I just finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again in preparation for the movie release today. I’d never read anything by Tolkien before, although I have seen the entire trilogy of Lord of the Rings movies because my husband is a huge Tolkien fan. So I am a Tolkien newbie, but after reading the first few chapters of The Hobbit, I quickly became a fan.
Central to the story is the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who I immediately took a liking to. He’s small in stature, spends most of his days in his quaint hole-in-the-wall home, and is distraught when he doesn’t get to eat two breakfasts a day. I could somewhat relate. In the first chapter, he is visited by the wizard Gandalf, who insists Bilbo accompany him on an unspecified adventure. Bilbo isn’t much for adventures, but agrees to have tea with Gandalf the next day to discuss the matter. Instead of being visited by Gandalf, Bilbo’s home is invaded by 13 dwarves he’s never met who eat all his food. Gandalf shows up and insists Bilbo will be the 14th man on the dwarves’ expedition to recover treasure that is carefully guarded by the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo ultimately agrees, and the men set off on an epic journey, encountering orcs, goblins, wolf-like creatures called wargs, and other fantastical creatures along the way.
I haven’t read much fantasy fiction in my life, but after marrying a fantasy fiction author, I’ve become a fan. The Hobbit is a fun read for those who would like to escape to an imaginary world for a while. The only downside of the book, for me, was the relentless singing — mostly by the dwarves — which I thought broke up the story too much.
My favorite part was the chapter when Bilbo meets Gollum, the ring-obsessed creature from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is the moment when Bilbo takes possession of the infamous ring, although it will only play a minor role in the remainder of The Hobbit story. Bilbo challenges Gollum to a life-or-death riddle game. I loved how Gollum talked to himself in the plural, and also added mutliple “s”es to words. Aside from Bilbo, he’s my favorite character in the book, and I was a bit saddened he lost his precious birthday present.
After finishing the book on Wednesday, I could hardly wait for the movie to open today. My husband and I went to the first showing this morning at our local cinema. While it was playing in both 2D and 3D, we chose the budget-friendly 2D option. I was glad we did, because the CGI animation was too much for me in the 2D version, and I imagine it would have been much worse in 3D.
I thought the casting for the movie was really good. Each dwarf is distinctly different, and while reading the book I sometimes had a hard time keeping them apart, I didn’t have that problem in the movie. Also, I actually liked the dwarves’ singing in the movie. They only did 2 songs, and I’d wished they’d done more.
The movie starts out much differently than the book. There’s a rather developed backstory, I guess to give non-reading movie-goers an idea of what the story is about. Then, the introduction of the character Bilbo is actually taken out of the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, as he is writing his story for his nephew Frodo and preparing for his eleventy-first birthday party. Only after about 20 minutes into the movie do we get the visit of Gandalf to the young Bilbo, and then the scene where the dwarves invade his hobbit hole, which I thought was one of the best scenes from the movie.
I’d wondered how Peter Jackson would turn a 300 page book into a 3-part movie series with perhaps 8+ hours of movie footage. Oftentimes, when books are made into movies, scenes and characters are left out, but the opposite is the case with The Hobbit movie. Most notably is the addition of the character Radagast the Brown, a wizard that’s had way too many ‘shrooms and who is obsessed that a necromancer has taken over the woods and is killing all the animals. I don’t even remember Radagast from the book, yet he becomes a major part of the movie.
Overall, I was disappointed in the movie, and I don’t think I will be seeing the sequels in the theater. In an age of overdone CGI animation and quests for movies to be “visually stunning” at the expense of plot, I didn’t think Tolkien’s original story translated well. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars it cost to make the film, sorry Peter Jackson, Tolkien is still the far better story teller.
Addendum: My husband said I was much too nice on my movie review. Here’s his own version.