Anxious for my precious

Fellow hobbitses, we will have our $270 million precious in just one week. Make no mistake—this is no typical precious. Our precious was forged in the depths of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mind, then passed through the long ages until it finally rest in the capable hands of the great Peter Jackson; truly, our precious seems destined for greatness.

Yet, there is a fear in my heart, too; for though I am salivating more than a starving cave troll who has just spotted some hobbitses, I fear there will be too much to eat. (If you haven’t read “The Hobbit,” beware of spoilers.)

Though “The Lord of the Rings” movies spanned over 1,000 pages of material, “The Hobbit” movies—of which there will be three—will draw mainly from a short children’s book. Obviously, this sounds like a great idea for the producers. More movies mean more ticket sales, and more ticket sales mean more money.

But there is a danger in this, as well; for in order to make three films, Peter Jackson and crew may have to bloat the movies. Small episodes will be expanded, periphery plot lines pursued, irrelevant characters characterized, and all of this could be at the expense of the most important element: the plot.

Unfortunately, early reviews confirm my fears. Apparently, “The Hobbit” elaborates on insignificant events that Tolkien relegated to the footnotes. As IGN writes, “It takes a full hour for anything to really happen here.” Sixty precious yet boring minutes are spent in the Shire as we wait for young Bilbo to take off. This “robs the film of a sense of urgency and forward momentum.”

The dragging, bloated time in the Shire is largely due to gimmicks like the needless inclusion of Frodo. This, like so much else that was slapped into “The Hobbit,” distract from the central story: Bilbo’s unlikely heroism and the defeat of Smaug. One gets the sense that they were only included because Jackson needed a way to draw the movie out.

Needless to say, once Bilbo actually steps onto the road the story revs up. As IGN writes, “Once the quest proper begins, though ‘The Hobbit,’ like the book, becomes a relentless series of chase scenes and action episodes, from hungry trolls to Rivendell to the netherworld realm of the goblins to Bilbo’s fateful encounter with Gollum.”

Indeed, from all accounts the riddle competition with Sméagol is executed perfectly. Bilbo stands, nervously wondering whether he will be made into Gollum-food, gently stroking his new-found precious through his pocket as he asks: “What do I have in my pocket?” After answering incorrectly, a disheartened Gollum runs off to find his own precious and to gently stroke it, ignorant of the fact that Bilbo has already stolen his precious and is anxiously stroking it himself as he runs off. Obviously, all this stroking makes for some high drama. It is truly depressing to think that all we will be left with of Gollum is the sad memory of him hiding in a shadowy corner and stroking his precious.

Alas, though the precious-stroking scene is sure to excite (as precious-stroking is wont to do), I fear that there is still much to be disappointed by even after Bilbo leaves the safe yet boring confines of the Shire. For example, the orcs and goblins in “The Hobbit,” unlike the monsters of “The Lord of the Rings,” are fake. They are CGI—and you can tell. The Uruk-hai and other villians were terrifying in the LOTR series because they were real, played by makeup-wearing actors using prop swords. Again, drawing from IGN: “The phoniness of these CGI-heavy creatures makes ‘The Hobbit’ feel as inorganic to LOTR as the prequels were to the original ‘Star Wars’ films.”

In a way, I think this line sums up my fear pretty well. I fear the “Star Wars” curse—three amazing movies, followed by three mediocre ones. I fear a trilogy of movies that, no matter how much it wants to, cannot recapture the desperation and epicness that characterized “The Lord of the Rings.” Most of all, I fear that the quirky, funny, relatively short children’s book that is “The Hobbit” was not meant to be spread out over three long movies, that doing so is the equivalent of spreading too little “butter scraped over too much bread” (Bilbo’s words from “Fellowship”).

So yes, I fear for my precious. I fear for it greatly. I fear that, when it comes out on DVD, it will not be worth a buy, and certainly not a stroke. And why? Because it was needlessly dragged out due to the same sort of greed and materialism that Tolkien so despised.

I hope I’m wrong.

Mike Shammas is a Trinity senior.


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