I’m not just a Tolkien fan; I’m a fanatic. So much so that Texas officially recognized me as the Lord of the Rings in the State for many years, until I willingly gave up the title (and the license plate). That is why I expect that you will read my review of The Hobbit movie, months after everyone else saw it and reviewed it.
Gothmog preemptively posted a negative review of the movie when it came out. Being a demon, he remorselessly snuck into the theater without paying and caught it opening night. While I don’t share his categorically negative view of the film, I am chagrined to say that I didn’t care for it too much.
Let’s dive in with Yawns and Yays:
Yawn: The Elves are still the other-worldly creatures who ride reindeer/mooses around and cavalierly refuse to help the Dwarves when they’re in need.
Yay: Peter Jackson and Company got the memo that Elrond was portrayed wrongly in LotR and Hugo Weaving comes out smiling and even fairly upbeat, rather than the dour “Mr. Anderson” intoning Matrix robot.
Yawn: Fake conflict invented to make it appear as if everyone else in Middle-Earth wanted to stop the dwarves from going on their mission. In fact, no one really cared about it or even knew it was happening.
Yay: Thorin’s character is solid and Bilbo is also portrayed pretty well. The story is largely about his growth as a person during the adventure, and I found myself liking him.
Yawn: Azog the demonic goblin gets artificially pulled into the Hobbit story so that the Unexpected Trilogy’s first film will have an antagonist. One minute we are watching Dwarven slapstick and Radagast’s silliness and the next a demon orc is slaughtering people. Is this movie for children or adults only?
Yay: The Azog ridiculousness gives an excuse to show Thorin using the oak branch as a shield, through which he earned his surname.
Future Yawn: In the third movie, battle of the five armies, they had better show Beorn morphing into bear form and personally crushing the bodyguard of Bolg and then Bolg himself. If we brought Azog in artificially, at least include Azog’s son who actually was in the book.
Yay: The troll scene was well-done; the dwarves in general are pretty good; Orcrist and Glamdring are explained.
Yawn: Radagast riding wild bunnies and reviving hedgehogs with magic artifacts, smoking pipe-weed that is like weed instead of tobacco, and all the rest.
Yawn: The Goblin King is changed to be a cartoonish, Shakespearean blob with a sense of humor. No, goblins are not self-deprecatingly ironic or any such nonsense. He should not be comedic relief.
Yawn: As many others had lamented, the beyond-all-odds escape of the Dwarves and Gandalf from the goblins was over the top, involving so many Legolas-skateboarding-on-a-shield moments that even teenage video game players must have been exhausted. Apparently none of the thousands of orcs have the slightest ability to use their weapons well enough to even scratch one of the dwarves.
Yay: Riddles in the dark, a scene that was excellent, and no surprise, since it followed the book’s account almost perfectly. Hint to Peter Jackson: More of Tolkien’s genius and less of your discombobulation.
Yay: Given that Azog was now going to show up, the re-imagining of the Out of the Frying Pan chapter was good. Bilbo bravely saves Thorin’s life and after the Eagles rescue them the relationship between the hobbit and the dwarves is solidified.
Overall: The Hobbit goes Hollywood. It is not a classic movie, nor one that I would even want to watch a second time. In places it captures the spirit of the Hobbit, and in others it completely falls flat.
And I think that is the litmus test. Would I ever want to watch this again? For me, the answer is no. Whereas I would watch the Fellowship of the Ring movie again, as I think it captured more of the original spirit of Tolkien’s vision. This was simply the first installment in an exercise in drawing out a single book into three movies. To accomplish that feat, valid material was included from the lore (e.g. Dol Guldur), and invalid material was invented to make a third of the original story into a semi-complete standalone tale. More money for Peter Jackson and the film company at the cost of a beloved book’s big screen adaptation being mostly forgettable.