Critics have been mostly sniffy about The Hobbit, or as I should say, the first film of the three film extravaganza of The Hobbit, and the problem when you boil it down mostly lies in the fact that it’s very, very long, whereas the book is quite short. Also, it’s been done before, ten years ago, when LOTR was adapted, which is a far better, longer and more interesting book. There’s the frame rate thing as well, which I can’t really comment on as I saw it in 2D rather than 3D because I don’t like 3D films. This is partly because I already wear one pair of glasses and I don’t particularly wish to perch another one on my nose, and I don’t need dwarves and wargs and rocks being flung by giants flying out at me constantly in order for me to enjoy the film, because I’m not eight. I did notice at the beginning that the pan shots seemed to be out of focus, which was disconcerting, but this seemed to abate once the film got going. However, I never thought that it looked like a made for TV film, which is what I’ve heard other people say.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Hobbit, but that’s because I love the Jackson-Tolkein formula of long, lush pan shots of New Zealand scenery, a main character who is a broody man/dwarf who is a burdened leader of his people who has to risk his life and those around him in order to regain the kingdom which is rightfully his because a family tree says so, and lots of battles with swords and horses and goblins dying. The Baggins clan is a kind of sideline to this as far as I’m concerned and I’m still not sure why Bilbo Baggins was dragged into the battle for the dwarves’ gold and homeland. The film doesn’t really explain this, even though we spend ages in Hobbiton watching dwarves ransack Bilbo’s house. Why him? Because hobbits are good at sneaking around and Bilbo used to be interested in elves seems to be the length and breadth of it. With LOTR you’ve got even the most pure-hearted of people being seduced by the power of the ring, but The Hobbit is ostensibly an adventure story.
The idea of having three films says Jackson is so that extra material from the appendixes of LOTR and the Silmarillion etc can be woven in, and part of me wants to applaud the effort because I’m not with the cynics with this one, the people who only think he’s in it for the money, but I do think after the huge success of LOTR, Jackson clearly wants to make as good a job of The Hobbit, and once he restarted the process of making the film I imagine it was easy to slip into trying to stuff other Tolkein in there as well because the book’s quite short and there’s such a bulk of history that comes with Middle Earth.
Unfortunately, even though I did enjoy the film, I don’t think the elongation has been a benefit. I’ve read The Hobbit, but it was a few years ago and the route they take and things gets hazy, but it isn’t cleared up at all by the film. There are basically about seven or eight set pieces strung together like beads and these could have come in any order. There are chases by orcs, a board meeting in Rivendell, a random bit where Radagast the Brown gets carted around by rabbits and freaks out in an abandoned castle, the underground goblin city, fighting rock giants, an evil white orc, and a final showdown which barely gets us half way there. There isn’t the progression of a journey that you get with Fellowship of the Ring where the company is gradually brought together and then is split up as different people/etc. go their own ways, it’s basically a bunch of interchangeable dwarves plus James Nesbit and Richard Armitage, followed by Martin Freeman who complains a lot and led by a pointless Gandalf who run around from one scrape into another on their way to a big mountain way off in the distance. It tries to be as epic as LOTR, but there are far too few members of whatever races in it. Who are these dwarves? Why them in particular? You get Thorin Oakenshield’s story which is expanded further by having a very briefly mentioned enemy in the book bulked out into the main villain of the film – a white giant orc called Azog, who chases them across the plains – but the others you can barely remember their names let alone get a sense of their characters.
I think in the end it comes down to how much you like the LOTR films and Jackon’s style of filming rather than how much you like the book. If you go in ready to see an expansive action film that reminds you of the good old days when LOTR first came out, I think you’ll be happy enough, but the plot is saggy and overwrought and the goblin king voiced by Barry Humphries is just downright wrong. The trolls which are pictured here also look like something out of a game’s cutscene but if you just go with it, I think it’s an occasionally funny and action packed film which serves as a good piece of nostalgia.