Peter Jackson's rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy was an astounding, mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, and certainly people had a reason to anticipate what he would do with The Hobbit. But I have to say, after seeing the new film last night in our local theater here in little Madison, SD, it was something of a disappointment.
Yes, there were cool effects, and it was fun to see some of the same characters again. And the story is a pretty good one. But the results of stretching the journey into three feature films were a bloated narrative and gratuitous scenes for the 3-D viewer.
It made me a little sad.
For one thing, The Hobbit is a children's story, one Tolkien wrote and read to his children, and it was published in part on the recommendation of a nine-year old, the son of the publisher. The movie is not one for children. It taps into the same dark vision that Jackson rightfully employed for the LOTR films. Even more sadly, the movie adds elements that were NOT in the novel. For example, we see Saruman, the turncoat wizard in the later story, arguing against the continuation of the dwarves' journey, hinting at his later betrayal. We see the dwarves hunted by a goblin king bent on revenge on Thorin. We see the double personality of Gollum that was introduced in the LOTR movies. Essentially, these elements were apparently added, perhaps to wed the story more tightly to the later works, but more probably to help sustain the length of the film series.
For another thing, the film just wasn't very interesting for several stretches. The opening sequence, the unexpected party, took too damned long. Nothing was happening, just a lot of silliness with food and the dwarves eating everything in Bilbo's larder. I realized later that this, like some of the later battle and chase scenes, were there for their 3-D effects. Watching them on a conventional screen made me impatient. I guess it's worthwhile to see what 3-D will do for the movies, but it didn't do much for this movie. It just made it longer. Like I tell my students, it's either working for you or against you. These long scenes weren't working for me.
Yes, I'll go to the next films in the series, but I'll try to keep my expectations low.