The Book: 1937
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (HarperCollins; originially published by George Allen & Unwin)
The Film: 2012
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey directed by Peter Jackson (New Line Cinemas and MGM)
***WARNING: SPOILER ALERT***
The Hobbit was the movie to see this winter, in my mind. Not having read the book since I was in Grade 7, I pulled my little copy off the shelf and headed back to Middle Earth in preparation for the film. From the first chapter, Tolkien’s aptitude as a wordsmith is made clear. I imagine Tolkien was something akin to a hobbit himself, with his playful tone and love of riddles—though clearly he would have been an oddish hobbit with his love of adventures (perhaps there is some Took blood in his veins?) I enjoyed rereading The Hobbit immensely; it’s nice to step back into Tolkien’s world after being away from it for so long.
Which brings me to the newest installment in the Lord of the Rings film franchise: part one of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey. I was so excited for this film, and it was killing me to not be able to go opening weekend. Instead, I had to spend the week staving off inquiries of “Have you seen The Hobbit?” and putting my fingers in my ears when people started to talk about it. But I am happy to say I have now seen it and no longer have to hum obscenely to avoid spoilers.
This film had a lot to live up to. I loved the LOTR films and could find very little to quibble over with their interpretations of the books. That was not the case with The Hobbit. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong. It is entertaining, beautifully filmed and has excellent special effects. I liked getting to revisit people and places from the other films and meet the new characters. And I liked the touch of having old Bilbo narrate the beginning of the story as he set about writing his tale in the red book. I especially liked the detail of him writing his story exactly as The Hobbit begins.
That being said, there were too many things that irked me about this reimagining of The Hobbit for me to love this film. First of all, it felt like Peter Jackson was trying to show off his knowledge of Middle Earth stories, or that he wanted to include as many tales as possible. I like in the book that the narrator teases the reader with snippets about other stories but says they aren’t part of this tale. It sets up The Hobbit as just a small story in the greater history of the world, and yet it is still a story on its own. The film tries to tell these stories, and in doing so it distracts from the focus of the tale at hand. For example, Radaghast the Brown has no part to play in the book. I like the portrayal of his character in the film (he is comical and imaginatively brought to life), but he is unnecessary in this tale.
Second, I did not appreciate that storylines were made up for this tale. Here I am referring to the white orc giant that is hunting down Thorin. The book has the goblin king hunting Thorin & Co. because they escape from his mountain. Why then was it necessary to add a whole new storyline about a giant orc hungry for revenge?
And while we are on the subject, how ridiculous were the goblins? The goblins, while lethal, were comical and jovial. And their king’s voice was much too high pitched (although I will admit, he was mighty disgusting to look at). These are creatures that should have sounded like death and instilled fear, not creatures that made me want to laugh. The white orc and he should have been one character.
When I heard that The Hobbit was being made into three movies, I couldn’t understand it. If the LOTR books were one film each, why did one 300 page book need to be three films? Obviously it was a money grab (especially since they are all being filmed in 3-D). If the films did the book justice, I would not complain about it being split into three. However, the extra storylines and incorporation of tales from the appendix, feel more like filler than essential details.
One thing that the film pulled off stupendously though was the “Riddles in the Dark” scene. This is my favourite chapter in The Hobbit. Gollum gets one chapter of this book, and yet Gollum is the most well-established character of the story. Within a few pages we know exactly what Gollum is like. The film did this scene complete justice. It was brilliant!
I really did enjoy the film and will put down the money to go see the next two installments in theatres. I can’t wait to see Beorn and more of Smaug. However, my excitement is somewhat watered down after seeing this film and that saddens me. I want to see The Hobbit, not an amalgamation of Middle Earth tales and I hope the next two installments remember their focus.
What did you think of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Share your answers in comments.
“Popcorn and a Book” is a bi-weekly meme I host where I will compare one book with its adapted film, looking at the content, the way it has been visualized, the experience, etc. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.