I went into this film wanting to hate it. The idea of expanding a four hundred page novel into a nine hour trilogy seemed like a flagrant cash grab. I’m convinced that the Hobbit would have worked better as a stand-alone film, condensing the epic heights of The Lord of the Rings into a single film. Spreading the story across three movies creates a lot of gaps that need to be filled.
Another, less obvious problem is that by expanding the novel to the length of Tolkien’s Trilogy, Peter Jackson and company are drawing more parallels to the original trilogy, further defining The Hobbit as “the next Lord of the Rings.” Those comparisons hang over the movie like a specter, further reminding us that this series can never reach the same highs as the original series.
Part of this lies with the source material, The Lord of the Rings started out with much higher stakes, a battle for the sake of Middle-Earth, good and evil. Hobbit sets out on Thorin’s quest to reclaim a mountain from a dragon. Despite the personal stakes that Thorin and his crew experience, their actions are dwarfed (excuse me) by the threat that Sauron posed.
Second, stuffing the Hobbit with a trilogy’s worth of material stretches the seams, and it shows. The plot suffers for sake of the story, with a trip to Rivendell that derails the second act entirely. At times these diversions can work, but certain elements, like most of the scenes in the Shire, feel like efforts to pad out the film’s run time.
A quest like this can live or die based on the characters. Thankfully, Jackson chooses to zoom in on a handful of the dwarves rather than trying to develop all twelve (thirteen?) The weakest link in this story is Thorin Oakenshield. Richard Armitage does a good job carrying the dramatic heft, but the character creates conflict for the sake of conflict, with a hatred for elves that feels unearned, even when explained to the audience.
Another problem is the use of humor. In the Lord of the Rings, Gimli played comic relief, but first and foremost he was a powerful fighter, and his banter with with the other characters was based on his wit and positive qualities. This time, it feels like Jackson goes for the easy joke, and doesn’t spend as much time developing his characters before throwing them into situations and letting you laugh at them.
It’s too bad, because the slow plot requires you to spend time with these characters, and while laughing at buffoonery can generate a quick laugh, it can also prevent someone from developing an emotional attachment.
All of these critiques aren’t very fair for the movie itself. The final act of the film really hits a stride, and shows each character at their fighting best. At this point, the movie meets my expectations as an fantasy-adventure film. My friends and family keep bringing up the Silmarillion, a collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s story, as a source material for the side plot. If this is the case, then that at least makes the next two movies unpredictable, meaning they could go in an entirely different direction.
I said I wanted to go in to this movie and hate it. Circumstances aside, The Hobbit does not deserve hatred. It’s goals are different from the Lord of the Rings, further expanding Tolkien’s mythology and exploring regions of Middle-Earth that Jackson missed the first time around. On that level, The Hobbit is more successful.If you are a fan of Tolkien’s work, and willing to overlook the pitfalls, then the movie is worth seeing, and hopefully, the next two movies will generate more good will for the fans, rather than leaning on the goodwill that’s already existing.
-My cousin Allen told a story about a friend who told him how “Tolkien creates something cool, and then an elf sings about it for four pages.”
-In the aforementioned second act, Blanchett, McKellan, Lee, and Weaving spent five minutes in Rivendell trying to out-act each other. It was the only scene I outright HATED, but I liked the actors.
-Maybe these dwarves should pick up Harold and Kumar for questing.
-CGI is great
-Dwarves always seem to get the short end of the stick. I dunno, I’ve always been an Elf kind of person.
-Oh, Martin Freeman and Ian McKellan were great, Freeman is pretty much Bilbo incarnate. likewise for Ian McKellan.