The Hobbittt [sic]: a review (spoilers)

I saw The Hobbittt for the sake of completion and am writing up my in the same vein, having done so for installment one and two. As was the case last year, I don’t have time to go back and read the relevant passages in the book, but there was a lot of things I found stupid and problematic without it. The list entries include spoilers, but the concluding paragraph does not.

  1. The trope that “bred for war” became. Tolkien did stuff like this, too, but it seemed that every creature that Jackson trotted out on the side of the bad guys was bred for war and some of those were hilariously ineffective. Like the stupid flying bat things. I was half expecting the dwarves and the elves and everything else to be bred for war, too, because while Tolkien’s world-building does create the other races for purposes other than fighting, Jackson’s doesn’t. Even in the first Hobbit film, the Dwarves are all warriors and little else. Along the same lines, the only sequence in any of Jackson’s films that show the breeding of any of these creatures is in Saruman’s betrayal. The rest is just a hinky catchphrase meant to sound ominous and I am going to start using about the squirrels on campus.
  2. I understand cinematic license and one cannot just let the full stretch of a siege play out because most of the audience would be bored, but even old walls should not fall down when hit once. Or when fallen upon. And walls should probably be taller than the things coming to fight against them. I’ve had this complaint with all of Jackson’s LotR films, but it was particularly significant in the Hobbittt, and rendered some of the subsequent dialogue clumsy and moronic.
  3. Legolas and Dain’s stupid fight scenes. This was a problem since this was most of the film. I’m just going to lay down my cards here: I think many of the fight scenes, from the individual heroic duels to the massive battle episodes, in all of Jackson’s films were just dumb. This film was the worst of the lot. Legolas, who didn’t even need to be in this film, encapsulates this where he leaps and jumps and hangs, all in order to appear impressive and break up the monotony of a large melee. Call me jaded, but this was all flash and no substance.
  4. Tauriel is looking for Kili, but runs into a big orc and is in danger! Kili comes to Tauriel’s rescue! Orc handles Kili! Tauriel comes to Kili’s rescue! Orc takes them both! Legolas comes to their rescue and gets lucky in defeating orc. This was one of the dumber sequences.
  5. I didn’t like the purging of Dol Guldur. This is not so much the few heroes sneaking into the lair of the enemy, which is a very Tolkien episode, even if it largely runs against Jackson’s vision. It was just another episode that added to the clutter. When I heard that this part was going to show up in the films, I had defended it, but I also expected for the cleansing of Dol Guldur to take place on the way home from the mountain, with the White Council appearing as a distinct arc where, maybe, the background for the Lord of the Rings would be explained, instead of Legolas being blandly told to go find Strider, who, in the original chronology, is probably a wee lad. Even in Peter Jackson’s original films, I’m not sure Legolas and Aragorn had met when the council met some sixty or so years later…which makes Legolas hilariously inept?
  6. The Hobbittt was too long and a large amount of this time could be recouped if Jackson had eased back on the overly-long sequences of psychological drama. The review I read on Tor.com astutely observed that, for the most part, Jackson cast excellent actors and then refused to let them actually act by throwing graphics around them to show trauma.
  7. Jackson also did strange things with the chronology, including having people travel long distances in unconscionably short periods of time. Some camera cuts passed days, some moments and it was uneven as to what was what. I was also amazed that there was as much warning as there was for the Dragon arriving at Laketown.
  8. Which leads to another point. The Dragon attack looked catastrophic and it was shocking how many people survived. Then, every time you turned around there were more people of Dale fighting back against the bad people. This was particularly shocking given that the dwarves and elves appeared to die in droves.
  9. Why save the Dragon’s death for this movie? Yes, it added a bit of a prequel so that it wasn’t just battlebattlebattle, but it also added the sense that The Hobbittt was just a mishmash of things.
  10. There were far too many unfulfilled promises in The Hobbittt. Two, in particular, stood out. First, Bilbo showed the acorn that would become the Party Tree, but it was used to try to humanize Thorin. Even though Bilbo comes home in the film, that tree was, sadly, never planted. Second, much was made out of the Arkenstone and how much Thorin wanted it. In the book, Thorin is buried with the stone on his chest. In the film, his death is a tragedy, but I’m pretty sure that Bard still has it in his pocket even as he chastises other people for seeking wealth.

I’ve recently been thinking about Jackson’s tendency to add female characters to Tolkien’s particularly masculine world. For the most part I have not been a fan since it frequently undercuts the original story-lines that I really like. However, I also like what Saladin Ahmed has done for some of the stories he reads to his children, where he simply makes some of the original characters female. I am a purist in most of these representations, but for a largely sexless world that Tolkien creates, I don’t see why this solution wouldn’t work–for instance, if several of the dwarves were women, or Bard. Or in the original Lord of the Rings, why couldn’t Legolas be female? Or both Legolas and Gimli? Or the wizards? Or Borimir? Or Merry and Pippin? Leave Sam and his relationship with Frodo and the love story between him and Rosie alone, as well as the Farimir/Eowyn and Aragorn/Arwen pairings and the ents, but none of the other genders matter. I will most likely do something similar if I get a chance to read these books to children.

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