Movies

What happened to The Hobbit?

Josh Larsen

Now that Peter Jackson has concluded his three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I think it’s fair to say that the entire experience has been underwhelming.

Yes, the movies continue to rake in money at the box office. Yet as a group, these films have received mostly mixed reviews, weathered their fair share of jokes about elf love triangles and garnered little attention from the Academy Awards. Even their supporters will concede that the Hobbit movies are a lesser species than the landmark trilogy Jackson made of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels.

And that’s the puzzle, at least for me. How has the same filmmaker, drawing from the same material, managed to miss the mark so drastically? I was mildly appreciative of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but this last installment lost me. With no central conversation to anchor the action and evoke Tolkien’s deeper spiritual themes (like the one between Bilbo and Gollum in Journey, and the one between Bilbo and Smaug in Desolation), The Battle of the Five Armies is largely that: an endless onslaught. It’s the KFC Double Down of fantasy films.

How has the same filmmaker, drawing from the same material, managed to miss the mark so drastically?

I’m not alone in my disappointment. Over at Christianity Today, Sørina Higgins describes the movie as “a bit of a mess.” She also offers a lament that has been oft-voiced in regard to The Battle of The Five Armies: “What this Hobbit needed was more hobbit.”

Is it as simple as that? In bloating Tolkien’s work up to this size, did Jackson overlook what made it special? Or is there something beyond logistics at work here? Why did The Hobbit – a seemingly surefire project from a proven director – fail to deliver for you?

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