tolkein’s backmatter into (I presume) its chronological context. We come across a crossroads whereby the individual scenarios are on their own terms pretty great – varied and excitingly unique when compared to standard blockbuster fare – but also as a result the narrative is of course diluted. A strong causal chain, which audiences are (too?) strongly accustomed to, is absent. The backbone of the story (which can more properly be described as a precariously hung thread) is Bilbo’s journey – the effort hindered by its inevitable familiarity to, in more dramatic form, Frodo’s in The Fellowship of the Ring.
But, in my opinion, these are factors to be balanced against by serious scholars of the medium, rather than emphasised – the Almighty Lord Narrative worshipped by “cinephiles” (and highly successful screenwriters like Robert McKee) being in reality an entertainment on the same level as the derided CG lasersplosion, and at best a vessel for the medium’s real substance. There’s plenty here to be picked over by those interested in what affects an audience’s satisfaction and how, particularly the enigma of the prequel – but let’s leave it at that.
Oh, right. The Hobbit. It’s difficult to judge this film because it is hardly self-contained – shoehorned repetition of themes at the conclusion giving the illusion of resolution when what we’ve really got is the first act. But there’s some really good stuff within – none more so than Andy Serkis’ Gollum, a performance which exceeds his grand LOTR efforts. Bring on Part 2.