Transhuman and Subhuman Part II: The Hobbit, or The Desolation of Tolkien

the desolation of tolkien

“My wife had to stuff a wide handful of popcorn flavored food substitute into my face, in order to smother the broken, wretched burbling — shoot him … with …  an elf arrow.” —John C. Wright

Newer blockbusters may have driven the second Hobbit movie from the popular consciousness, but John C. Wright deftly uses The Desolation of Smaug as an object lesson in how even great works can suffer in the hands of artists who don’t understand them.

“The Hobbit, or, The Desolation of Tolkien” is the second essay in John C. Wright’s Hugo-nominated anthology Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truths. This essays features a lighter tone than its predecessor, but proves no less enlightening.

Though he professes to have loved the first Hobbit film, Mr. Wright found its sequel sorely lacking in artistry, internal consistency, and basic intelligence.

A recurring motif of his essay is the “stupidity hammer”, from which the author felt himself subject to repeated blows of increasing viciousness throughout the film.

Whether due to Legolas’ Mary Sue-style antics, the tacked-on dwarf-elf romance, King Thranduil’s inexplicable, villainous heel turn, Gandalf’s solo expedition against Dol Guldur, or Bilbo’s failure to seal the barrels holding his friends before dumping them in a frothing river, the stupidity hammer’s desecrations leave precious little of Tolkien’s beloved masterpiece unspoiled.

Wright mentions a scant few grace notes: the majesty of Thranduil’s throne room, the visual perfection of Mirkwood’s canopy filled with black butterflies.

Sadly, Peter Jackson’s bizarre reliance on the stupidity hammer impedes his potentially excellent craftsmanship. From the pure gold of Tolkien’s venerable tale, he forges a hyperactive, incoherent series of video game cinematics tarnished with political correctness.

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About Brian Niemeier

Brian Niemeier is a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer finalist. His second book, Souldancer, won the first ever Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel. He chose to pursue a writing career despite formal training in history and theology. His journey toward publication began at the behest of his long-suffering gaming group, who tactfully pointed out that he seemed to enjoy telling stories more than planning and adjudicating games.