Q: What do you, as Hollywood, do to a movie series that has garnered tremendous commercial success and massive critical acclaim?
A: You revisit it. Of course.
The Hobbit will surely be a massive commercial success. But it won’t garner any significant awards like its Middle Earth predecessors, which are its successors story-wise. The Return of the King has won a record 11 academy awards.
Set prior to the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, their prequel, follows the story of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle, as he travels with a group of dwarves who, with the help of Gandalf the wizard, will try to recuperate their kingdom Erebor from a dragon named Smaug that has overtaken it many years prior.
Peter Jackson, who also directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, uses state of the art technology in shooting the movie.The first cinematic feature to be shot in 46 frames per second, The Hobbit is visually stunning. The art direction is impeccable. The colors feel richer and the scenes crisper to look at. The movie’s dwarves, orcs, goblins and hobbits are, of course, superbly executed. The battle scenes are gripping set-pieces. The locations in New Zealand, similarly to its predecessors in the series, chosen to shoot the movie are absolutely breathtaking, making for a Middle Earth that still feels enchanting although it’s not as absorbing as the one we had in the previous three movies.
At a running time of almost three hours, The Hobbit sports many side-plots that don’t serve the main story at all – and all these side-plots are dragged out in extensive scenes that only serve to increase the movie’s length without offering anything in value to it. The overall results becomes an overly stuffed movie that could have had so many absolutely useless moments removed, making the overall product tighter and more polished. Alas, that is not the case. Instead, you get prolonged long shots of our heroes as they travel through mountains, hills and lakes with many seconds and minutes added to scenes that have already ended for an extra artistic effect such as taking the camera slowly upwards to capture the head of a statue while the movie’s protagonists stand under it. It could be this overly slow pace at times that takes away from the movie’s grandeur and from the story’s spine.
What you are left with is an enjoyable movie – but nothing that reaches the levels of epic that oozed from every single moment of The Lord of the Rings. What you get is a movie that, while it manages stands on its own, can’t escape the comparisons from much worthier predecessors. The overall tone of the series has also changed into something less dramatic at times and more comical. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
The movie’s best scene, which, unlike many other moments, stays true to its equivalent in the book, is the first encounter ever between Gollum and Bilbo Baggins which grips at you and doesn’t let go. It doesn’t disappoint. And even though that scene’s outcome is already known, the emotional aspect that’s portrayed by a brilliant Andy Serkis as the emaciated hobbit Smeagol (Gollum) who’s even better than in Lord of the Rings and a great Martin Freeman (Baggins) still manages to resonate and pack a punch. That riddles game is just too good on paper not to be good cinema. And how could anyone resist my precious?
And just because it’s awesome, here it is again. My precious.
As the movie ends, Bilbo Baggins says “I do believe the worst is behind us.” I certainly hope that the upcoming two movies are better – but I’m not holding my breath. The problem is that the story on which this movie is based is not substantial enough for it to be turned into three movies. The add-ons which were brought from other Tolkien-related books aren’t giving the story depth but making it feel bloated. Some single sentences in the book were turned into full-blown scenes. The end result can be explained in the following way: The Hobbit is like an overly stuffed and overly cooked meal that you love. You can’t help but compare it to previous times when the meal wasn’t as stuffed and overcooked. And once it’s done, it leaves a bitter aftertaste that you can’t shake off. But there are still some bites there that make you go: man, this is good. It’s a damn shame.