The movie was beautiful and epic, as expected, but ultimately disappointing. Of course, any movie adaption of a childhood favourite is never going to live up to the power of the imagination. Nor is a movie adaption supposed to be an exact replica of the book, yet I found those scenes that stayed closest to the book remained the best, such as the encounter with the trolls, Gandalf’s words of wisdom and witticisms, and, of course Gollum. All the classic elements were there, Gandalf with his staff and pipe and always timely interventions, Elrond looking surly, Gollum in all his tricksy glory, a host of fearsome badies, and, a dragon. The dwarves were mostly younger and better looking than my imagination ever made them, but I’m not complaining about that. Galadriel seemed to be added in just to be the token female (making one of the dwarves female might’ve added a more interesting twist), and the character of Radagast, while mildly amusing, served no discernible plot purpose except to stretch out the movie for an extra twenty minutes.
This brings me to my biggest criticism: the movie was far too long. When I heard The Hobbit was being made into 3 movies I wondered where Peter Jackson was going to find enough material. The answer lies in adding a number of superfluous scenes, such as a rehashing of the beginning of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (perhaps so Frodo could make a cameo), filling in every single detail of Thorin’s life (and erasing most of his flaws in the process) and by forging a link to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ through the Necromancer. But in adding all of this in, Jackson leaves nothing to the imagination of the viewer, such as the threat of the Necromancer or the tension between the various council members, except perhaps for how Galadriel manages to vanish into the ether. The many battle scenes were often melodramatic, particularly the backstory of Thorin and the Pale Orc, (any scene with a rolling head and a grieved cry of ‘Nooo’ is inviting ridicule) so that in the end they all began to feel a little generic. The music was overdone, particularly the dramatic emphasis on the ring, and whilst I know New Zealand has some beautiful vistas, how many shots do we need to see of Gandalf in front of a pink sky?
A major part of the book’s appeal was its playful and light-hearted tone, the movie omits much of this and, I feel, suffers for it. Almost from the start the movie is too serious. Yes, defeating a dragon is serious work, but much of the troubles that the dwarves encounter along their journey are from their own mistakes and obstinacy and bickering amongst themselves. Whilst Jackson adds in some comic relief, the way he works in the plot of the Pale Orc changes the tone when instead he could’ve made his characters less perfect, less heroic and more susceptible to human error, after all, a major theme of ‘The Hobbit’ is that any average person has within them the potential to be a hero. It would have been nice to have a little more personality from the dwarves also, I could barely tell which one was which, aside from Thorin, Balin, the old one, Fili and Kili, the young attractive ones and Bombur, the fat one.
That said, there were still many impressive aspects: Smaug the dragon in his fields of gold was truly magnificent, and I loved the way Jackson holds off in showing the dragon’s whole form, only hinting at his enormity and ferocity; the goblin king was suitably disgusting and self-important; and Bilbo’s meeting with Gollum was everything I expected—I just wish it hadn’t taken quite so long to get there. In the end, I found The Hobbit only vaguely enjoyable, and while I will most likely still watch the second movie, it will be with lowered expectations, and the vain hope that enough unfavourable reviews will encourage Peter Jackson to be less self-indulgent in the next segment.