I thought I’d save anyone who didn’t want to read a negative review the trouble and just put it all in the title. Full disclosure – I’m not really sure how you can have “spoilers” on a story as old as The Hobbit but I’ll just say – there might be information below that might upset someone who hasn’t seen the movie yet… so you’ve been warned.
Additional disclaimer… in Peter Jackson’s previous trips to Middle Earth he’s 1/3 with me. I loved Fellowship but hated Two Towers and Return of the King.
My wife didn’t like the movie much either. She disliked different things than I did – but the more I think about her point of view, the more I actually agree with her and think many of my problems with the film are rooted in the problem she critiqued. She said she felt like the movie didn’t have an identity. That it didn’t really know if it wanted to be “super-heroic fantasy” or “slightly comedic fantasy” or something entirely different — with the result being that it all crept in and eventually became something of a wash.
The more I consider this point, the more I agree with it and think she’s dead on.
For myself… well… I could list the number of things I actually did like with one finger. Gollum. The portrayal of Gollum was pretty much the only redeeming quality of Return of the King (the movie) for me and it was the one part of The Hobbit that I actually found myself warming to and loving.
Everything else was wasted film in my opinion.
Well, that overstates the case a little. I very nearly loved Thorin’s character and thought the portrayal was spot on until that final, ridiculous showdown with the completely pointless super-goblin “from his past.” Why, exactly was that albino monstrosity with the stupid prosthetic necessary? How, exactly, did his presence enhance the story of The Hobbit?
Right – actually, scratch that, because that’s the other really important point to mention. Despite all assumptions to the contrary — you know, it’s in the title — the “Hobbit,” Bilbo Baggins is actually not the main character in this story. Thorin seems to – in fact – be the main character in this movie. Bilbo was second fiddle – and a distant second fiddle at that. As the movie went on and that realization sunk in I became more and more disappointed with the film.
I’m not one of those that holds to the “it’s a children’s book” theory. I think the Hobbit is an excellent tale for all ages with layers of meaning that you glean as you read it in new ways across your life (that sounds way more overblown than I mean it to — I’m making the point that “UP” or the story of Thanksgiving mean different things at different points in your life too — so does the Hobbit. I really hope that was even a little clear.). The point is, The Hobbit is this fancy little story with a little bit of whimsy, a little bit of longing, a fantastic adventure, a few monsters, a plucky hero in over his head, and a few wild moments of just fun. The Hobbit film I saw this weekend was not that story. It was a strangely disjointed movie with some stilted performances, a rampaging horde of pointless cameos (I mean really, why were C3P0 and R2-D2 in the prequels?), that replaced whimsy and wild fun with ridiculous overblown action sequences that had all the charm of a rabid squirrel, and a pretty strong sense of well, I’m Peter-freaking-Jackson so I’mma do it my way even if my way bears only a passing resemblance to the heart and soul of the story I’m making a movie of.
Also, I’m not a fan of all the “stuff” they packed into the film. Why did we need the opening sequence with Frodo? That could easily have been collapsed into “Bilbo sits down to write…” “fade to Sixty Years Earlier” and shaved about 10 minutes off the running time that really only existed because PJ wanted to put a little more of Fellowship back in a different movie. Why did we need the council seen or the ridiculous fight between Radagast and a ghost? Why did we need “epic battle scenes of epic dwarves fighting epic goblins in epic battle?” Seriously – you could have shaved a good hour off of this film, kept everything essential, and been in great shape. Especially because that would have allowed you to spend all that money you spent on those scenes plucking up the scenes you had left…
Which was another problem. For a movie that really should have had nearly a blank check for a budget, the special effects left a lot to be desired. Most of the time when live action and CG were mixing it was painfully obvious and looked surprisingly cheap. Some of the character animations were ridiculous in the way they stood out from their surroundings, and even the Great Eagles looked kinda lame. I could go on an on about the special effects – but honestly, they aren’t really that important to me. Radagast and his Rabbits were so absurd and pointless that I really don’t care that the CG sucked… I didn’t even want to watch the scene anymore. The bad CG just made an already bad thing worse.
So many things wrong. So few things right.
I could rant about the absolutely mind-boggling stupidity of the stone giant fight. I could gripe for days about the fact that the Great Eagles should be more than just big birds. I could try to figure out what the heck PJ was thinking with that awful final fight scene with Bilbo tackling a goblin… there’s a lot to gripe about… But it’s all really sort of pointless… what’s done is done and the Hobbit is now a movie and we can’t “take it back.”
Let’s just leave it at… The Hobbit: I didn’t like it much…