All right. So a few weeks ago my friends, myself, and my girlfriend went to see the latest Hobbit movie in 3D and High Frame Rate (mentioned here) and I’ve spent those weeks trying to separate the film itself from the visual experience. I think I’ve finally managed it. So warning, spoilers ahead for book and film.
Let me start off by saying that it was a very enjoyable film. I enjoyed every single bit of it despite the major problems I have with the trilogy all ready. It was action packed, fast, and well paced. That pretty much means it’s not really The Hobbit any more. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about The Hobbit is that most of the book involves actual journeying. You know, being cold, wet, grumpy, and mildly terrified. It doesn’t, in fact, involve exciting chases all the time and exciting fights in barrels tumbling down a river. As much fun as that fight was, I still like the idea of the dwarves complaining and Bilbo having to take on the role of Moses a bit and doing all of the dirty work. The trilogy has excitement. The book had charm.
The other thing the trilogy has is one film too many. There’s this subplot involving an elven warrior maiden becoming smitten with Killi and Legolas being jealous and then this orc attack on Lake Town and Killi nearly dying and elves showing up at the last minute to help set everything right. Does it make interesting cinema? That’s debatable. What it does make is too much happening in the second film. You know what they could have had in there instead of that subplot? The end of the damned story, that’s what. The big chase with Smaug and the dwarfs through Erebor? Great fun and a direct confrontation between Thorin and the dragon, but did it need to be there? No. They could have had the great fight with Bard. Nope. Gotta wait a year for that.
The thing that Jackson has decided to ignore is the basic selfishness of the dwarfs and their increasing reliance on Bilbo, and in turn, Bilbo’s increased reliance on himself. Instead we get scenes of Bilbo all ready fighting the effects of the One Ring. Something that shouldn’t be a major threat for years to come. For Bilbo it should just be his invisibility ring. Not some great and frightening thing that he has to think about constantly. It’s too much.
The one thing that I am glad they’ve put into the film is the Necromancer subplot. I was actually hoping for more of this than we’re getting. In the book, Gandalf leaves the company on the edge of Mirkwood and that’s the last we see of him until The Battle of Five Armies. When questioned he basically says “What? Oh yes. We had this incredible battle with a horrible evil force that was full of excitement and adventure and things but it probably wasn’t worth mentioning in a narrative format.” It’s moments like that which really upset me in Tolkien’s writing. The film is a wonderful chance to actually show that exciting bit. Unfortunately, it has amounted to lone wizards entering the Necromancer’s fortress one at a time and getting very, very frightened or getting their asses handed to them. No grand coalition of the elves and wizards so far. Just, well, fluff really. I’m hoping the next film justifies that choice somehow, but honestly, I’m expecting a lot. Probably too much.
So yes. It was an enjoyable film. I just didn’t feel it was a satisfying film. It felt gutted. Like the innards of the book might be there somewhere but they’d been pushed out of the way for other stuff. And in closing and in answer to Bilbo’s question at the end of the film:
“What have we done?”
Stretched it out for a third film, Mr. Baggins. That’s what you’ve done.