The Hobbit…Looks to Disappoint

Michael Hague's Smaug the Golden
Michael Hague’s Smaug the Golden

Steven Greydanus’ review of first installment of The Hobbit is up, and it looks like the movie is going to be disappointing.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Even the movie versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which Greydanus asserts far surpass The Hobbit, I’ve found to lose replay appeal.

In fact, though I’m the proud owner of all three extended editions, complete with Minas Tirith jewelry container and Gates of Argonath bookends, I haven’t watched any of the DVDs for years.

Something was missing from the movies; Jackson and Company didn’t capture Tolkien’s beautiful milieu and bonhomie. The changes to the story and to the characters to conform to Jackson’s chosen themes also detracted from it. Faramir is another conflicted modern man who falls for the ring’s temptation instead of virtuously shrugging it off.

Granted, I’m a hardcore fan of Tolkien. My Texas license plate once read LOTR (rhymes with “boater,” just so you know). When devout Catholics asked, I affirmed it stood for (our) Lady of the Rosary; with everyone else it was Lord of the Rings. I read the trilogy twenty times or so, read the encyclopedias, the complete guides, the almanacs, the appendices, the Silmarillion, the Book(s) of Lost Tales, Tolkien’s other fiction, etc.

That said, I don’t demand perfection, and just seeing Middle-Earth on the screen with moderate fidelity was oh-so worthwhile. I will watch the Hobbit eventually, maybe when it streams to amazon or youtube for $3.99. But by Greydanus’ account it’s even more of a sell-out than the trilogy, with inappropriate jokes, tone, characters, and story changes.

What Jackson needed was one Tolkien appreciator who could watch what he was doing as the drug-culture jokes got written and say: “Please don’t do that.”

Watching the behind-the-scenes of the trilogy on the DVDs revealed how these types of bad ideas got put in. The movie-makers bragged about them, thinking they were great novelties, never realizing that they were losing the truth and goodness of the stories little by little.

Well, it is what it is. I almost didn’t think the disappointment was worth a blog post, but decided to right one up anyway. It is just a movie, and fortunately the books stand the test of time, even when the movies will not.

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16 thoughts on “The Hobbit…Looks to Disappoint”

  1. I have generally found that the older film adaptations of great books to be better done, than the more modern day ones. I don’t really have all that high a regard for the modern film industry.

    But then, I’m am very old fashioned.

    Thanks, Devin.

  2. I’ll disagree with you regarding Faramir. In the movies, he lets the Ring go by giving Frodo, Sam, and Gollum leave to continue their journey into Mordor. That’s, in my opinion, how he shrugs it off. 🙂

  3. I was a late-comer to LOTR, having watched the movies before reading the books. I found myself saying (sometimes out loud) “wait a minute. THAT’S what really happened?” It was a disappointment, but what do you expect from a secular man given charge of a through-and-through Catholic work of literature? He just-wont-get-it. I am prepared for the story to be tarnished, chopped up and added to (although the thought of modern jokes thrown in does upset me) this time around. People have been trying to change what is beautiful about the Church since its inception. I would expect no less when it comes to this Catholic story and its Hollywood film.

    (That said, I of course will be going to see it. 🙂 )

  4. Bang-on critique of the film version of Faramir. The problem with his characterization extends elsewhere—manufactured interior conflict with Aragorn, Treebeard, Theoden, Elrond, and others.

    1. Todd,

      Yes you are right. Faramir was just one example, but Aragorn is the same self-doubting, conflicted, modern man, and Theoden.

      Elrond was horribly miscast as Hugo Weaving, who I think is an interesting actor, but not as the great and noble Elrond Half-Elven. His character comes across in the movies as a cynical, angry man.

  5. I was just reading an article on the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien the other day I thought you might find a good read:

    I never really got into Tolkien as much as Lewis (Tolkien is a really hard read in 5th grade, while Lewis was much easier) other than a brief stint playing Dungeons of Moria text game on Unix machines in the late 80’s.

    It is sad when classics are “taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated.”

  6. I’m a relative newcomer to Tolkien and LOTR. Although, I read The Hobbit as a very young kid (about 12 or so), it wasn’t until I was in my mid-30’s when I first heard of Tolkien’s Catholicism and the “Catholicity” of The Hobbit and LOTR. Ironically, I first heard of Tolkien’s faith influence at a Men’s Prayer group I attended at SVdP in Austin (Devin, if i recall you would attend that same prayer group too from time to time!). It was then that my faith was just starting to take root and blossom.

    I read the LOTR for the first time this year, and having not seen the films, my imagination was not tarnished. I just viewed the films recently, after reading all 3 books. I really liked them, but I knew they weren’t going to be faithful 100% to the books. yet, I still liked them. One thing the films did inspire in me was to go back and read the books, which I plan on doing as part of the year of Faith! Incidentally, Ignitum had a list of 100 books for the year of faith, and Lo and Behold, the LOTR is on there!

    Anyway, I too will likely wait until The Hobbit comes out on video, or perhaps the wife and I will make a date-night out of it. But as I go into the theater, I will remind myself that Hollywood is Hollywood, and Tolkien was not Hollywood.

  7. I saw The Hobbit last night at the midnight showing. I’d suggest that there’s too much CGI and the story is a little light, but it was still very enjoyable.

    I’m now naming my firstborn Thorin.

  8. I have to respectfully disagree with review linked in the post. While the reviewer did have valid points and articulate opinions, I feel like many critics and reviewers miss the point about a movie. It is entertainment. It is supposed to be fun!

    First things first – I am a fanboy. I have been for 30 years. When the LOTR was first released there elements that I adored (the massive depth of detail created for Middle Earth) and other elements that I just scratched my head at (the depiction of Faramir).

    That being said, I went and saw The Hobbit in 3D with my 13 year old daughter and her friend last night. I normally do not like 3D films at all. However, for this film it worked. The unexpected party at Bag End only lacked the aroma of good food, fine ale, and Old Toby! Rivendell was glorious when viewed for the first time from above. It was in the little things that the 3D really shone in.

    Having just reread the book, I did notice where the story was being streamlined for the film. On the other hand, one of the examples of where changing the story worked is the wonderful prologue that tied The Hobbit with the LOTR triliogy while at the same time explaining the rise and fall of the Kingdom of Erebor (taken from the Appendices and other source material).

    One of my favorite scenes (in light of the recent election and the more recent tragedies) is the White Counsel scene. It spoke to me on very many levels.

    I and family look forward to next installments. In many ways, it was like sitting down at the table with old friends whom you have not seen for years. A little trepidation, the obligatory “howdy-dos”, a little food, a little drink, and a whole of fun remembering old times.

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