Rating: 4.25 of 5
Peter Jackson is not Tolkien.
I know I’m stating the obvious there but after seeing The Hobbit I’m not sure Peter Jackson is aware of this fact.
He’s a talented filmmaker, to be sure; dedicated and visionary and able to produce amazing, epic films. But he isn’t the storyteller Tolkien was and his imprint on the Hobbit is obvious and the film’s most grievous flaw.
You may not notice if you haven’t read the books. maybe. It’s been years since I read it and while there are things I remember clearly there’s also plenty I do not. But from bulbous goblin kings to vendetta driven orcs the material that is Jackson’s stands out because it has the feel of trite fantasy movies we’ve derided for years (somebody please save me from Orc subtitles!). I know that sounds harsh and it’s just for a moment or a scene but it’s there and it’s hollow.
Because Tolkien’s story resonates. It has abided for so many years and is so beloved because it means something. There is significance in his words and in his story and that is an element that Peter Jackson lacks. And has lacked, even with the LOTR in The Two Towers and Return of the King. That significance and meaning is something Jackson just can’t seem to grasp.
So, of course I was wary when it was announced the movie would be so much longer than the book. I was mollified somewhat with Jackson’s explanation that it was simply because so much of the book has scenes that are only two or three pages and he wanted to delve into those moments in the story more. I’d enjoy that. And in a lot of ways that’s exactly what he did. He strayed from the book, concocting a fight where there was only discourse, but he never betrayed the book because he always brought the scene back to where it should be. It’s the elements he invented rather than embellished that are so bothersome.
Everything else, of course, is amazing. The production design and cgi and colors and costumes evoke Middle Earth splendidly. The performances are excellent. I liked the dwarves more than I expected (Kili being my favorite, I think) and particularly enjoyed the way they threw things around. I wish I’d seen more of that in battles rather than just with the dishes. I’m pretty sure it was there in a few places but there was so much going on it didn’t stand out enough to really appreciate.
I liked the tone of the film, that it was lighthearted and there was a sense of fun that didn’t undermine the purpose of their journey. Granted it was a little slow in some parts and a little long overall. Editing it a little tighter would have helped considerably. Lee Pace as Orlando Bloom’s father was kind of an amusing idea, but Pace makes a great elf. And I loved the head butt between Balin and Dwalin because it recalled the stunt greeting from LOTR (watch the Two Towers extended edition special features). I liked Thorin well enough. I liked his strength and the way he’s able to lead the company with such confidence but still be flawed. And Martin Freeman as Bilbo holds the whole film together with such a light touch it’s wonderful.
There were a lot of things to really enjoy about this film, not the least of which was the music – because that was amazing! But I understand now, if I was a part of the Tolkien estate, where I might not appreciate Peter Jackson so much. No matter how talented a filmmaker he is.