The Long-Expected Hollywood-ification of The Hobbit

dwarvesI’m not just a Tolkien fan; I’m a fanatic. So much so that Texas officially recognized me as the Lord of the Rings in the State for many years, until I willingly gave up the title (and the license plate). That is why I expect that you will read my review of The Hobbit movie, months after everyone else saw it and reviewed it.

Gothmog preemptively posted a negative review of the movie when it came out. Being a demon, he remorselessly snuck into the theater without paying and caught it opening night. While I don’t share his categorically negative view of the film, I am chagrined to say that I didn’t care for it too much.

Let’s dive in with Yawns and Yays:

Yawn: The Elves are still the other-worldly creatures who ride reindeer/mooses around and cavalierly refuse to help the Dwarves when they’re in need.

Yay: Peter Jackson and Company got the memo that Elrond was portrayed wrongly in LotR and Hugo Weaving comes out smiling and even fairly upbeat, rather than the dour “Mr. Anderson” intoning Matrix robot.

Yawn: Fake conflict invented to make it appear as if everyone else in Middle-Earth wanted to stop the dwarves from going on their mission. In fact, no one really cared about it or even knew it was happening.

Yay: Thorin’s character is solid and Bilbo is also portrayed pretty well. The story is largely about his growth as a person during the adventure, and I found myself liking him.

Yawn: Azog the demonic goblin gets artificially pulled into the Hobbit story so that the Unexpected Trilogy’s first film will have an antagonist. One minute we are watching Dwarven slapstick and Radagast’s silliness and the next a demon orc is slaughtering people. Is this movie for children or adults only?

Yay: The Azog ridiculousness gives an excuse to show Thorin using the oak branch as a shield, through which he earned his surname.

Future Yawn: In the third movie, battle of the five armies, they had better show Beorn morphing into bear form and personally crushing the bodyguard of Bolg and then Bolg himself. If we brought Azog in artificially, at least include Azog’s son who actually was in the book.

Yay: The troll scene was well-done; the dwarves in general are pretty good; Orcrist and Glamdring are explained.

Yawn: Radagast riding wild bunnies and reviving hedgehogs with magic artifacts, smoking pipe-weed that is like weed instead of tobacco, and all the rest.

Yawn: The Goblin King is changed to be a cartoonish, Shakespearean blob with a sense of humor. No, goblins are not self-deprecatingly ironic or any such nonsense. He should not be comedic relief.

Yawn: As many others had lamented, the beyond-all-odds escape of the Dwarves and Gandalf from the goblins was over the top, involving so many Legolas-skateboarding-on-a-shield moments that even teenage video game players must have been exhausted. Apparently none of the thousands of orcs have the slightest ability to use their weapons well enough to even scratch one of the dwarves.

Yay: Riddles in the dark, a scene that was excellent, and no surprise, since it followed the book’s account almost perfectly. Hint to Peter Jackson: More of Tolkien’s genius and less of your discombobulation.

Yay: Given that Azog was now going to show up, the re-imagining of the Out of the Frying Pan chapter was good. Bilbo bravely saves Thorin’s life and after the Eagles rescue them the relationship between the hobbit and the dwarves is solidified.

Overall: The Hobbit goes Hollywood. It is not a classic movie, nor one that I would even want to watch a second time. In places it captures the spirit of the Hobbit, and in others it completely falls flat.

And I think that is the litmus test. Would I ever want to watch this again? For me, the answer is no. Whereas I would watch the Fellowship of the Ring movie again, as I think it captured more of the original spirit of Tolkien’s vision. This was simply the first installment in an exercise in drawing out a single book into three movies. To accomplish that feat, valid material was included from the lore (e.g. Dol Guldur), and invalid material was invented to make a third of the original story into a semi-complete standalone tale. More money for Peter Jackson and the film company at the cost of a beloved book’s big screen adaptation being mostly forgettable.

14 thoughts on “The Long-Expected Hollywood-ification of The Hobbit”

  1. My thoughts exactly.
    Steven Greydonus, who is the best film reviewer now alive, said:
    “There is an early moment in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that captures the evocative poetry of Tolkienโ€™s songs โ€” something that The Lord of the Rings films, for all their achievements, never did. By the time the credits roll, that moment feels like it belonged in a very different film.”

    This film is forgetable. Tolkiens book is anything but forgetable. So Jackson failed. Period. He really should have just left it alone if he wasnt ready to do it well, and I wish he had.

    You said it best when you said:
    “Hint to Peter Jackson: More of Tolkienโ€™s genius and less of your discombobulation.”

    I was excited when I heard he would do the Hobbit. Less so when I heard it would be 2 installments. Then I was very sceptical when I heard it was going to be 3. Can he really credibly claim that it is not about the bling? I understand wanting to stretch them out to include more of the book. Cool. But when much of the “stretching” is stuff not even in the book, and done in a swashbuckling goofy way that is uncharacteristic of the book, it is hard to not think there is some other goal than to just put Tokien’s vision on the screen.
    I might watch this again with the kids someday, but it is not like Jackson’s ealier trilogy where I would watch them a few additional times and even wait with baited breath for the extended version.

    Also I am sick and tired of adults ruining tales which children should be invited to enjoy also. There is no reason for many of the intense scenes to be in this movie. As The Incredibles showed, adults and kids CAN watch the same movie and enjoy it without needing “mature” material like violence and super scary scenes. I just dont get it.

  2. I still haven’t seen it, and I’m a huge Tolkein fan. Hearing that it would be a trilogy really turned me off to the whole idea. I guess I’ll see it eventually… maybe.

  3. I believe “Fake Conflict” is the motto on the Jackson family coat of arms.

    Great writeup!

  4. We must pray that “To Kill a Mocking Bird” is never hollywoodified, as its plot would discombobulated thusly:
    – Jem is not Scout’s brother, but her elementary school boyfriend
    – Tom is a Muslim
    – Bob is a Christian
    – Atticus has a steamy affair with the maid, a feisty Mexican woman portrayed by J. Lo.
    – Boo is an old hippie
    – Alabama is still the location

    St. Gabriel, pray for us.

  5. Well, it is better than what Del Toro (Hellboy/Pan’s labrynth) would have done with it so I than Jackson for rescuing it from that

    The movie was too bipolar. Is it for kids or for adults. Slapstick vs dark. In doing so I felt convulsed back and forth from one pole to the other

    I hope the next movies dot suffer from the George Lucas effect; each movie getting progressively worse. Will Smaug talk like Jar Jar binks?

  6. Yay: Song was included. After it’s near absence in LOTR, I had my doubts.

    BIG yay: No glamourized Liv Tyler scene written in. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great review – thank you!

  7. Oddly, my husband, who is much more of a Tolkien geek than I am, enjoyed the movie much more than I did. I didn’t hate it, but basically felt the same way as you do. I really liked seeing some moments on the screen, but overall I kept thinking, “Peter Jackson, you claim to be a huge fan, but you just really don’t understand Tolkien AT ALL.” The glimpses were nice, but I can get those from a John Howe or Alan Lee painting if I want. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll probably see the other two. If nothing else they’ll be mildly entertaining date nights (or afternoons – no reason to pay anything above matinee prices!).

    (I did hear a rumor that there was going to be extended editions for these as well. What on earth can even be added?!)

        1. Hahaha! Well, in my defense, we moved to New Mexico just as the Choose Life plates bill was passed and got rolled out. We had tried getting it passed the prior session, two years earlier, but it had not made it throug the funnel.

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