A prequel trilogy seems to be a director’s opportunity to push CGI beyond its usefulness and try with all
their vast wealth to demonstrate that more is better- in every case, all the time. Regardless, the films make money providing the only feedback that matters to Hollywood. So we, the audience, ensure our future dissatisfaction.
I wanted to like The Hobbit- I really, really wanted to like The Hobbit. Despite the problems one might expect after hearing that this book was to be divided into three films, I still wanted to like it. And there were parts that I did enjoy tremendously. But, assuming I had the ability to make the film myself, I wouldn’t be expecting a good performance review or raise based on this effort.
Now (spoiler alert), I want to talk about what did and didn’t work specifically.
Beginning with the good…
I though that the film was paced very well from the start giving ample time for character development and slow immersion into the world of middle earth. Of course,the characters that were best introduced were Bilbo and Gandalf, both of whom we already knew from The Lord of the Rings.
Getting to know the dwarves was mixed, but overall quite good. The story paralleled the book well taking ample time to convince Bilbo to come along on the adventure of a lifetime, but it’s difficult to get to know thirteen dwarves no matter how long we take. I’m giving Jackson a pass here and will say that he did a very good job or balancing the dwarves’ gravity and lightheartedness and included the song of the dwarves to set the mood.
Although my wife and I have different opinions about it, I was happy with the backstory of the orcs to provide an antagonist to root against, fear and revile. (However, I would have gone with goblins to keep consistent with the book and get to see a new race of people)
Lastly, the scene with Gollum was easily as good as any he starred in previously and saved the movie in no small manner. Gollum represents CGI at its finest, a triumph of technology.
Now the bad…
My wife argued that there was too much effort made to stretch things out to make a trilogy out of what should be one long movie. I didn’t find this to be a major fault, but I certainly saw her point.
My problems started with the rock/ mountain giants. I know they were in the book, but I think they were an easy thing to skip and a hard thing to do well. Jackson took the hard road and got a rather pointless CGI heavy scene that didn’t add anything to the film.
This was followed by our introduction to the goblins… I’m sorry, orcs. In my mind, the caverns of the goblins were cold and dark and populated by a rather simpleminded, but malevolent race. Never did I imagine wide open spaces laced with miles of timber (where did this all come from?) it was consistent with the LOTRs orcs’ cave, but does it give us anything? Perhaps just lots of room for a big, silly chance scene that reminded me of another big budget loser, The Temple of Doom. What filmmaker wouldn’t want their work to be compared to that?
Again, I’m just giving my two bits, but the last fight scene in the trees is a great opportunity to cut a few minutes as well. Less is more, right? Then, as if an echo of the Fellowship of the Ring, I would fade to credits with the eagles in the air.
I get it though, we need the tree fight to develop the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin… And then we have a resolution on the high rock promontory, but forget it – that’s not character development I needed. Bilbo is only just supposed to be showing his worth here, not becoming bestees with the dwarf.
Overall, I think it was about a 6 out of 10. I just wonder if Peter Jackson has gotten so big and respectable that no one says, “hell no, that sucks!” to him anymore. CGI, chase scenes and cultivated emotion aren’t what’s needed to make this a good film. I agree, if there’s no giant eagles in the world, you would have to use Special effects to show someone getting off of one. Or you could cut away and trust the viewers imagination.
I appreciate that you’ve grown up since Dead Alive, Peter (which was awesome, by the way). You don’t have to try very hard to make Tolkien a good story just don’t get in the way and you’ll have a winner.