Many fans of the original film trilogy and of the books have a litany of credible complaints about the three-film trilogy, The Hobbit. And… they are reasonable. I just do not share them. Why? Because I welcome any excuse to spend another multiple-hour-session in Middle Earth, with my beloved Gandalf.
Originally written for Tolkien’s children, the book has a far more youthful flavor than the darker, more serious Lord of the Rings. “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit…” named Bilbo Baggins, and it is the absurd, delightful, and whimsical story of a Hobbit who faces unexpected guests, followed by an unexpected journey and uncertain perils along the way, before he finds a magical Ring that makes him invisible (a very useful thing for a small creature to have). Some of it is downright eerie—such as the “riddles in the dark” scene with Gollum. And perhaps because it is a children’s story, the decision to darken it and make it more sinister (and much longer) to match the tone of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, is not a wise one.
Except Tolkien was a notorious “fiddler” with his own work. In his literary and writing group The Inklings, which also included C.S. Lewis, he would take any criticism to heart. Rather than reworking it from that point forward, he would start all over again. A slow and methodical writer, far more interested in mythology and creating languages than page counts, Tolkien pored so meticulously over his work that though he “meant” to update The Hobbit (presumably, to make it match the darker, more adult tone of his sequel trilogy), he “never got around to it.”
In defense of the films, I could argue the studio gave Peter Jackson far less time to develop “his vision” than he had for the original trilogy. I could tell you he was doing revision and crafting the story right up into their shooting schedule. I could say that the studio, seeing the financial boon of the first installment, decided they wanted three films instead of two, which meant ‘padding’ out the story more. But I won’t. PJ loves his battle scenes and doesn’t know when to stop. Though a fan, I can admit this. The Hobbit is too long. It does not need Tauriel and Kili’s romance as star-crossed lovers, even though I welcome any excuse to stare at Lee Pace’s utterly magnificent Elf Lord, Thranduil, all day long. But I know, as a writer, why he made some of these decisions. With twelve dwarves, you need to make them memorable. You need the deaths of three of them to make an impact. Kili had to have an emotional anchor in the story, and for whatever reason, they decided on an Elf. So be it.
It’s true that they “lost Bilbo” in the process of expanding other characters and their subplots—a book that was all about him became a movie about many characters. But honestly? I don’t care. It’s magnificent for me to see the scene that gave me such a thrill in the book come to life, when the vicious wolves chase them into the treetops. It made me so happy to see Elrond and Legolas again, I felt my heart soar. I loved watching crabby and sharp-tongued Bilbo Baggins attempt to throw dwarves out of his house… and then go on an “adventure.” And it was a pleasure for me to see Gandalf, before he was so… well, God-like. Gandalf the Grey. The cheeky, pipe-smoking mischief-maker, who rather rudely sent a dozen dwarves to Bilbo’s house to take over his pantry and drag him away from his lace doilies.
Sometimes, you accept movies for what they are, and for their imperfections. What matters to me is, I have fun watching The Hobbit. It makes me laugh; it makes me cry; it makes me pull my feet up onto the couch and bite a pillow with all the spiders. I won’t pretend it’s as good as the original trilogy, since that is an impossible standard, but it is a fun romp for me… and sometimes, when you feel a desire to return to Middle Earth, that’s all that matters.
Smaug is by far THE BEST Dragon in history of cinema!!!
There are things I dislike about the Hobbit trilogy, and there are also things that I really really love about the Hobbit trilogy, and both are fine.
Exactly. Would I personally leave out Kili and Taurel and shorten the battle scenes? Yes. Do I love it anyway? Yes!
Another great post! I quite agree with you. It is always good to return to Middle-earth. It is an excellent escape from the world, and, at the same time, it is a reminder of the good things in life, the way we should strive to be and what we should fight for. While the Hobbit movies are darker than the book, I still think overall it is lighter (but not necessarily a lot lighter) than the Lord of the Rings. I don’t really mind the changes that much because I think they kept the important themes, like the things that are more valuable than gold and wealth that Thorin speaks of as he is dying. (Yes, I realize I said this in one of my comments on your last post. I don’t know if anyone saw. Sorry if this is a repeat for some people). The battle scenes could be shorter though.
As for “losing Bilbo”, I haven’t actually read the book all the way through in years, but I think they did a good job developing his character. I think he got at least as much development as the dwarves, and I liked the character development for the dwarves.
Again, wonderful post!
P.J. never met a battle scene he didn’t love and thought could be 30 minutes longer. 😉 But yes, this set of movies is lighter than the others — owing to Bilbo’s sense of humor and antics, Gandalf not yet being the stoic White Wizard, and the dwarves being funny. I appreciate its comedic elements a lot, but it also doesn’t stint on emotional dynamics (fear, love, loss, greed).
Yes, I like the emotional dynamics as well. They make the story memorable and that is where the lessons are to be learned too.
The Hobbit is my favorite Tolkien book, I love the idea of epic fantasy, but I’m truly a homebody Hobbit and I prefer the gentler hobbit. That is one reason why I don’t like the movies. That and they don’t follow the book, Tolkien’s vision, or the grandeur and artistry of the original films. They have del Toro’s print all over them rather than Jackson’s (down to apparently, I missed this, the orc’s having skulls for codpieces as my mischievous sisters noticed, eeewwww).
There are things I like/love (Thranduil is AWESOME, Kili and Fili are super attractive . . . Hobbits can marry dwarves, right?! Legolas, despite his eye makeup is more manly . . . I was/am an Eomer girl), the music. Some hilarious bits (which is where I place Tauriel and Kili, dreadful in terms of the canon, but hysterical).
Also, my sister-in-law said that watching the extended version helped and I’ve yet to see those (we only watch the others in extended versions, actually only have seen TFofR and TT in extended, had to wait for RoftK, so watched nonextended first, the horror).
I don’t know that it completely ignored Tolkien’s vision, since the Gandalf subplot (with him being trapped and then rescued by Galadriel and Elrond) was in the Appendices and Tolkien probably intended to write it back in, if he’d had the time to revise the novel as he intended. The Tauriel and Kili stuff… yeah. Invented. It still felt very P.J. to me — I was actually curious about what Del Toro would have done with it; he has a very different artistic vision than P.J. and a different aesthetic. I imagine it would have been super creepy.
I think all the movies benefit from the extended versions, although the long sequence where they get lost in the woods drags in the longer version. That’s the only place where it being longer suffers, though.
I love the Hobbit movies, in some ways, more than Lord of the Rings. If you give me a choice of which trilogy to watch, my go-to would be the Hobbit movies. I love Kili and Tauriel. I love the changes from the book, and I even love the battles.
Cool! A fan! LOL
LotR was my gateway drug into Middle-earth, but there are certain appealing things about The Hobbit that makes me quite fond of it. I’m also more inclined to re-watch it these days since I’ve seen LotR so many times.
I support Kili and Tauriel as a matter of principle, haha. People try to tell me all the reasons why they shouldn’t be “allowed” to be together in Tolkien’s world and I basically turn into Princess Anna, brandishing a blazing timber and yelling “IT’S TRUE LOVE!”
Would Tolkien like it? No. He was a purist. Does it work and make Kili “human” so that you care more about his fate? Yes, yes it does.
And there you are! For the purposes of the movie, it works, and it’s CUTE.