Movie Review: The Hobbit

hobbit-movie-review

Movie Review by Hal Goodtree.

Cary, NC – If you like the fantasy genre of movies, or a vast buffet of special effects, you’ll love The Hobbit.

A Journey to Middle Earth

The Hobbit, based on the classic by J.R.R. Tolkien, tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a diminutive man from a mythological past.

Baggins lives in a happy utopia called the Shire. The wizard Gandalf arrives to recruit the unlikely Baggins for a mission to rescue the home of the Dwarf kingdom from a fire-breathing dragon. On the way, they meet elves, orcs, goblins and an assortment of odd and frightening creatures.

Part of the perennial charm of The Hobbit is Tolkien’s vivid creation of Middle Earth. Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy about ten years ago, does an admirable job bringing Tolkien’s world to life.

The Shire seems the very embodiment of village peace, with flowers and sunshine and cozy little homesteads crisscrossed by dirt paths and picket fences. You say to yourself, “wow, I’d like to live in a place like that.”

Likewise, the Elvish city of Rivendell shimmers with goodness and high-minded sophistication. Cate Blanchett has a good cameo as Galadriel, Queen of the Elves.

But most of the movie takes place in darker realms – broken, wind-swept lands and subterranean Hells. Throughout the movie, the scenic background is the star.

The Hobbit, the #1 movie in the country this week, will likely be nominated for Academy Awards in art direction, special effects and maybe cinematography. It may even deserve to win in those categories.

If you want to see a stunning presentation of Middle Earth, you will find The Hobbit eminently satisfying.

No Harry Potter

It’s difficult to avoid comparisons with the Harry Potter movies, another blockbuster fantasy-action series. Harry needn’t worry.

The charm of the Potter movies is in the characters. We get to experience the inner journey of Harry and get glimpses into complex characters like Snape.

By contrast, many of the main characters in The Hobbit are two-dimensional. For the amount of screen time devoted to the leader of the Orcs, we know absolutely nothing about his character. He’s just a cardboard evil guy. Even Potter’s Moaning Myrtle has more back story than the orcs and goblins in The Hobbit.

Dwarfish Story

Lots of people will fall in love with The Hobbit. But, for me, the story was stunted.

The performances are good, but there is little for the actors to do. The script plods through the plot points in Tolkien’s original, but it’s all like a backdrop for battle scenes and special effects.

The Hobbit surely belongs to the genre of movies called  journey-and-return – a character goes out, has adventures and returns a changed person. The Wizard of Oz is a classic journey-and-return movie.

Contemporary  journey-and-return films are often told in a series of movies, like Potter. But each installment needs to be somewhat self-contained. After investing two hours, I want some kind of resolution, even if it suggests more to come. The Hobbit just ends – Bilbo Baggins’ adventure hasn’t really changed him; we’ve just pressed pause in the story.

More emphasis on character and story arc would have made The Hobbit a better movie, maybe even a great movie.

See it on the big screen if you’re a fan of fantasy, Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. 

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Hal Goodtree, Publisher of CaryCitizen, is a former television producer.

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6 replies
  1. MyrtleMartha
    MyrtleMartha says:

    An interesting review, but I have to disagree with you about character development and change.

    Bilbo begins as pompous, set in his ways, and very sure of his superior place in society. He is a “Baggins of Bag-End” and feels he has a position to uphold by setting the standard of conventional, acceptable behavior. He’s upset, not just that he has unexpected visitors, but that the visitors are dwarves. He says he wants to “know” his visitors before they come visiting, and his repeated fury at his dining room being not just full, but full of dwarves, makes it plain that he would never have willingly gotten to “know” any dwarves at all.

    When he suddenly realizes, though, that he is losing his one chance in life to escape his rigid place in society, that bit of unconventionality inherited from his mother breaks through, and he takes the leap into adventure: a huge change in his life and the enbracing of a hitherto unacted-on side of his personality.

    As he gets to know the dwarves, his character continues to develop: he loses some of his prejudice and begins to want very much to be an accepted part of the group. He is deeply hurt by Thorin’s rejection. And when Bilbo tells Bofur that while he himself misses his home he thinks the dwarves can’t feel that way because they’re used to wandering about, he suddenly hears himself and realizes how wrong he has been. These others – the dwarves – are not so much other after all. They long for home and peace and friends and an established society just as he does.

    At that point, Bilbo no longer is just on a bit of an adventure vacation. He becomes to determined to help those who have lost what he himself values so much: home.

    When he sees Thorin fall to the orc, his mother’s strain of impusiveness wells up again, and he leaps to what must have seemed certain death to defend the person who has insulted and belittled him.

    Thorin’s own character arc is simpler, but similar in that he lets go of his prejudice against Bilbo for being a hobbit, and finally puts aside his pride and admits he was wrong.

    The Hobbit really is, your words,”a better movie, maybe even a great movie.”

  2. Kel
    Kel says:

    Don’t even try to compare Harry Potter to Tolkien. Tolkien’s works are classics, HP will never be. The acting is 100% better in Jackson’s movies, and everything is made with great attention to detail and is so much more authentic than Harry Potter ever was. And the point of making a stand-out orc is to make the orcs less generic, he isn’t a character of of interest, though, and we don’t care about his backstory. We all know he’s going to be defeated anyway. Orcs aren’t human beings with human emotion. They are evil creatures whose only love is of war and violence. Comparing them to Moaning Myrtle is laughable. Splitting HP for me was a bad thing because I found them, especially the first one, to be quite boring at parts. I was hooked with the Hobbit, and would have gladly watched another hour. Tolkien fans especially will appreciate the instantly recognizable lines and segments from the book. The difference us that Tolkien didn’t just write a book, he created a history, and there is a vast amount of material to pull from that is relevant to not only the Hobbit, but the Lord of the Rings as well. I trust Jackson who has a genuine love for all things Tolkien that shows in his work. I feel like the first installment was just a taste to let us get our feet wet, and when the next two movies come out, critics will be eating their words. It’s not supposed to be a stand-alone movie, but rather a portion of a larger narrative.

  3. Robert Campbell
    Robert Campbell says:

    My $0.02 – this is an unnecessarily LOOOOOOOOOOONG movie, I could read the book during the time I watched this movie, and there are TWO more!? I’m sorry, but I think Mr. Jackson must have a serious gambling or drug problem and is looking to milk a 333-page book for all he can. I won’t be going along for any further rides on this, no matter how stunning the views of New Zealand might be on the big screen. I guess those making this movie think that because the audiobook of The Hobbit runs 11 hours, 8 minutes, then they can do the same. I think they are wrong. Go ahead, see the movie and you tell me.

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