The Hobbit: An Unnecessary Journey?

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Grace Johnson-DeBaufre, Op-Ed Editor

Peter Jackson’s foray back into Middle Earth with Tolkien’s The Hobbit (it takes place before The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), but it’s not really a prequel) was long expected and talked about by die-hard Middle-Earth fans. I will not be a sheep and bleat my brainwashed adoration of it. As a film, it’s not the worst thing to ever grace the theater, but it’s not without major issues.

Unfortunately, it seems that Jackson could not handle the pressure of reigniting the flame. Once Jackson reentered the world that he had so successfully created with LOTR, he obviously did not want to leave. This resulted in The Hobbit, a mere 300 page children’s story, becoming a series of three, epic length films that were too reminiscent of the LOTR movies. What the heck?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a long, drawn out 2 hours 46 min. Peter Jackson (PJ) managed to stretch a hundred pages of material into nearly 3 hours of film, and he heavily used the appendixes from the LOTR books. This resulted in the first of many huge problems: extraneous material aka “why didn’t anyone edit this script?” I watched with my jaw dropped in a what-the-heck face for almost the entire movie, and my hand itched for a red editing pen. I could have crossed out so many things that were unnecessary. Did PJ and the writers not show anyone the final script? Why were there so many dumb things in this movie (i.e. Radagast, Azog, the moon-rune room in Rivendell)?

PJ also added so much about the dwarfs’ back-story (that made me feel nothing) that there was very little screen-time for the Hobbit, you know, the one that the story is about. Martin Freeman was great as Bilbo, but he had no time to shine. Another major failing was that PJ and the writers forgot what The Hobbit is actually about. They wanted it to be an epic story like LOTR (and so they recycled a lot of dialogue, shots, and music), but it’s not. It’s a simple coming of age journey, in which the main character gains courage and learns about himself. And yet PJ and crew didn’t even manage an epic. Instead, they created this weird hybrid of epic action film, goofy kids’ movie (complete with gross dwarf humor and mushroom jokes), and nostalgic, self-referential drivel.

The overall appearance of the film wasn’t even that good. The decision to shoot in 48 frames/s high definition 3D was a terrible one. I have seen it twice (the first time in 3D and the second in regular) and the second time was far better. Do not waste your money on the 3D; it looks awful. Middle Earth doesn’t look as effortlessly beautiful as it did in LOTR. Everything is weirdly smooth and neon, and the CGI characters just look goofy (another what-the-heck face was given to the Goblin King). The make-up and costuming for the dwarves was just silly. They all had weird noses and hair (with the exception of the three or four “hot dwarves”) and stupid, over-the-top fantasy weapons.

Now, that isn’t to say there wasn’t some good in this film (not a lot, but some). Martin Freeman was a near-perfect Bilbo and Ian McKellen was as wonderfully, mysterious a Gandalf as ever. The acting of the dwarves was also pretty good, especially by Bofur, Thorin, Balin, Kili, and Fili. The “Riddles in the Dark” scene with Andy Serkis as Gollum was the best scene in the movie. I wish that they threw out all the other scenes in the film, and made more like that. Actually, while we are wishing for things, I wish that PJ started out making only one movie for The Hobbit.

Despite what you may think after reading this long review, I didn’t sit in the theater boiling over with hatred or sadness. I had prepared myself for it, and so the what-the-heck moments just made me feel bemused incredulity. The movie is actually enjoyable in a shallow way. It has a real video game pacing (a lot of run, fight, rest and repeat) that is at least mildly entertaining, if not particularly fulfilling. So, if you want to pay your dues, cough up the money and go see it (not in 3D!), and form your own opinion about it, then pay more money to see the next two. I certainly will, even though I kind of hate myself for it.

 

Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images

Runtime: 2 hr. 46 min.