What happened to The Hobbit?

Josh Larsen

Josh Larsen
December 29, 2014

With the series concluded, is it any clearer how Peter Jackson managed to miss the mark so drastically with The Hobbit?

December 29, 2014

I haven't seen the last installment, but I will...and on the big screen, just to say I've experienced all six installments of the epic the way they're meant to be experienced.

But therein lies what I like least about the Hobbit movies. I can't help but feel a little like I was bilked into watching a second LOTR trilogy...only for a story that could have been--and arguably SHOULD have been--creatively retold in one 3-hr feature instead of a day-long worth of cinema. I was lured into the project by the outstanding achievement of the LOTR project...but at this point I feel like either Jackson or the production company (probably a bit of both) are just wanting me to keep fishing out money to relive the original trilogy experience. And you're right: it's underwhelming, to say the least.

If there's one thing I DO appreciate about the Hobbit movies, it's the superior acting of Ian McKellan, who somehow manages to reveal a younger Gandalf who is far more impish and, one might say, noticeably more reckless and even arrogant than the one who counsels the Fellowship by the first LOTR installment.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
December 29, 2014

Thanks for bringing up McKellen, JKana. He's been stalwart throughout this franchise, giving the Hobbit movies more gravitas than they probably deserve. My favorite moment in The Battle of the Five Armies may, in fact, be a quiet throwaway one between him and Bilbo near the end, for some of the same reasons you mention.

Travis Thrasher
December 31, 2014

Hey, Josh. I have enjoyed reading this dialogue and wondered what I would think about the latest Hobbit film. I finally saw the second installment Monday night and then watched the final film last night. I enjoyed both more than the first Hobbit film. But here are my humble observations.

I think it's unfair to judge Hobbit to LOTR but of course we have to. LOTR movies were so amazing--they will always be special films to my wife and me.

The stakes were so epic in LOTR. In The Hobbit, they're simply not the same.

Not to be racist to dwarves, but The Hobbit simply doesn't have enough humans. We did have the hobbits in LOTR, but we also had STRIDER/ARAGORN!!! I think that made a big difference.

In terms of story, LOTR was easily adapted into 3 films since there are 3 books. Peter Jackson had so much material to choose from. But for The Hobbit, he had to divide one book into 3 parts. And in our culture, people don't like to wait. I thought Hobbit 2 naturally flowed into Hobbit 3 but I watched them back-to-back nights.

I think The Hobbit films are great precursors for LOTR. I also feel that Peter Jackson didn't do this for money. Please. He LOVES this world. He probably loves it too much and got a bit carried away. But he's given us such a wealth of riches with these films. Can't we give the genius a little break? (you're a critic so your answer is surely NO).

Love the discussion because I can't disagree with criticisms. Thanks for having this!

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
December 31, 2014

I'm with you Travis: my gut tells me Jackson isn't in this for the money. If anything, the films suffer from too much enthusiasm for the property itself.

Your Aragorn theory is interesting, and one I hadn't previously considered. I don't know that I buy it though. Thorin was essentially turned into an Aragorn figure for the Hobbit films, and that didn't help. Personally, I've always found the central hobbit - Frodo in LOTR, Bilbo here - to be the most compelling characters. And I think that's because both evoke one of Tolkien's more explicitly Christian themes: that great things can be done through the most humble of creatures. That felt central to LOTR, but seems to increasingly have been given little more than lip service as the Hobbit films went on.

January 3, 2015

I think the success of LOTR is what doomed the Hobbit in the first place. You said how could the same filmmaker using the same source material go so wrong? But it isn't the same source material. The Hobbit has an entirely different tone than LOTR does. It's almost a whole different genre. The Hobbit is a fairy tale set in Middle Earth. It's charming and whimsical and lighthearted. LOTR is more of a serious fantasy story.

So rather than make a faithful adaptation of The Hobbit, Jackson and friends made a prequel trilogy to LOTR that happened to follow the plot of The Hobbit, but differed drastically in tone. In the book of The Hobbit there is no place for beheadings and gore, but we got so much of that in the last movie because they had to up the ante from what was expected from the previous trilogy.

So for me to enjoy these movies, I have to just pretend that they're not adapting one of my favorite books, and that they're making prequels to the LOTR movies. Bilbo is a supporting character among all these other 'important' warmongers he happens to have fallen in with. If I view it like that, it becomes more tolerable. In order to have a successful Hobbit adaptation, however, it would need to be much more lighthearted.

January 8, 2015

I agree with the other commenters, Josh, as well as your review. The latest Hobbit movie reminded me of Gertrude Steinem's take on Oakland CA - "There's no there, there." The last installment of The Hobbit didn't have anything there either. For an action film, it was fine, but the book is a narrative driven by character development and not by action. I enjoyed the movie, but not because it retold the book's story to any recognizable extent.

Mary Davis
March 28, 2015

Perhaps, because the movies were not made sequentially, the Hobbit suffers undo criticism. The Hobbit is actually the first book, the adventure that led to the spectacular trilogy. Without Bilbo's mild adventure, Frodo wouldn't have had any base for his journey. Having read the books %#$@ years ago, and having read them in their proper, chronological order, I was immensely impressed by the whole series. The cinematic production brought to life all of the emotional, physical and whimsical description that Tolkien, obviously, meticulously penned. As I recall, I have never so enjoyed watching a movie and loving it as much as I did reading the book. As a matter of fact, the descriptive work in the books was so much more tedious to get through that I had been tempted to skip through part of the reading. I rather enjoyed the visual display of precisely what I had remembered without taxing my imagination to the point of frustration. Kudos Tolkien and Jackson.

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