There must be a million reviews of ‘The Hobbit’ out there already - I’ve seen a few myself - and opinions are fairly mixed. Some say it’s great, no problem, and some say it’s a fun film, even if it’s not quite true to the book, and some say it’s a travesty. I don’t agree with any of those. It’s not great, it’s not a whole heap of fun, but it’s not a total travesty either.
It was always obvious that
changes were going to have to be made from the book’s plot to
accommodate the needs of cinema in the 21st century, and I’m not one of
those who objects to the introduction of the pale orc to represent a
visible Big Bad over the course of the three movies. I don’t object to
some lengthening of the story, although possibly with a little effort it
could just about have been squeezed into two films (she said
sarcastically). I don’t much mind that Bilbo is something of a passenger
for most of this film. I certainly don’t object to a sexed-up Thorin -
who’d have thought, after seeing Gimli, that dwarves could be so
attractive? But still, I found the film a disappointment, overall.
What I liked:
- Andy Serkis and the special effects/motion capture team stole the
show (again). The whole ‘riddles in the dark’ episode was brilliant.
Gandalf was, not surprisingly, terrific again, as were Galadriel, Elrond
and Saruman. Their meeting at Rivendell was, I suppose, the famous
council, which I thought could have been made a more important moment.
And weren’t they supposed to drive the Necromancer out of Dol Guldur as a
result? Not sure when that happened. I liked the whole of the Rivendell
action, actually. The elves riding in as the dwarves closed ranks in
suspicion was a good moment. The music was once more very effective. The
dwarves singing in Bag End was the one moment of the film which sent
shivers down my spine. That, and the dragon’s eye. I liked the goblin
king as well. And Middle Earth (aka New Zealand) was spectacular, as
What I disliked:
Bilbo. Sorry, but Martin Freeman is and will forever be that nice Tim
from ‘The Office’ (UK version) and hapless Arthur Dent from
‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’, roles which he was born to play.
Bilbo? Not so much. He was a little too understated and human for my
taste, although I may be in a minority of one on that point. The Shire
was, somehow, not quite as effective as in ‘Lord of the Rings’, possibly
because the director thought the audience knew all about it already.
The Bag End interiors were very effective, but the exteriors lost
something, I felt. Radagast the Brown - no, let’s not talk about that
The biggest problem for me was the
endless over-the-top chased-by-orcs (or wargs or goblins or whatever)
moments. I withdraw all my complaints about the Moria scenes in
‘Fellowship of the Ring’; the escape from the goblins’ lair was far
worse and possibly the most ridiculous piece of cinema I’ve ever seen.
And it went on and on and on. Then there were the mountain giants - how
long can we cling on to a six-inch-wide ledge on a mountain engaged in
battle with another mountain? Oh, indefinitely, obviously. And not a
single dwarf is so much as bruised, apparently. And the pine trees? No,
don’t get me started on the pine trees. And then we have to have the
dramatic confrontation between the sexed-up Thorin Oakenshield (with his
oaken shield, naturally) and the created Big Bad, and Bilbo’s heroic
moment, and all that stuff beloved of Hollywood which wasn’t in the book
and is only there because the story was split over multiple films, but
we still need to have resolution for this part.
not a bad film, I suppose. Taken at face value, it’s a big budget,
special effects heavy, typical piece of Hollywood-esque action, with the
wargs substituting for cars in the chase sequences, and no explosions.
For those who like that sort of thing, it’s a middle-of-the-road effort.
As a portrayal of ‘The Hobbit’ - well, it was only ever loosely
connected to the book.
Where it fails is in comparison
with the three ‘Lord of the Rings’ films. There are glimpses of the
greatness of those works in the Rivendell scenes, and some more
thoughtful moments with the dwarves. But it otherwise fails to capture
any echoes of the magic and the majesty of the greater work. It
substitutes relentless action and chase sequences for genuine
heart-stopping moments. The escapes are eye-rollingly bad, and there is
too much effort expended on out-SFX-ing the predecessors. There are nods
to the earlier films, but they are both self-concious and
self-indulgent. Worse, it’s forgettable. I came out of the theatre a
bare three and a half hours ago, and already there’s very little that
sticks in my mind, good or bad.
I find it quite
distressing to write this. I regard ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as a
defining moment of my life (both the book and the film). I was overjoyed
to see the Shire realised exactly as I’d imagined it, I shivered when
the Moria orcs chittered and the Balrog appeared, Helm’s Deep was just
awesome, Edoras was amazing and as for the Ride of the Rohirrim - I
cried. I never believed anyone could reproduce it so perfectly. There
were oddities and excesses, of course, but mostly it was unbelievably
wonderful. But this - it’s just a film, as disposable as popcorn. Will I
watch the rest of the series? Of course, and perhaps Peter Jackson can
pull a rabbit out of his hat, but I’m not optimistic.