Jackson’s Hobbit

Like countless others on Friday, I went to the movie theatre to see Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I was accompanied by Conor Gallagher, of Saint Benedict Press, and his ten-year-old son, Aiden. My fears that the film would be truly awful had been allayed by my friend, Al Kresta, who had seen a preview showing of the film and had given it the thumbs-up. Trusting Al’s judgment I was hopeful that the movie would be better than my angst-driven predictions had suggested. For the most part, Al’s judgment was vindicated, though the film had some truly awful moments.

The worst was the depiction of Radagast the Brown, quite clearly a Franciscan figure in Tolkien’s epic, who becomes a bumbling drug-using idiot in Jackson’s version. The scene of Radagast getting high on pipeweed was adolescent and went down well with the teenagers in the theatre, as did Saruman’s complaint that Radagast ate too many (magic) mushrooms. This juvenile ineptitude was worsened by the smaltzy way in which Radagast is seen nursing an overly cute hedgehog back to health. To make matters worse, the trippy, hippy wizard is hauled around like a manic Santa on a sled pulled by ridiculous rabbits. The overall effect is of an aging hippy gatecrashing the world of Beatrix Potter. It was wholly absurd and elicited jeers of contempt from some in the audience, though I kept a decorous English silence in the presence of such provocation. Unfortunately, I suspect we shall be seeing more of this wizard on acid in the next movie, in which he will no doubt make an appearance at the halls of Beorn and will behave badly with an absurdly portrayed Beorn. Beorn, Beatrix Potter and Radagast the Ghastly! 

The best parts of the film were the depiction of the Shire, as charming as it had been in the earlier movies, and the astonishingly pious portrayal of Galadriel as a Marian figure who is revered by Gandalf to such an extent that he almost seems to want to genuflect in her presence! 

These are at least some of my initial thoughts. For a charmingly eloquent second opinion, I refer you to Abigail’s superb post on this very site. Scroll down to her post and enjoy!

Joseph Pearce
Joseph Pearce is a Catholic author and biographer who has written about subjects as various as GK Chesterton, economics, and Shakespeare. His latest book, Race with the Devil, chronicles his conversion from racial hatred to Catholicism. He is also the Director of the Center for Faith & Culture and Writer-in-Residence at Aquinas College in Nashville as well as the editor of St. Austin Review.

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  1. He did that to Radagast? Oh, no! And yet it’s exactly the kind of pandering Jackson’s LOTR should make us expect.

  2. Thanks, Dr. Pearce, for the commendation!

    I loved your sentence about the “trippy, hippy wizard”! It had me laughing out loud!

    I had forgotten how horribly this distortion of Radagast could taint Beorn’s Hall… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    God bless!

  3. Personally, I enjoy Jackson’s LOTR. Though he did mess up some of the storylines and characters, I feel like he captured the magic and spirit of Tolkien’s works beautifully. Unfortunately, I feel like he failed to do so in The Hobbit, so far. It’s lacking that magical feeling. Kind of like the difference between Andrew Jackson’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe vs. Prince Caspain- only not quite that bad…

  4. Abigail,
    His success with the LOTR films is not in question–I think I was clear on that much.
    He was successful, yes. He pandered. yes.
    One thing is not exclusive of the other.
    I’m just sorry to hear that one of my favorite characters has been de-natured in the interest of making a certain sort of appeal (“pandering’), that’s all.
    Tolkien’s Radagast and Jackson’s are not the same character. To the extent that Tolkien’s character is distorted in order to be appealing to a certain audience (“pandering”), to that extent is Tolkien distorted.
    That grieves me.