Movie review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Lemon
I can remember back when everyone seemed to be excited for the movie adaptation of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Because Peter Jackson had done such a great job with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it felt as though his latest project, The Hobbit, would be even greater. When The Hobbit came out at the end of last year, many people raved about it. I was curious to know if it was at least as good as Jackson’s last trilogy or if it was all just hype. I asked my friends, my trusted friends, the very friends I know to be tolerant of only the finest of Hollywood’s productions, for their opinion of The Hobbit. These highly dependable comrades did not hesitate in declaring their most excitable endorsements for the movie. Shortly after the release, I checked the reviews of movie critics both online and in the newspaper. At the time, I found that none of them had anything negative to say about The Hobbit. Based on all my research, I concluded that the evidence was stacked in favor Jackson’s latest epic.
Fast forward to February of this year. The 85th Annual Academy Awards will air on February 24, 2013. The Hobbit is up for three awards: Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects, and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. No doubt, awards won in some of these categories would be well deserved. However, the movie is not up for some award categories in particular which, based on the fanfare, I am surprised by. Those categories would be Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay to name a few. All three installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy were up for such awards, so why wasn’t The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey nominated? In short, the Hobbit did not earn a nomination for Best Picture because The Hobbit turned out to be a terrible movie. It was bad simply because Jackson chose to dumb down the story with lowbrow humor, implausible action scenes at every turn and substantial changes which detract from the original story. Instead of looking to the millions who have read and loved Tolkein’s fairy tale, Jackson peddled to the lowest common denominator with bad Hollywood standard clichés.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the original book, The Hobbit, as a fairy tale for children. It was short and simple, placing character development and morality at the core of the story. Tolkien drew from his experiences in the First World War, his personal philosophies of humanity, and his perspective of governments to give a realistic feel to the story. Of course, I understand that when a movie is adapted from a book, some sacrifices are required because of the change in media. However, one of the things that made The Lord of the Rings trilogy so great was the time and effort taken by Peter Jackson in capturing the grandeur of the books in a visual form. Those adaptations felt true to the spirit of the books, which, at the time of their release was a huge concern. Yet, in The Hobbit, it seems Jackson fell victim to poor judgment. The shift from the first trilogy to this new one seems to echo the infamous shift seen in the most recent Star Wars movies.
In Jackson’s version of The Hobbit, he decided that it would be a good idea to incorporate characters that only existed in The Lord of the Rings. At the same time, he fabricated a nemesis for the troupe solely to provide an obvious and excessively violent tension. Perhaps his breaking the story into three parts made the first third of The Hobbit seem a little bland without violence. Regardless of the reasoning, it was unnecessary to make such changes. Some of these changes served only to make direct nods to Jackson’s own trilogy a decade ago. Examples of this would be Gandalf’s staff slamming while screaming something cool, the ring falling onto the hobbit’s finger, and wild fight scenes through a labyrinth of tunnels underground.
Of course, it could be argued that someone who is not familiar with Tolkien’s original works wouldn’t know that there is a difference from the books, so how could this movie be so terrible? Well, there are many instances independent of the original book that brings the quality of this movie down to gutter level. Instead of taking an expressive stance like a true artist, Jackson filled scenes involving the dwarves with crude jokes, fat-person insults, pratfalls, and inconsistent personality traits. Additionally, there was such a negative tone throughout the movie that I never felt happy while watching the film. Every character seemed to find something to dispute, object to, complain about, or disparage. I can understand some internal conflict within the party. However, Thorin’s bigotry and aggression toward Bilbo for simply being a Hobbit, another useless and confusing fabrication by Jackson, prevented me from liking the dwarven character. Even when Thorin initiated a Jackson-created battle at the end of the movie and suffered mortal wounds, I was unmoved. Of course, Jackson tries to mend this tension with a classic use of Deus Ex Machina seasoned with the flavor of a touching 80’s after-school special.
Finally, there were the juvenile, lowbrow, sad, and gratuitous helpings of grossness. The Goblin King’s CG neck waddle, looking like a swinging, half-deflated goiter, looked better animated than some of the major action sequences throughout the movie. Unfortunately, the undulating mass was so distracting that I missed most of what the character had to say. The scene with the trolls certainly did not need to have explicit displays of mucus projected into food. I did not need to hear the sound of flatulence or belching coming from the dwarves. In addition, the obese dwarf named Bombur was so overweight that he broke the marble bench he was sitting on when he caught more food tossed to him. It was clear that Jackson was actually trying to elicit a laugh from the 12 year olds in the audience with crudeness.
Peter Jackson has had a great run with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is unfortunate to see that instead of trying to capture the essence of the story as he did with the original trilogy, he tried to recreate The Lord of the Rings and add more CG. His substantial reworking of a classic like The Hobbit, done without a nod to the millions of readers who loved Tolkein’s innocent moral and witty story, shows his utter disregard for the audience and for the original literature. I enjoy the work of Peter Jackson over all. I just hope he does not continue with this carelessness, or else he may end up like a certain Mr. Lucas.