Sunday, 4 October 2020

Hobitit (Lord Of The Rings)

You're getting to be
a Hobbit with me

Hobitit (Lord Of The Rings)
Finland 1993 Directed by Timo Torikka

Oh dear. If someone told you there was a Finnish attempt to film J. R. R. Tolkien’s wonderful novel Lord Of The Rings as a TV show but that it only had nine episodes ranging from between 20 - 25 mins apiece, you’d be hard pushed to see how this magical feat could be done right? Furthermore, if they told you that the budget for said show would be... well, what seems like less than you could buy a pair of shoelaces for... you’d be thinking this thing was impossible right? Even Gandalf couldn’t pull that one off without it being absolutely terrible.

Well, there was such a thing, in Finland, in 1993. And, yes, it is quite terrible, to be sure, although it also has a kind of appealing charm of its own. And, at the very least, it’s not as terrible as those bad Peter Jackson adaptations of the novels. However, this one does firmly sit in the ‘so bad it’s good’ category and, therefore, is quite entertaining in its own way.

The budget and time allocation are not the only thing which mark this as bad but they go a long way to the noble failure of Hobitit. The sets and level of professionalism are not much more stepped up than those old editions of Jackanory where Bernard Cribbins would read The Hobbit to viewers. And, to be fair, Hobitit does share some of the same aesthetic because the whole thing is being narrated to a bunch of child Hobbits by an aged Sam Gangee, many years after the events we see depicted took place. What this means is they can leave the ‘action’ at any time and cut back to Sam telling the story to smooth over the many areas where special effects and extras aren’t able to solve the fairly obvious needs of the story.

Indeed, I was getting quite anxious to see what would happen because... well, when we get to the very brief sequence in the Mines of Moria, there’s no Balrog in sight (although he is mentioned later on in an episode)... Gandalf just seems to fall down a big hole. And by the end of the sixth episode... well, we were just at the end of The Fellowship Of The Ring so... just around an hour to do the other two books. That’s where Samwise’s narrative came in handy, of course, as he manages to take a minute or two of expository dialogue to wipe away the contents of about a book and a half in one go. No big battles or Ents for us. Just a mention of them in passing. Indeed, even when Gollum (who seems to be played by a complete nutter... Kari Väänänen, who you might remember from some of Aki Kurasmaki’s movies and who also plays Strider/Aragorn here) leads the Hobbit’s to Shelob’s lair, you don’t actually see Shelob. It’s over so quick... one minute they’re standing in a cave and then Frodo disappears round a crevice and he’s in a web with the conclusion that Shelob ‘got him’. Not that they take any time whatsoever to explain to the viewers who or what Shelob is.

Other things that may or may not infuriate is that there’s no quarter given in terms of respecting the sizes of the different species depicted. Indeed, the Hobbit’s don’t live in Hobbit Holes, more of a very small village of wooden huts but, like the various dwarves, elves, wizards, men and Orcs etc in the story... everybody is the same size as everyone else. Which is kinda strange when the characters talk about the ‘small’ Hobbits when, you know, some of them are taller than the characters saying this.

Okay so... the one thing where this production kind of holds up... kind of... is the acting. I mean, okay, so generally in this the acting is quite laughably bad and some of the miscast characters seem to be putting on some incredibly silly accents. One actor who seems okay, though, is Taneli Mäkelä, who plays Frodo. He starts off quite bad, actually but, by the last few episodes, he does seem to take on the weight and tragedy of Frodo clings onto it quite well. That being said, though... getting to that point is kind of gruelling in terms of the acting and, for some reason, Frodo has a quite sudden change of voice for the last four or five episodes. It goes from a kind of ‘exaggerated stupid’ to a sudden low, raspy voice which, by the end of the show, you realise is supposed to sound more like Gollum and the voice was actually deliberate (the actor didn’t just suddenly get a cold while he was filming then, as I’d originally thought) to show the great toll the bearing of the One Ring is having on him. So, yeah, the sudden and less than subtle shift of voice is a little disconcerting but, like I said, the best acting is done in the last three episodes by him so... swings and roundabouts I guess.

So Hobitit is a conglomeration of cheap, crude and wobbling all over the place sets which lack detail, some practical effects which are anything but special, mostly bad acting and some really, out of place and perhaps sometimes unintentionally comical underscoring. That being said, it does include Tom Bombadil (finally) and it does have a kind of low rent, token version of The Scouring of The Shire... so yeah, like I implied earlier... in your face Jackson! I probably won’t mention the musical interludes. Of course, the less said about Mount Doom the better but, heck, I’m gonna say it anyway...

All the way through we see the somewhat less than impressive but sizable model of Mount Doom projected at the back of the landscapes. Alas,when we finally see Frodo climb to the top, it becomes evident they didn’t switch the scale of the models because he seems to be almost as tall as the model he’s climbing. Which made for a wonderful moment where my brain did a kind of double take as I realised the Hobbit’s were possibly not much smaller than Mount Doom. So... yeah, really not sure what’s going on here, to be honest but, you know, entertaining, nevertheless.

If I had to say whether I liked Hobitit I would have to conclude, resoundingly, yes. It entertained me no end. If I had to recommend it to someone I'd probably say... if you really like Lord Of The Rings... not as good as the Raplh Bakshi version but probably a lot more satisfying, if not for the best reasons, than the inferior Peter Jackson version. Almost certainly not something you’d want to see twice but if you are a Tolkien fan then I’d definitely urge you to check this out on You Tube (remembering to enable the English captioning) and give it a look. It’s certainly a conversation piece if nothing else. The road goes ever on.

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