Now, before people get up in arms calling me a purist who can’t enjoy things for what they are, let me offer this as a disclaimer: I liked the movie. I enjoyed it. I don’t love it, at least not yet. However, I am a fan of the books, particularly The Hobbit, as they were written. I also adore Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation, and I’m afraid that his dedication to remaining true to the trilogy set up the same expectation for the prequel, and I’m not sure that it’s really there after all.

Also, spoilers, for the eight of you reading this blog that know nothing about Middle Earth.

The biggest issue for me was the alteration of the material to accelerate Bilbo’s hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is an important concept in storytelling and especially epic fantasy, from Beowulfian epics to Professor Tolkien to the modern day. A hero unaffected by his trials is boring; we want to see development across the quest, particularly with a reluctant hero like Bilbo. And that’s the thing: Bilbo is definitely reluctant. He struggles to the very end to reconcile his curiosity with his reservation and fear. He doesn’t really begin to own his heroism until battling the spiders in Mirkwood, and even after that he waffles, particularly when they finally get to the Lonely Mountain.

So when the Hobbit team re-wrote the iconic troll scene to make Bilbo seem braver and cleverer? I was a little miffed. And we mustn’t forget the part where Bilbo tackles a fucking orc to save Thorin, who stupidly ran out to confront a pack of Wargs and orcs so that he could attack his nemesis Azog (who, as Tolkien wrote, was killed by Dain long ago), and then stands in front of the wounded dwarf, apparently prepared to fight off wolves four times his size. Bilbo is compassionate and brave, certainly, but he’s also not stupid, and he has a very healthy sense of fear.

These kinds of changes just felt disingenuous, to me. After all, they’re expanding one small book into three movies, so it’s not like they need to convince audiences that Bilbo’s a hero any faster. They have plenty of room and time for him to grow; and Martin Freeman is certainly a capable enough actor to convey Bilbo’s deep-down talent for adventure without hitting people over the head with it. Additionally, in the process of making Bilbo a traditional hero faster, we’ve lost some of the things that make Bilbo Bilbo: his fascination with maps and elves, for instance. The scenes in Rivendell, though expanded to include a chat between some Middle Earth bigwigs, showed very little of Bilbo’s excitement and apprehension at being surrounded by elves, and failed to show his interest in the moon letters used on the Dwarvish map, though “cunning handwriting” is a thing Bilbo loves.

Since Bilbo is generally regarded as an everyman who grows into a kind of down-to-earth heroism that was always within him, I was disappointed to see him acclimate to the environment so quickly, with only the odd fish-out-of-water joke thrown in to remind us.

My other grievances are minor and fairly easily overlooked. I find the Azog storyline unnecessary and annoying. The dwarves, or any of the races of Middle Earth, don’t really need any more reasons to kill orcs. Orcs are bad. We know this. Plus, Azog was killed by Dain, who is an important figure in dwarf legend. BUT I can see the motivation to pull a nemesis from the mythology to add drama, so I’ll just roll my eyes at that one. I also thought that the comedy of the movie was jarring in the sense that it really pulled me out of the setting. The Lord of the Rings movies were so good at weaving humor seamlessly into the setting. I love that there’s more humor in The Hobbit, since it is a lighter story, but it didn’t feel as natural. The scenes with the Great Goblin in particular felt awkward.

Overall, though, I did enjoy the movie and I am glad that I went to the midnight showing. There were things about it that I did love. I am completely in love with Thorin Oakenshield, for one. I was also thrilled that some of my favorite lesser-known actors were in it (Lee Pace, Bret McKenzie, Aiden Turner, anyone?). But will I see it again in theaters? Only if someone else pays for my ticket.

Or if he sits next to me.
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2 thoughts on “How “The Hobbit” Let Me Down

  1. The one storyline that is not sitting well with me is the Necromancer, that is not something that prominent in The Hobbit and I wander if Jackson added this to expand the The Hobbit into a trilogy. I enjoyed the movie but the some of the scenes did not sit right with me. I would probably see it again, sometime this week.

  2. Alrighty! I refused to read your review of the movie until I had seen it myself for fear of spoilers. Having seen it, and read your review I am now prepared to offer my own thoughts whether you want them or not. 😉 And I must say while I had one or two small issues with the movie, I rather disagree with many of the ones you pointed out. *BEWARE SPOILERS AHEAD*

    It seems to me that your major issue with the movie was Bilbo growing as a character too quickly. You mention specifically that Bilbo doesn’t act heroic at all until the spider scene in Mirkwood. But for all intents and purposes that will be the one of the first scenes (the first action scene at least) in the next movie. In book or film, it is his trip through the mountain and encounter with Gollum that marks his first attempts to really stand on his own two feet and fend for himself – it also marks the first point where the dwarves begin to take him seriously. So I honestly think he probably was at the point for a heroic gesture, especially given the way the film emphasized Thorin’s distrust of Bilbo. Though I concede you are correct about him waffling in his bravery throughout the book, there is nothing to say that he wont waffle a bit in the next two films.

    The tree/warg/fire/Thorin-charge-of-crazy didn’t happen like that in the book, true, but you do have to take into consideration that this is a film and some allowances must be made to wrap things up, it will be a year before part two. Since the next battle scene is the one where in the source material Bilbo first appears brave, I hardly consider this to be jumping the gun. Also I think it would be a rather disappointing conclusion to the film to only see the dwarves and Bilbo cowering in the trees until they are rescued by the eagles. The eagles’ dramatic 11th hour appearances (in both the LOTR’s and the Hobbit) is difficult enough to swallow without accentuating it. And honestly, I didn’t feel as though the Hobbit was any less faithful to its source material than LOTR’s was, I rather think it was closer to the original (albeit with the inclusion of the Necromancer storyline from the appendices). I was a little put off by the pacing of the movie, but I blame that on the fact that the Hobbit was a children’s story, the book seems to hurtle along at a breakneck pace and the film (once they got out of Hobbiton) did the same.

    Just my thoughts. (Now that my comment is as long as your whole post *eyeroll*)

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