PlayItGrand has been asking me to write a review of The Hobbit for over a year now, but all I could produce was a very long rant. I’ve now seen all three movies multiple times and I think I can write something that’s a little more useful, and less angry.
First, a review from the perspective of a casual viewer, ie, not a Tolkien fan (I got help here).
Overall, the movies are pretty good. There’s some pacing issues in the first two movies, where the story drags and the audience loses interest, but they do pull your attention back in. The visuals, CG, music, and so on are excellently done. Probably not a good idea for young children to see, the orcs and goblins would probably scare them. For those that do know the book, there are various changes made that you probably don’t like, but it’s not a big enough problem to make you dislike the movies.
Second, a review from the perspective of a Tolkien Fan, who happens to be a purist (me).
As you may have guessed from the beginning of this post, I have serious problems with these movies. When I’m trying very hard to not be a Tolkien purist, I quite like the movies. It’s very hard for me to turn that off! After seeing the 3 movies repeatedly, I think I can assign all my issues to two broad categories.
There should have been two movies, not three.
In deciding to make 3 movies out of The Hobbit, the filmmakers had to have enough material for three movies. The basic story of the Hobbit, told in Peter Jackson’s style, is about 1 and a half movies long. Peter Jackson also pulled in the tale of the White Council dealing with the Necromancer, which is about half a movie long. But there’s three movies to fill up, so they had to invent about a movie’s worth of stuff. And that stuff is pretty much what infuriates me. Legolas (not in the book), Tauriel (yes, I know many people like her, but she simply doesn’t exist in Tolkien’s world), Azog (he’s dead), Bolg (mentioned I believe), the love story between Kili and Tauriel (never happens in the entire Tolkien universe), and I could go on. Believe me, you don’t want me to. The point is, if they’d made 2 movies, they simply wouldn’t have had the time to infuriate me or other Tolkien fans out there who agree with me quite so much.
They changed the underlying tone of the story.
Imagine you’re in school again, and have been told that you need to assemble words or short phrases to describe a book. This is what you would get for The Hobbit (in order of the book):
People who live underground
Going on an adventure
Trolls, which turn to stone
Troll treasure horde
Fighting with goblins
Wandering lost inside a mountain
Light fires with magic
Talking, giant eagles
Men who turn into bears
Animals carrying things
Giant, talking spiders
ElvesEscape from prison
Floating down a river in barrels
Town built on the water
Riddles with the dragon
Dragon destroys the town
Dragon is killed
Battle of 5 armies
This list covers the entire Hobbit book. What impression do you get? It’s a children’s story. There’s magic and fantastical events and creatures. There’s silly songs, serious songs, and a slow realization that there’s a very big world out there. It’s light hearted and exciting. Your imagination is engaged, and finally you go home after winning a battle between good and evil.
Then watch the movies. What impression do you get? The tone of the movies is very different, and is much more like the Lord of the Rings. LOTR is a serious story, written for adults, and is a race to save the world. Good and evil are blurred.
I understand why the filmmakers changed the tone of the story so much. For one, pulling in the story of the Necromancer wouldn’t work very well in the book, which is why it’s included as a brief retelling at the end. The fact remains that reading this book is a memory of my childhood, and the movies as filmed changed it.