Being Part 2 of my continued blog post series about re-reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
What struck me most about reading Chapter 2 of Hobbit was just how FAST everything is. In this chapter they travel through the shire, hit a rainstorm, meet the trolls, fight them, turn them to stone, enter the trolls’ cave, find Glamdring and Orcrist and Sting, and carry on traveling east. All in what I would guess is about 2,000-3,000 words. That’s a lot of story!
This chapter is where we begin to see that a straight-up page-to-screen retelling of the book as a film would have been detrimental to the moviegoing experience. In this part of the film Jackson cut away to see Radagast in Mirkwood, and we saw Azog pursuing the dwarves. We heard Balin tell the tale of Smaug’s attack, and we had some great character moments with Bilbo before the troll scene.
The book works the way it is, especially as a children’s book. But without all of the above elements, I can’t help but feel that the movie would have fallen flat. A book can establish character more quickly. For one thing, you are reminded of the character’s names every time they say something. Therefore you get a better sense of each character because their dialogue is inextricably linked with their name. In a film, with thirteen dwarves, it would be very easy to lose them all in a vast morass of “the dwarves” (this, too, is why Jackson went with the character designs that he did—they had to look different enough that you could remember them as “the big bald one” and “the old one” and “the fat one” instead of by their names).
Shooting the films the way he did also created more tonal consistency with the Lord of the Rings films. The Hobbit is a VASTLY different book from LOTR. The Hobbit films are still different from the Lord of the Rings films, but closer in tone. And I think that’s important.
More thoughts on Chapter Three coming soon!