Film Review : The Hobbit
● By Justin Buettner
This prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy follows the adventure of Bilbo Baggins, a small Hobbit that agrees to help a contingent of 13 dwarves led by a wizard named Gandolf. Together this band of characters seek to defeat an evil dragon named Smaug who forced the dwarves from their mountain home sixty years prior to our story. A set of deadly lands, monsters and tasks lie ahead, will the motley crew be able to survive long enough to face the dragon Smaug?
I am not a fan of the Lord of the Rings series. I won’t deny the amount of technical wizardry that went into the making of those films, but I did not like the characters, the action scenes are dull, and each movie was well over two hours too long. The Hobbit, made by the same exact team that made the Lord of the Rings films, has the same exact shortcomings as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, yet I like the Hobbit quite a bit more than anything the previous series had to offer. The team of dwarves hellbent on taking back their homeland resonates more than the quest that takes place in Lord of the Rings. The connection between the film’s villain, the White Orc, and the Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshire is much stronger in the Hobbit than anything that exists in Lord of the Rings too. I know the Hobbit is a smaller adventure, but perhaps that makes it more personal and not everything needs to be epic to be great.
There is no questioning the passion and attention to detail that director Peter Jackson brings to a movie as director. However Peter Jackson has the worst pacing of any director out there. I base this statement not only on the Lord of the Ring/Hobbit films, but his other body of work including King Kong and Lovely Bones too. His films are all drawn out messes. Part of being a storyteller (which is what filmmaking is) is having the skill to know what to tell and what to edit. Jackson completely lacks the instincts to edit. The Hobbit is almost three hours long, and two hours of the movie could have been easily cut, if not more. Large chunks of this movie lack purpose or consequence. Huge, elaborate action scenes happen randomly that do nothing to further the plot or character in the movie. In fact these elongated scenes work against the story as it dilutes to the real purpose of the movie and distracts from the message that the movie attempts to deliver.
What also bothers me a great about the Hobbit is the apparent lack of danger. No matter how ugly and vast in numbers the monsters are in these films, a pack of 13 dwarves, a wizard, and a hobbit beat them easily, so how scary and powerful can these monsters really be? Not only do the monsters lose credibility, the action scenes as a whole lose their tension. I am not concerned for a second when a pack of 2,000 goblins show up because I know the wizard will light up his staff at just the right moment and no one will get hurt (but maybe the 2,000 goblins). Action scenes pop up just to have a few cool visuals in the movie but offer little to actually move the story forward. The numerous action scenes in the second half of the movie become quite boring. There is nothing thrilling about the escape from a goblin cave, it reminds me of watching a friend play a video game. Nothing of real value seemed at stake, there was little question every good guy would make it out alive, and the imagery even looked a bit like a computer game rather than a movie.
The best scene of the Hobbit was the cave scene involving Gollum. The scene is interesting because it is a mental duel of competing interests. Each character has something real at stake and the tension is very high. Instead of a constant barrage of meaningless CGI monsters with little substance, the movie slows down (in a good way) and allows the characters to take over in this scene. A movie chalked full of scenes like the one with Gollum and a whole lot less of random fighting mountains will improve these movies ten fold. Which begs the question why not have one really great two hour movie instead of three mediocre three hour movies? I know part of the answer is money, at least from the studio’s perspective. But I can’t help to think Peter Jackson is just too close to the material to realize that his films are too long. That by giving us less, he would actually be improving his movies. I truly believe that Peter Jackson is in love with this middle earth world and that is why he dedicates so much time in these movies to vistas and locations and also why he has trouble cutting a shot let alone a scene that would help tell the story better.
If you loved the original Lord of the Rings movies you will no doubt love this new trilogy. The Hobbit has all the same visuals, actors, and story pacing. If the three hours of the Lord of the Rings films did not bother you (and the big fans have four hour extended versions of these movies) then a nine hour Hobbit trilogy will not bother you either. You will marvel at the imagery and be delighted to see characters you love come to life. The only gripe you may have will be there are no surprises or giant leaps in technology (with the exception of the high frame rate format which is more display technology than anything). So even though the Hobbit has been made ten years later, all the effects look the same as they did ten years ago. If you thought the Lord of the Rings was too long, you are not into fantasy films, and just plain don’t have the attention span to sit three hours straight then the Hobbit may not be for you.
Films like the Hobbit : The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Willow, and Legend
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.