…and by extension, the whole series of movies.
Plenty of other people have done better, more detailed reviews of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. I’m not going to add to that list. Instead, I’m giving you a non-review in the form of a listicle. I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. Merry Christmas. Don’t say I never gave you anything.
Here are the five things that I disliked the most about the latest big-screen installment of The Hobbit:
1. Not Enough Bilbo
I’m not too keen on Martin Freeman’s comedic stylings, but the man can play a darn good halfling. The film series is called The Hobbit for Ilúvatar’s sake, but we only see Bilbo show up in key plot moments, and even then only to do something entirely predictable for the sake of pushing the story along. Bilbo is the most well-rounded, most believable, most interesting character in the film (dare I say the whole film trilogy), but Jackson saw fit to give Thranduil more screen time–presumably to show us all what an awesome job the effects team did with Lee Pace’s makeup.
2. Crappy Visuals
We get a few of those sweeping journey shots that I loved from the original Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and there’s a scene involving Beorn and Eagles that made me spill popcorn all over myself. Still, overall, I wasn’t wowed by the visuals here. In a film featuring an obscene amount of battle formation porn, it was disheartening to see such sloppily rendered CGI armies. I mean, they were virtually pixelated in some scenes. Also, there’s one particular scene with Thorin and a golden room that looked like a deleted cutscene from a mid-90’s squaresoft RPG. Not pleased.
3. Tauriel’s Nerfing
Tauriel was a glimmer of hope in The Desolation of Smaug. She kicked butt and gave the male-skewed cast much-needed diversity. But, when I saw the petals of love unfolding between her and Kili, the sexiest dwarf that I’ve ever seen, I knew where we would end up. Tauriel does not end the series as a powerful, well-rounded and deserved addition to the mythos. Instead, she spends the third film barely fighting, barely speaking, and making lovey-dovey faces at the sexy dwarf (while keeping Legolas firmly cemented in the friendzone). By the end of the film, we see the real reason that she was added to the series: to serve as a love interest for someone and inject a romantic angle into a story that, honestly, could have done without either of those things in favor of an awesome representation of an woman elven warrior. Ultimately, she just ends up a crying Damsel, which is a Damsel shame if you ask me.
4. A hour (or two films) too long
Lest you forget: The Hobbit was originally a children’s adventure novel–and it wasn’t a trilogy. The book was low on pitched battles and warg-riding Orcs. Instead, Bilbo traveled with a company of bumbling dwarves and the group’s survival hinged on cunning and luck. Some of things that turned out to be major points in the film (The White Council meeting, Radagast the Brown, Azog the Defiler) were minor happenings or completely unmentioned in the original novel (Jackson does pull from Tolkien’s legendarium quite a bit to pad out these films). Some of these changes, like elevating Azog to a major threat, I didn’t have much of a problem with–us Americans have been raised on a steady diet of booming action films, and a palpably evil antagonist caters to our expectations.
Still, I think that this film, and this property overall, deserved a little less bombast and a little more thoughtfulness. A lot of screen time is dedicated to lackluster action scenes, overly brood-y characters, and a particularly buffoonish set of minor villains. A battle that took only a few pages in the original work lasts an entire bloody, runtime padding hour in the final film. And, being completely honest, aside from a few slap boxing matches here and there, not much of the fighting is inspiring. The Battle of Helm’s Deep, this is not–though it tries very hard at points to bring that old thing back. Had Peter Jackson & Co. leaned a little less on making this film series a dedicated Lord of the Rings prequel and stuck more to the original work’s themes of mercy and adventure, we might have gotten an entirely different–and possibly much better–film series.
5. All of the PoC shoehorned in
I counted at least four nonwhites, presumably immigrants to Laketown from Harad…and none of them get any speaking lines. One actress in particular, woman that would be racially coded as Asian on this earth, got four whole seconds of screen time, and didn’t utter a single word.
If it sounds like I’m disappointed…well, I am. I wouldn’t count this trilogy as Star Wars Prequel Trilogy level bad, but it’s not at all what I wanted when I first heard about the film series. The Hobbit is one of my favorite works of fantasy, and the Lord of the Rings film trilogy is a spectacular adaptation. To see The Hobbit films prove to be such a massive disappointment really hurts my heart. I think I’ll go comfort myself with some malt beer and lembas.