Concerning Hobbits

martin-freeman-the-hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out this weekend, and I can’t be more psyched! I’ve got my midnight showing tickets and everything.

When I was in high school, the Lord of the Rings movies came out, and I was very much in one of my first real fandoms, in tandem with Harry Potter of course. I owe a lot to the Lord of the Rings, the way I owe a lot to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games as well.

While The Hunger Games is grounded very much in a possible future reality (as in several hundred years in the future, the Hunger Games could happen), Tolkien’s books are more a fantasy story disguised as a (fictional) history. There are tons of differences between the two, but at the heart of it, they are very similar.

Keep in mind, The Hobbit is very much about an adventure whereas The Lord of the Rings is a tale of war and good vs. evil. While they are of the same universe and by the same author, they are distinct in tone. The Hobbit is often called a children’s book because of this (that is something I would contest, though).

Check out all the fans at The Hobbit premiere in Wellington, New Zealand.

Check out all the fans at The Hobbit premiere in Wellington, New Zealand.

Themes very important to both The Hunger Games and Tolkien’s books, mainly the Lord of the Rings trilogy, are war and loss. While Suzanne Collins drew inspiration from her father’s time in the Vietnam War and the affects it had on both of them, Tolkien served in the British Army during World War I, spending time in the trenches and losing some of his closest friends. The Dead Marshes in particular were his interpretation of the effects of trench warfare.

As movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy – and likely The Hobbit trilogy will follow in its footsteps – is a cinematic masterpiece, what I like to refer to as THE Standard for all book-to-movie adaptations. It’s what I hope The Hunger Games movies aspire to be like. We hope that, like with Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations, the changes from book to movie make the story better. We hope that the technical aspects, from direction to editing to effects to score and everything in between are of LOTR quality. If done correctly, The Lord of the Rings could have opened some doors for The Hunger Games (especially when Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 come out) to be accepted with similar critical acclaim, despite prejudices against its genre.

Not very many of the folks reading this blog (including the writers themselves) were alive when Tolkien’s books were released. We don’t really know first hand what that phenomenon was like. But I do have my dad’s old Lord of the Rings books (he lent his Hobbit book to his brother who never gave it back) in my possession so I can imagine it. It makes you appreciate the Hunger Games fandom even more, since as The Hunger Games became quite the phenomenon, The Lord of the Rings came before and helped pave the way.

Tollen i lû.
Twiffidy
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3 comments

  1. Thank you for this. I was in high school/college with the LOTR movies came out and I agree with you. It was very different from what I had seen before and I think it set the mark for what other fiction-film (especially fantasy/sci-fi) adaptations should be like. The Hunger Games are more my style than the LOTR, but the LOTR/The Hobbit (and Harry Potter) have a very special place in my heart.

  2. I like how you describe LOTR opening its genre to critical acclaim. I really think Mockingjay has so much dramatic potential… Hope we see it recognized.

  3. I agree that the LOTR series helped bring the “SF/Fantasy” genre out of being just a genre. The last installment, Return of the King, actually was the first such film to WIN BEST PICTURE at the Oscars! However, one caveat is that THG still carries some stigma, similar to though not as much as Harry Potter (which was pretty much regularly snubbed by the Academy). That being said, the HP films were really not THAT great, IMHO.

    I should also point out that many hard-core LOTR fans actually HATE Peter Jackson and do do NOT believe his changes “improved” the movies at all. Much like SOME THG fans, they seem to have spent their time in the cinema with a checklist and an assumption that ANY change from the books is automatically a bad thing. The two major gripes I know about is the handling of Faramir and Aragorn’s characters. But I’ve also seen griping about movie Frodo looking younger than the thirty-something book Frodo, anger that Arwen is given an action scene (raising the river to hold back the Nazgul) that was actually done by another Elf in the movie, etc.

    My conclusion is that for the sake of sanity, the “is this a good movie” and “is this a good adaptation” questions really need to be taken as completely separate ones! But if MJ garners an Oscar or two, I’d certainly credit some of that to the precedent set by the lOTR series.

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