Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Ronin Reads – The Hobbit (comic)

Title: The Hobbit
Author: J. R. R. Tolkein
Illustrator: David Wenzel
Adapted By: Charles Dixon
Type: Comic Book
Genre: Fantasy

Big things come in small packages: this has been said all over and nowhere is it more true than with Bilbo Baggins, hobbit of the Shire. His all too quiet life is upended when the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves come to his home and recruit him on a quest to retake their ancestor’s treasury from the dragon called Smaug. Along the way, they meet haughty elves, hungry trolls, hateful goblins, and a deformed creature with a golden ring that I’m sure is completely mundane and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. You all know the story, now enjoy it with artwork in this collected comic book adaptation.

When I was in Middle School, I set out to read all of the Lord of the Rings books, along with The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales (either for a report or because the movies had come out). This proved to be a very daunting task, as I found Tolkein’s prose to be very dense and hard to swallow. From time to time, I’ve wondered if that was really the case or if I was just too young to appreciate the subtle nuances in the text. After reading this very faithful adaptation nowadays, I realized that even in my youth, I was completely right: Tolkein’s prose is dense, longwinded, and completely mind-numbing.

This graphic adaptation takes the text straight from the book and uses it for both dialogue and text boxes, which unfortunately works to the comic’s detriment. You see, comics are a visual medium and should make good use of their pictures. This comic has so many words you have to read to understand what’s going on that there’s practically an essay on each page. We’re told that certain things are happening and that characters are feeling certain ways, but rarely do we actually get to see it.

Which is a shame, because the artwork is really beautiful. The painted style really gives it the feel of a timeless fantasy and the wide use of colors among the characters is pleasing to the eyes. It’s too bad that because of the way the comic is structured, each panel seems like a stand-alone portrait rather than telling a sequential story. It’s also, again, hindered because this comic has, in the words of Ben “Yatzhee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame, “TOO MANY FUCKING WORDS.” All that text really crowds the pictures at times and really does detract from the visual experience.

I will say this, though: the comic does make me appreciate the movies more. Oh, not because the movies are a masterpiece, but reading this comic made me realize that there was a lot of stuff that I took as extra stuff for the movies which were actually part of the original story. Beorn, Gollum chasing Bilbo and leading him out of the cavern, the eagles rescuing the party, the elves imprisoning the dwarves, the list goes on. It really does feel like the story would have been so much cheaper if it had all been squeezed into one movie (though I think two would have been plenty). I have seen the Rankin-Bass version, so I know it can be done, but I feel like a lot of the mythology got lost in translation.

This is a difficult piece to review because this is an adaptation rather than an original work, so I can’t criticize stuff like the plot or things like that. If you really want to see that happen, though, Lewis Lovhaug did it better than I could. Personally, though, I felt that a few more liberties should have been taken in order to make full use of the visual medium. It would have made the experience come to life more than feeling like the entire book transcribed over a bunch of pretty pictures. That said, the pictures are gorgeous, so if you’ve really been yearning to read The Hobbit with beautiful visuals to accompany it, feel free to check it out.

Posted under Ronin Reads

Reel Snippet – The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is a film I enjoyed, but also took a lot of issue with. Of all the movies, I would say that this is the one where stretching out the story to three films really takes its toll, as a lot of it is just one big climax. The final Harry Potter movie did that too, but I felt that movie was a lot better paced. Part of the problem is that quite a bit of the film cut back to the absolutely superfluous character of Alfrid, which was a grating experience that didn’t even have any real payoff.

Still, there were quite a lot of good bits of action… most of the time. However, this is one of the few times where Hollywood’s attempt at bloodless carnage actually bothered me as I didn’t feel a lot of the injuries. I’m not asking for spurting blood or leaking intestines, but when someone gets dramatically impaled through the back and the blade doesn’t come out the other side, it feels fake and it takes me right out of the experience.

And then there’s the gender politics, which are… interesting. I get the impression that the filmmakers want to be progressive, but don’t quite know how. While Tauriel’s inclusion as a love interest is a little suspect on reflection, that’s not what bugs me. MASSIVE SPOILERS INCOMING! DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE! No, what bugs me is that they didn’t allow her to fulfill her arc and finish off the orc that killed Kili. I like that Kili’s death gave the romance some legitimate tragedy, but the filmmakers completely dropped the ball by not allowing her to avenge him and giving the kill to Legolas instead. I just don’t see the point of creating original characters if you’re not going to really do anything with them.

STILL SPOILERS! Because, honestly, did we really need another scene of Legolas being awesomely perfect? We had three Lord of the Rings movies showing that. Wouldn’t it have been better for him to not be as good as he was in the other movies so that he could have something to work up to? When he started running up the falling wall pieces like they were stairs, I mentally facepalmed and asked if this was real life. For crying out loud, he doesn’t get a single scratch on him after everything was said and done, which really ticked me off. Don’t get me wrong, it was also bullshit when Tauriel walked away from a fall that should have broken her back with nothing but a cut on her face, but at least it was SOMETHING. SPOILERS OVER! READ ON!

Again, I didn’t hate the movie, and my favorite parts might surprise you. I actually really liked the mounts the characters road. It wasn’t just horses, there were giant boars, elks, and mountain goats. They even took advantage of the mountain goats by having them traverse the rocks around the mountain. That was really creative. Thorin’s plight was also very engaging. I don’t know if they had Benedict Cumberbatch dub over him in some scenes or if they just edited his voice to make him sound like Smaug, but it was very effective. Of course, as with the other Middle-Earth movies, the scenery and visuals are gorgeous and breathtaking.

I think if they had put the first ten minutes of this movie onto the end of the last movie, the pacing would have definitely improved, even if it wouldn’t have erased all the problems. It’s a good puppet show, but I’m just a little annoyed that I could see the strings.

Posted under Reel Snippets

Reel Snippets – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a superb movie with some very serious drawbacks. As I was watching, I realized that the biggest strength of the Middle-Earth movies is the set design, as all of the scenery looks absolutely immaculate. Other great elements are the characters, their interactions, the river scene, and especially Smaug himself, who Benedict Cumberbatch gives a wonderful voice to. The biggest drawback is the ending, or lack thereof. The climax inside the dwarf halls feels like a massive build-up to the conflict at Rivertown that anyone who read the book knows is going to happen, but right as Smaug is flying towards the town, the movie just abruptly ends. Sadly, this makes the second movie in the Hobbit trilogy feel very much like it was just setting up set pieces for the final installment. However, the acting is still great, the casting is wonderful, the excessive build-up is still good build-up, and it is a huge improvement over the previous installment. I would tell you to see it, but let’s face it: it’s a Middle-Earth movie directed by Peter Jackson, so you already have.

Posted under Reel Snippets

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