The Hobbit: The Desolation of Tolkien

Let me tell you what's wrong with the Hobbit.

First off, there's been a lot of knob-slobbering about the second film in Jackson's self-indulgent trilogy.  Critics are raving with statements like "it's not nearly as bad as the first one" and...well...other statements.  Honestly, if all the critics were calling the film terrible, I'd be the one piping up to sing the film's praises (it's what I do--that is--not think like the general media), but in this current example, it falls on me to be the naysayer.

The movie is a mess.

You'll sit there in the dark for 3 zillion hours and constantly say to yourself, "aw...this isn't so bad" or "gee-whiz, I'd really like to like this."  But in the end, you're going to find yourself comparing the film unfavorably to the 1977 animated version which, for all its flaws, has one major thing in its favor: IT IS TRUTHFUL TO THE BOOK!

 Notice what's better about that scene? Yeah...Bilbo is invisible, because if Bilbo WASN'T invisible the scene would be TOTALLY RIDICULOUS!

But you know what else is better about this scene?  The dialogue is more accurately lifted from the book.  In the Jackson version, most of that dialogue still gets in, but the effect is muted because Jackson took it upon himself to scrawl in a bunch of other crap that Smaug never said, and YES you notice when somebody other than Tolkien is penning the dialogue.

I was pretty taken by "The Fellowship of the Ring" but with every subsequent film I've been more and more disappointed.  Back when "Fellowship" was still in its promotional phase and we were all worried that Jackson was the wrong guy for the job, he said something in an interview that calmed me (and I'm going to paraphrase it out of respect for Jackson's belief that you should never quote an artist accurately).  He said that when they were doing the screenplay, they found themselves running into trouble only when they deviated from the printed text.  Jackson then went on to gush about how well-thought out the book is and how it needed to reproduced as accurately as possible.


Then the first movie was a big hit, then the second movie was a big hit, and by the third movie we've got scenes with guys sliding down the trunks of elephants.  Yeah...that scene isn't in Tolkien.

What happened was an attack of Hubris.

Jackson started out respecting Tolkien's work, but as this process spread out over decades he started to think of himself as the living embodiment of Tolkien in the modern the words of Tolkien can come out of his mouth.

In one of the very first scenes of Hobbit 2: Electric Boogaloo you see Jackson as a drunken townsman in Bree.


Look, here are my thoughts.  Yeah, Jackson is a talented director, but too much of the first movie is just recreating effects we've already seen in LOTR (I mean, you can only have a guy fall on his back and have a ring fall on his finger so many times...Tolkien never even used that once).  Oh how I lament that Guillermo del Toro wasn't given the reigns as had been initially planned.  I believe this trilogy is in desperate need of the fresh blood of a different visionary director (and there are few in the business as visionary as del Toro, if we're lucky, somebody will give him a crack at the whole series someday...him or Terry Gilliam, imagine a Terry Gilliam LOTR!).

If you're going to make a film and call it "The Hobbit" then stick to the book.  It's a little bit disrespectful to dead authors to hijack their characters and substitute your story with "The ballad of the blond elf with the whirling knives."  Look, Mr. Jackson, if all you want to do is follow an elf around as he slaughters people, then adapt R.A. Salvatore's novels to film and keep your hands of Tolkien.  Tolkien's books star HOBBITS!

I've had my problems with the reviews of Roger Ebert in the past, but in his initial treatment of FOTR he said that the Hobbits had unfortunately been pushed to the background.  I didn't see it then, but I see it now.  It's odd how after watching 6 hours of this gargantuan Hobbit epic, it's hard to look back and think of an emotional scene involving Bilbo Baggins.  

What's really weird is that a lumbering 9 hour adaptation of a 200 page book goes at such a breakneck pace that there is still time to leave things out.  For example, the approach of the company to the home of Beorn the skin changer involves this delightful little deception where Gandalf makes all the dwarves approach two at a time, so he can get Beorn involved in a story without overwhelming him with the numbers of the group.  It's a clever little moment that tells us a lot about Gandalf's character.

Jackson deleted it in favor of having the company be...chased into Beorn's house, by Beorn in bear form.

Also rushed is the Spiders in Mirkwood scene.  I don't know, that could have been a half hour or so because it's a pretty seminal moment for old Bilbo now isn't it?  But Martin Freeman barely has a chance to say, "I shall call you sting" before the wood elves appear (except they're never having a feast as appeared in the book).  I guess Jackson was just more excited about filming his new character Tauriel who he just invented for the series so that Kili could have a love interest.

Yeah, it's a interracial/interspecies love triangle--how forward thinking Mr. Jackson, Tolkien was too wrapped up in his conservative life philosophy, glad you "fixed" that.  But Legolas is going to be pissed.

These days I've got kids, so I don't live and die so much by what films are being released.  I only got the chance to see this one due to a thousand year alignment of the stars.  Sure, I left the theater more or less satisfied, but I've been finding myself growing angrier at the film upon reflection.

The worst of it is that it's just a shame.  Massive budget, talented actors (although Richard Armitage does not look like Thorin Oakenshield, heck, he doesn't look like a dwarf at all), beautiful cinematography, and it's all ruined by pride.

The Hobbit is not a story that belongs to you Mr. Jackson.

If you want dwarves to go down water slides on rivers of gold then write your own epic.  If ideas like that aren't strong enough to stand on their own, then who are you to be injecting them into Tolkien's expertly crafted world?


  1. Well said. Haven't seen it yet but I did not like the first one at all.

  2. The second one is the first one + Legolas. The dragon scenes are just irritates me that Bilbo is visible. I guess that "invisible" effect kind of bit them in the butt on that one. It's cool in short doses, but too much for a 30 min scene.

  3. Walter, I wish I could disagree on any particular point...but I cant. I thought the first one was pretty bad on its own account. Originally, there were only supposed to be two movies. Then they want to turn it into a trilogy and give you a film to a film and a half of garbage that Jackson made up. If the movies are geared toward kids...great. But the no blood kills, cheesy one liners (like from the Goblin King before his death), and the Barrelman 5000 routine in the second movie have killed this series for me. Still this movie got a standing ovation at the theater I was in...

    In all honesty though, I'm not the best opinion to get on this matter. On more than one occasion, I have proclaimed that I am a "Hobbit-Hater." I enjoyed the book but I havent cared for most Hobbits portrayed.

    I thought the Fellowship of the Rings was the best movie of the series. I didnt care for the casting of the Hobbits. I disliked many a scene from Legolas pulling himself on a horse in a dislocated shoulder kind of way, the over the top battles where he cannot put his bow down for a second even when he has to fight in close combat, to the charging of the Oliphants (never have liked this word either). I hate to pick on Legolas...those parts just stuck out in my mind.

    One last thing important to me... Being a Conan the Barbarian lover and enthusiast (seriously I pray to Crom), I am a bit let down by the Hobbit trilogy specifically. Why? The soundtrack. Conan had an incredible soundtrack. A lot of time and effort seemed to go into the LOTR soundtracks as well. However, as for the Hobbit Trilogy, it seems the soundtrack is a dumbed down version of LOTR's soundtrack. As if there was no time put into it at all. For me, it's hard to take a series seriously when it doesnt seem like they take themselves seriously.

  4. Great comment Jesse! Interesting that you brought up the soundtrack. A soundtrack certainly can make or break a film. I can't say that I particularly remember anything of the Hobbit soundtrack...which might be an indictment. Movie studios are afraid to portray hobbits correctly, they're essentially frumpy old men who look like college professors of English. That's not that sexy really.