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The Hobbit, one of three God help us
The spiritual love child of Ralph Bakshi and the Star Wars Xmas Special

I didn't like it.  Spoiler-ish bits ahead.

My son says it's an ok movie.  Even he thinks it has unforgivable flaws.

We agree, it's what you get when you assign a zombie movie director to direct an adaptation of The Hobbit and someone thinks it's a bright idea to give him enough budget in time and dollars to do The Hobbit as he had to the the last two books of LOTR.

BAD book adaptation.  Good battle scenes, most of which have nothing to do with the book.  Many scenes gratuitously cauterized of any lyrical content, or castrated of character development, in favor of action.  Music minimized when present.  

Direct quotes from the book mysteriously led into, then run into strange places:  "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit...and that means [not "comfort" but a diatribe of 45 seconds of exposition that really wastes everyone's time, and neither puts forward the story, character development, nor service to Tolkien's prose such as it is].

Profound lack of respect for people who loved the text.  And you know, for all of the oddness in that manner of the work Jackson did on the trilogy, I managed to love them as adventure films that might bring people to read the books.  But this?


I never expected I'd feel like walking out midway.

Andy Serkis, as always, was fantastic, (and also 2nd unit director!) and most everything having to do with the Misty Mountains was grand (of course, since it deals with goblins and action scenes).  _Riddles in the Dark_ was awesome, although they (I suspect) edited out some of Serkis' muttering leading Bilbo out of the caves in favor of the less subtle, less plot value, insane choreography of the over the top 3D porn of the Gandalf/dwarf battle/escape (including the idiotic death -- and tragic fall -- of the goblin king).

They could have kept the original troll scene and it would have made for better story value than what they did.

They could have kept "14 birds in 5 fir trees" and found some other hobbit ex machina.  God knows they were packing in extra fight scenes every ten minutes.  Why not?

I could say more but I'd just spit.  So disappointed.  Jackson led me on for a couple years on this one; I really expected more.

That is all.
John Henry's profile photoJohn Clarkson's profile photoShava Nerad's profile photoDavid Reynolds-Gier's profile photo
I don´t agree any word with you...
If you are an only-one book (The Hobbit) purist, you can not understand or have an idea what is coming along The Hobbit quest.
Now I understand how will be the conclusion and more than The Battle of the Five Armies will be seen in the last movie.
In my opinion from my point of view... EPIC.
My recommendation is... don´t pay attention to the reviews of any others, if you have plans to see it, go and make your own mind, every likes and views are different...
I went to see it having never read the Hobbit and found it great as a stand alone movie. I was a little uneasy at first as the set up in the shire was a little slow and one dimensional but as soon as the adventure began the wheels started turning and never stopped. 

Thus began a fast paced action adventure with a younger and less powerful Gandalf and a gang of Dwarves who don't seem to stand a chance. It has left me eagerly awaiting the next installment. 
It should be hard with the book in mind. I deliberately 'forgot' the books for some years before seeing the movies and it worked great to reread them afterwards, for the universum expands instead of narrowing down, and i'll do the same with Hobbit.
I'm sad you couldn't enjoy the movie. Perhaps the only thing I found fault with is the length. Having the extra details was surprising, but I knew immediately it was necessary for us to achieve a better understanding of our characters, and I applaud Jackson for that. This review does a great job at addressing this:
By the way, I've read the book six times.
I have rarely liked a book based on a movie or vice versa. (Exception that I can remember off the top of my head: The Princess Bride.)

I think part of the problem is that since the two forms have different requirements for what makes them good, they don't match, even if they are both good examples of books or movie.

I love The Hobbit as a book, and I already know that I won't be going to see the movies because I know they won't contain what I love about the book. I saw the Jackson Fellowship of the Ring and hated it.

I'm glad for other people if they like the adaptations, but they're not a pleasant experience for me.
+Michael Hanslo "better understanding" really? When people come away with "younger and less powerful" Gandalf notions and your idea that he's clever to include Rhadaghast (as may be - but in both cases, if you knew what Maiar were you might think differently about the characters).

Gandalf is already many thousands of years old at the beginning of The Hobbit. It is not the passing of years that wears on him in LOTR. And Rhadaghast is less like the younger races and more at home with ent kind and animals, unlike Mithrandir who affects the manner of an old man and cloaks himself in frailty, only occasionally letting the demigod-like maia presence shine into the presence of his mortal company. No, you never learn that reading The Hobbit or LOTR, but it's in The Silmarillion. It makes the Rhadaghast portrayal (but not the intelligence gathering) completely out of canon.

You read the book four times, but you are not a Tolkien scholar of any sort. I am. I can tell you what author most influenced him as a boy of seven to twelve and how that messed up his prose style in a way that makes him unreadable to some modern readers -- the same author whose novel featured a primeval forest known as Mirkwood populated by the horse-warriors of The Mark (would he have stolen so freely from Wm Morris if he'd known how famous his work would eventually be? But Morris' Wolfings is justly forgotten).

I teach about Tolkien's idea of subcreative world-building in media literacy for both marketing and political contexts, because his notion of world-building fiction didn't just apply to fantasy, SF, comics, serialized television -- it also fed into the techniques/interpretations of propaganda/campaigns and marketing/advertising, to the point where you can teach a class on creative fiction and nonfiction transmedia -- SF, a presidential campaign, a massive product launch -- and interpret all of them through nearly century-old "reality engineering" roots in Tolkien's essay "On Fairie Stories." Take that back to Forbes. ;)

Jackson had a rough angle on the trilogy; but no, he stomped on this one too hard for me.

I'm glad I suppose in a way you don't know enough to be as offended. There's no shame in that; I had read this book more than four times by 1965, which may well be before you were reading at all. I've been an institutional member of the Tolkien Society. I was responsible for the original books on tape of this and LOTR being made available for the National Foundation for the Blind, through Audible Fantasy, an organization I founded in the 70s.

So I have a little history with it. I just feel let down.
+Shava Nerad these movies are not aimed at you. They are a take on the source material for a Hollywood audience. They do a perfect job for that audience. 
I think PJ portrayed the story in a interesting an right way.
First The Hobbit edition was changed when Tolkien submitted revised chapters in 1937 to make it closer to LOTR, I remember my uncle had one of those 1st edition.
All the material that Tolkien wrote that then were included in The Appendices, The Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion were clearly for a new The Hobbit re-edition.
People see The Hobbit book like a separated and isolated story and what I saw last night is simply how The Hobbit is integrated with Middle-Earth and The War if The Ring.
"...for a Hollywood audience" is an automatic fail if we're talking artistic/storytelling merit. Why would anyone aim there except as a sell-out?

In any case, it certainly isn't a defense.
+Alex Alexander I think you probably have it right. Whether anyone likes it or not, this adaption of the Hobbit is more telling some parts of the Hobbit's story within the framework of the LOTR film trilogy. That may disappoint many, and that's fair. At the same time, it will likely make those who enjoy the LOTR films for their own sake, and not as inferior versions of the books, happy.

I'm happy with how the film turned out; no real problems with it. But I admit, I don't usually care how a film is an adaption of a book; a film may take inspiration from a book, may begin with the same or similar characters, same or similar story premise, but it is not a book.
OK +Woozle Hypertwin its not made for Tolkien scholars who have read the Silmarillion. Its made to take the movie going audience on an adventure based on the original story. As for selling out, I think Jackson takes plenty of time to indulge in drawn out scenes to please the hardcore fans but not enough to ruin the pace of a good adventure.
Well, we'll be seeing it this weekend. I'm not a dedicated Tolkien fan myself; it took a viewing of Jackson's LotR trilogy before I could even get through the books -- at which point I enjoyed them tremendously... and while I found some points on which to criticize PJ for his plot adjustments, overall I agree with both popular and fannish opinion that his LotR was a tremendous success. I think I can be fairly objective on this matter, and ultimately I'm withholding judgment on the movie itself until I actually see it and have a chance to digest it.
A review is not meant to be a judgement on the movie, IMO, but a lens on the judgement of the reviewer on the movie.  I use Rotten Tomatoes just for that purpose -- to see various lenses on the movies I want to scope out.  No one is an absolute arbiter of taste.

I will hold that this is a poor adaptation of Tolkien's work.  Christopher Tolkien agrees with me, saying that Jackson "eviscerated" his father's work:

His father would not approve.  You can like it if you like.  I'm sure it will make money.  Barney the Dinosaur made money too.  Episodes 1-3 of the Star Wars movies made lots of money.  I didn't like those, and I have no ambition to sync up to popular taste.

I'm just providing an opinion to go into the mix, and my reasoning behind those opinions -- every person is a unique anchor in perspective.  You don't have to be wrong (except about points of lore or fact, faithfulness to the canon, etc.) for me to be right.  

It can be a good movie to you and to lots of people and be a bad movie to me and to lots of people.  And I'm prepared that my "lots of people" are a minority and the majority will think it's great -- for a few aggregate plurality aesthetics' worth of reasons I do not share and one or two I do (but don't suffice for me to consider it to be a good movie).

It was not made for Tolkien scholars -- obviously.  DUH.  But that does not prevent me from speaking out and saying, it could have been done more gracefully -- choices could have been made in a middle ground that would have kept it a little less gratuitously "eviscerating," without much sacrifice of pandering to modern tastes.

Really, it would have been better to give this movie to someone like the Harry Potter crews, say,  rather than Jackson.  I seem to remember them making a reasonable little sum of money on whimsy, mystery, spunk and serious innocence within a hero's tale -- and a spirit rather more true to the spirit of Tolkien's book, rather than something so relentlessly...visceral.  But equally obviously that was contractually impossible.
Sidenote:  one of the most ridiculous events in recent critical history to me was Roger Ebert's scree that video games can never be art.

See prior statement that a critic is a lens and not an arbiter.  Critiquing a medium you don't participate in has got to be one of the colossal faux pas in my book.

But before you decide I'm hypocritical saying an outsider can't critique in my review, I'll point out that I loved Cloud Atlas (and reviewed it here) which was violent and visceral in excess spatter for spatter, to The Hobbit with no stretch of accounting.  I'm not averse to violence on screen, especially that sort of choreographed Kurasawa-influenced lucid dream of a film.

And I reiterate, I enjoyed Jackson's LOTR although I wrinkled my nose here and there.  This one was just over the top.  _The Hobbit_ is not thematically the same material as the trilogy, and shouldn't have been treated in such a way.

Taking an artist's work and mangling it for capricious reasons is another faux pas -- but it's part of the social aspect of popular art at least.  And though I think Jackson is narrow and lazy and possibly venal to have done what he did, I do honestly believe he was pursuing his personal artistic vision with integrity.  I just think he betrayed JRRT's.

Our differences then orbit around this:  It was a good Peter Jackson movie.  It was a terrible, horrible movie of Tolkien's work, according to the original author's intent and wishes, from the interpretation of a great number of scholars and his family (including the children for whom he wrote the story).  And it's not like the man didn't say a great deal about the topic of his own vision and work.

Remix is exposure -- you will be examined and open to people like me.  It's part of the life.  Peter Jackson knows and could predict every word, likely, of every review that every JRRT fan and scholar such as myself is pouring out today.  That is part of the art, part of the foment, and part of how culture grows.

Without people like me saying, "Tolkien's art was not like this in important ways!" his art in its original form loses resolution, and the people who love it lose heart and coherence as a fandom and a subculture, and stop attracting more people who would be attracted to that image of The Hobbit rather than this seven-dwarfs-plus-a-few-road-buddy-zombie-movie romp come to Middle Earth.  We are a minority but so are any geek subculture, any literary culture, any intellectual subculture, any scholarly interest.

Can't stop the signal, to borrow a phrase.  
"Barney the Dinosaur made money too." YES. That is very much what I was trying to say about "made for Hollywood" not being a defense.
I'm in the same boat, +Shava Nerad . I am not a Tolkien scholar, but I love The Hobbit like no one else. I sort of appreciated the LOTR movies, and I'm going to go see The Hobbit, regardless. But I expected to be disappointed well before I ever saw any trailers.
On,a, related note, who was appalled by the Prince Caspian movie?
lol, I didn't go see the Prince Caspian movie -- not as beloved an Inkling, so no compulsion to go see it, and get frustrated! :)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was an OK adaptation. Not great, but OK. But Prince Caspian was inexcusable. Problem with all these movies is I'll always nitpick them for not being as awesome as the books. But my favorite book ever is The Hobbit. It was read to me for the first time when I was four, and I have read it again way more times than I can count. Probably over a hundred. I've already read it to the kids four times, and I'm just getting warmed up. (LOTR once and the Narnia series twice. Read them The Three Musketeers last month, and was shocked by how ribald and funny and action-packed and somewhat age-inappropriate it was.)

A beautiful story about friendship and loyalty, greed and power and bucolic simplicity... And I just know I'm going to despise Peter Jackson for turning it into a dark sword-and-sorcery leather-and-steel fight-scene movie, like he did with LOTR. But I might just forgive him if he can do the final scene between Bilbo and Thorin justice.
Consider that he's split the book up -- they don't even get to the Beornlings this movie.  You might just want to save some money and gray hair and wait for the DVD if you are waiting for the battle of five armies, and catch up with this movie when the later work gets released.
So, does the movie end in the eagles' eyries? And did you just imply up above that the scene with the trolls was left out altogether?
The troll scene is not left out.  It's just turned into a melee crossed with Food Network frat cookout snot party.  Really.  Snot and fart joke level stuff, combined with trolls doing foodie wannabie pretentious crap in turns.  And, not terribly heroic fantasy at that.

Heroic?  More like idiotic.  Bilbo gets grabbed.  Bilbo gets snotted upon by Bert.  Trolls grab Bilbo.  Melee ensues somehow involving all of the entire company excepting Gandalf.  

Trolls grab Bilbo, spreadeagled -- threaten to tear Bilbo's arms off unless dwarves lay down arms.  Dwarves meekly lay down their arms and [cut] in the next scene they are bound and being roasted over a fire on a spit,bound a half dozen or so together on a stick, and the rest waiting to be eaten, bound in gunny sacks stacked like cordwood on the ground, helpless.

Can you IMAGINE any of Thorin's kin passively laying down arms so a troll could eat them under any circumstances, even to save one of their own with the possible exception of Thorin (and maybe not that, meekly)?  Much less to save one of their company they have no confidence is of any use or survivability whatsoever?  Never mind none of them are supposed to be within easy earshot of the scene at this point anyway.

I might have been hooting but it wasn't like any sort of owl.


Oh, did I mention that there's a little too much Dopey homage in Ori's characterization?  

Separated at birth:

No really.
Agreed on all counts - even to thinking about leaving halfway through the movie, and I never do that....

The Misty Mountain scenes were good, and the Gollum scenes were excellent, the Shire scenes were decent and the back story on Smaug was pretty good.  The rest looked too much like a typical, stupid Hollywood movie.
Shava: thanks for the review. I'll admit, I am somewhat of Tolkien purist. I've read the LOTR about a dozen times, and the Hobbit nearly as many. I was a film major back in my university days. I love narrative and creativity, I love a good Hollywood action film, so by no means am I a film snob. I even like early Jackson movies, The Frighteners being a pretty solid cartoony diversion.

I have two problems with Jackson's visions. Setting aside his capabilities as a director (because even great stories can come alive under mediocre direction), my first problem is the false augmentation of the stories. This comes in many forms: padding, changing characterization, line attributions, actions from one character to another, or wholly reinventing how characters act. (Frodo telling Sam to leave in Mordor, how Denethor being classless, etc). I understand there is a balance that Hollywood has to achieve in being true to the source material, while striking a tone that will resonate with modern moviegoers. I think Jackson goes way too far in pandering to what he thinks modern movies should be like, and in doing so, discredits the source material. As a purist, you can imagine that burning my britches. :)

My second problem with Jackson's vision: the incredible amount of beauty and wonder that Tolkien included in his books is virtually wiped out. I find Jackson's version of Lothlorien too Ewoky, his vision of Rivendell feels like a solid but still hastily put together theme park, and I altogether detest what he did to Moria: lines of giant columns, massive unfinished and ugly rock? Nope, wrong, and lazy. Jackson also removes any beautiful and pure motive a character might have, making absolute good threatening just for cheap reversals (again, Lothlorien.)

As for Scalzi's review and calling Tolkien's Middle Earth "twee", yeah, that is part of the point. You are taking these carefree little innocents (Hobbits) and putting them through all manner of holy hell. Frodo comes back shattered; there is nothing 'twee' in what he endures, but it is his starting out in a state of innocence that makes his arc (and Middle Earth's arc) all the more engaging. Yeah, Merry and Pippin dancing in the field at the beginning of Fellowship is hella twee, but it is there for an extremely valid and important narrative reason. 

Sometimes, I gotta wonder if I am, at age 40, already too old school. It would explain a lot.  :)
But, is there a reason classical storytelling has a heritage of millennia and this adrenal stuff is not? Is it because the technology has never been there to fill a basic human need for narrative or because content ultimately is more important to the species than glandular stimulation?

I think over time either the storytellers win out, or we are in very deep trouble.
I don't think this kind of thing is even really addressing a demand. People watch action movies to a large extent because the limited story content in them is the only story content fix they can get. The public wants something better, but they'll settle for whatever Hollywood gives them because some story is better than nothing.
People vote with their movie budgets, and those dollars say that caffeine sells better than health food. Consistently. This is why we have "minor" "cult" "indy" "foreign" (they are rarely relegated to "foreign" when the make equal box) movies with awesome Campbell level hero tales, without the f/x and with acting and character - and very small audiences.

Kids want Mountain Dew. Not even green tea.
I disagree. If studios spent as much money making and marketing great stories as they do "caffeine," they wouldn't lose a dime in revenue. They're too scared to do it right now, but someone will eventually rock the boat enough to tip it over. Isn't that what you're training your padawans for?
I think Hollywood playing to the adrenals instead of a greater sense of narrative is a lost opportunity, but it is what it is. The folks at Pixar have shown the upside to spending the time and energy on crafting a good story. I wish Hollywood would take a page out of their book.

That all aside (there's enough to tackle with Tolkien and Jackson!) I think there has to be respect paid to the source material; if not, why use it at all? My only guess is the rather shallow desire of a studio to buy a 'brand', with its preloaded adherents. It's a bit cynical, albeit solid business-think.

In regards to the LOTR movies and the Hobbit, Christoper Tolkien sums up my stance pretty well: Hollywood has turned Tolkien, his son said, “into a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”
+Shava Nerad Ahh I see the problem, perhaps you're way too nerdy (in a nice way)  and no doubt you'll find a few in the Tolkien  community who may agree with you.

Should you be watching any movie adaptations at all? Perhaps they aren't the right format for someone of your sensibilities?
+Neal Jacks : I go into these kinds of movies expecting to be disappointed, and they still tick me off. But I have to go see them anyway. Just because, that's why.
Too nerdy? Not sure what that has to do with holding a critical opinion on a piece of popular culture based on another piece of popular culture. I'm sure you didn't mean it as a slight, but neither does it help support your point.

The format is irrelevant (for me, and I guess, since Shava saw the movie, that it was irrelevant for Shava as well.) I just wanted a good movie. Strong, linear, narrative storytelling, staying true to the tone and timbre of the source material. The original LOTR bordered on caricature. The Hobbit has now transcended that, and for me is a parody. I'm sorry, but Jackson either willingly sold out to the studio and 12 year olds, or he has extremely weak reading comprehension skills. Could be both, which would start to explain The Hobbit movie.
+John Clarkson  Assuming it's a bad thing, I think it's "too nerdy" because you see, reading is nerdy and watching movies is what normal people do. ;)

But I did say I enjoyed the LOTR movies, so perhaps I can only be but so much of a nerd.  I am verging on a real human being.  Although you might still not want to sit with me in the lunchroom.  Germs.

Never mind that I've been living online for three decades, and practically helped invent some segments of online culture.  

That a person should set an atavistic value on the written word over the newer interpretation in video or other digital media must mean that that person is a Luddite and nerdy.

I bow to others' better judgments.  Nerd pride!  I own it.  I am a nerd and a geek!  Alert the media! :)

I'll have to ponder the Luddite thing though...  That might take some major rewriting of my bio...
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