17 December 2012

Why I didn't like The Hobbit movie

"A book is a book, and a movie is a movie." I completely agree with this statement. When movies are adapted from books, lots of details are omitted, because books are much more complex. Sometimes minor additions are made, to add to the movie's plot, or to make it easier for the audience. But rarely sometimes characters are invented or random battles added. Unfortunately, this happened in The Hobbit movie, released a  few days ago.

I have always been very critical with Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy movies, especially because of some changes in the story, for example: Arwen rescuing Frodo and Elves appearing at Helm's Deep, but mostly Frodo dismissing Samwise and trusting Gollum instead. Despite these and some other changes (if they made a literal transcription of the Book into movies, it would take around 10 films or so!), the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy are wonderful and somewhat follow the plot. So when "The Hobbit" movies were announced, I already feared Peter Jackson and his team would change some things that I would dislike, and then when I saw a beardless Dwarf, a fictional feminine Elf and the sudden division of the movies into three parts (which by the way, a decision  made because monetary reasons, in my opinion), my fears were strengthened. Nevertheless, I was eager but emotionally prepared when I went to watch it, especially after reading some reviews which stated that although the movie had some differences with the book, it was fully enjoyable.

The prologue I found remarkable, I loved it! Lots of Dwarves, the Kingdom under the Mountain in its splendour, they only showing Smaug's shadow .... fantastic! Afterwards,  when Bilbo appeared, the problems commenced. In the Book, Bilbo invites Gandalf to tea after his sudden appearance, action which Bilbo regrets. In the movie, Bilbo simply dismisses him (or so I believe, I've only watched it once). So in the movie this element of Bilbo's own blunder (as he himself sees it) of inviting Gandalf into his house is missing. The Dwarves arrival I found hilarious, though I missed their long, coloured beards and hooded cloakes, and Thorin doesn't arrive separately: a small detail, though. And the Misty Mountains song is simply fabulous.

Then one of the biggest alterations from the Book to the movie takes place: while in the Book it is Gandalf who persuades and almost forces Bilbo to follow the Dwarves, in the movie Bilbo takes the decision entirely by himself! One of the key points in The Hobbit is Bilbo's transformation from a normal, comfortable hobbit into an adventurous one, and the movie completely ignores it in this section! He should of left Bag-end without anything, not with his huge backpack!

Then comes the Troll scene. Gandalf mysteriously disappears, and all Dwarves see a light at the distance, and send Bilbo to investigate, is captured, and confesses his companions are near. Later,  the Dwarves are captured in pairs and unawares, they don't suddenly charge at the Trolls, except for Thorin, who is soon captured. Then Gandalf comes and saves the day. But not in the movie, where it's Bilbo who outwits the Trolls and has them discuss cooking issues until daylight! Another meaningful change, in my opinion, since Bilbo has not yet matured, as it's depicted in the movie.

Next,  an utterly crazy, unneeded and ridiculous series of events happen, starting with the inclusion of Azog. Azog indeed killed Thrór, though not in the battle of Azanulbizar (Nanduhirion), in 2799 T.A., but nine years before! In fact, that battle was fought because of his decapitation! Thorin is indeed wounded, but not by Azog (as in the movie), who beheads Náin, Thorin's relative, not Thrór! Azog is slain in battle by Dáin Ironfoot, though strangely enough, this great Orc is included as Thorin's mortal enemy! In fact, as Britta points out in her outstanding movie review (be sure to check it out!), it seems the main conflict in this first movie is Thorin's dispute with Azog and not his quest on reclaiming Erebor! 

Radagast is also included in the movie, where he supposedly discovers Sauron has returned to Dol Guldur (which by the way, is pronounced Dol GUldur, not Dol GuldUr, as the Istari and Elven Lords pronouce incorrectly, go figure!), and travels all the way from Mirkwood to the west of the Misty Mountains to warn Gandalf. Well, in the Book of course this meeting never happened: it's in 2941 T.A. the Dwarves' and Bilbo's journey takes place, although in 2850, ninety-one years before, that Gandalf himself discovers that Sauron is the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, and this is when precisely he recovers Thrór's map and key from Thráin, who was held captive in this fortress. Funny enough, in the movie Gandalf doesn't explain how he got the map and key, for of course it would contradict this change in the plot they mistakenly created. Radagast's bizarre presence is followed by an attack of Orcs and Wargs to the west of Rivendell, who in turn were destroyed by a small Elven company, the Dwarves' coming to Rivendell by some mysterious rock passage and not by crossing the Bruinen, their hatred and mistrust towards the Elves, I think all this was completely uncalled for! In the Book, right after the Trolls' episode, they gladly head to Rivendell, although more because of the thought of rest and food, and not because of meeting the Elves per se. Thorin receives the Elrond's counsels willingly, not in a reluctact fashion as Peter Jackson showed. During  this sequence I really doubted if I was watching an adaptation of Professor Tolkien's The Hobbit, because the story took so many turns and twists I could not believe what I was seeing. Adapting a book is something, but then adding lots of scenes and characters really bothered me!

The Dwarves in the Book are delighted to have Gandalf with them, something that is completely altered in the movie, when they leave him behind! They abandoned their mightiest member! Nonesense! Then they get captured by Orcs (I always thought as the Great Goblin as a mighty warrior, not as a fat, dum one with this weird thing under his chin!), and again, the story changes: while Bilbo gets captured and is dropped accidentally by Dori, becomes unconscious, is missed by the Orcs and while he is crawling in complete darkness is that he finds the Ring (the most relevant and fascinating scene in the whole Book), in the movie he escapes from the Orcs because of his cleverness, falls into the abyss, hides, watches Gollum kill an orc and sees the Ring slip from him, and retrieves it. If there's one scene that should remain truth to Master Tolkien's story, it's this one! It is a key event that changed the destiny of Arda forever! But well, the moviemakers didn't seem to care much about it.

The Riddles in the Dark scene is great! Gollum is fantastic, and though the Bilbo's luck element is ignored, important as it is (as Britta points out), some riddles are left out, such as the Dark one, the Sun and daisies one and the fish one.

And to end this mini-essay, the scene of the Thorin's Company escape from the Wargs is modificated too (I was not surprised at all by when this moment arrived): Azog showing up, Thorin confronting him, Bilbo saving him (really? come on!), just supported my negative opinion of the movie I had by that time, and that I still have. 

Summarizing, the movie itself is greatly made, with a catchy score, beautiful landscapes, etc, but with too many additions, omissions and changes from the Book, way too many to ignore. I feel Peter Jackson abused of his power of adapting the movie from the original story. I really feel sad for Christopher Tolkien, seeing how his father's works are once more (and this time much more deeply) turned into a commercial issue, greatly altered against his will. Citing an interview  he made to "Le Monde": "Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25,” Christopher says regretfully. “And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.” "He was correct. It is.

I'm really scared of how the movies' plot will be in the next two films, and honestly I'm sure I'll feel sadder than I feel now, if the rumours about the plot of Desolation of Smaug are true.  


  1. I must say that I seem to have enjoyed the film a bit more than you. While I am certainly not alone in this, there are others (Britta, for example) who took similar umbrage with PJ's copious changes. To my mind, most of the changes are largely a matter of taste, and whether or not you prefer them likely depends on how familiar (and loyal) you are to Tolkien's original version. For myself, I can only affirm that all mythology tends to change with the teller and, viewed solely on it's own, I find the film-story to be an appreciable effort.

    There is one small point, however, with which I strictly disagree. That is, that the Dwarves abandoned Gandalf at Rivendell. On the contrary, the scene immediately preceding it finds Galadriel telling Gandalf, "They're leaving. And YOU KNOW." This was meant to convey that Gandalf's meeting with Elrond and Saruman was part formality and part distraction — in other words, that he was buying time for the company to escape, lest the elders try and talk them out of it. We are to assume, then, that Gandalf either instructed them to leave during his absence or knew that Thorin would depart at his first opportunity. Either way, Gandalf got what he wanted.

    While this clearly departs from the book, I think this is one instance in which Peter Jackson had it right. Of course, in the book, it is actually Gandalf who "runs away" when the Goblins attack at the cave. Personally, I always thought it was a bit un-wizardlike to dodge a fight so brazenly while your friends are being taken captive. Clever or not, it really doesn't speak to the Gandalf who we know will later battle a Balrog singlehandedly. Of course, Gandalf returns to save the day, but if he was really spoiling for a rumble, it likely would have been easier to engage the few goblins in the cave, versus the entire horde in Goblintown. By having him necessarily delayed at Rivendell, it avoids having to contrive his sudden escape and provides, in my mind, a more credible (and wizardlike) reason for his absence.

    It also, incidentally, tells us quite a bit more about Gandalf the character that it would had he simply ducked out of the cave. We know that he's abreast of what's going on, even when he's not directly present. And it also helps establish that while Gandalf is less powerful than Saruman, he's no less clever. Of couse, a writer can simply type out "Gandalf was a clever wizard." A filmmaker, however, has actually to show Gandalf BEING a clever wizard and, in this light, I think Peter Jackson did an affable job.

    1. Right! Now I remember clearly that Gandalf-at-Rivendell-while-the-Dwarves-depart scene. Maybe they intented precisely that, to show Gandalf knew they were leaving, whether it was a previous agreement with Thorin or not. If not, then indeed Thorin abandoned him, xD even though Gandalf would meet them afterwards! I don't remember what the Dwarves answer Bilbo when he asks why are they leaving Gandalf behind. In any case, I dislike these changes, even if they could add to the story!

      And regarding Gandalf being more clever than Saruman, remember that indeed Saruman knew about Sauron in Dol Guldur, but he was on purpose delaying the Council to attack it, since he " had then begun to desire to possess the One Ring himself, and he hoped that it might reveal himself, seeking its master, if Sauron were let be for a time."

      And I completely agree, the changes are a matter of taste! Thanks a lot for your interesting comment, I appreciate it! :D

  2. you start claiming that a movie and a book can't be put in the same bag, yet most of your review is a nitpicking of the movie based on the book. Anyone who has read the book and watched the movie can do that... so nothing of substance there. imo!

    I didn't know that about Christopher Tolkien. Reminded me of Alan Moore and his unwillingness to share writing credits in both 'V for vendetta' and 'Watchmen'. And while I respect his decision and to some extent share it, that didn't prevent me from watching both movies and enjoying them as such. (having read the comic books beforehand) If you ask me which experience I enjoyed more, that's another question! But that and comparing them are two different things if the difference between the mediums is clear in your head.

    Finally, I just want to point out that if your indignation is so sincere and rooted, why go out and give money to this cash cow of a movie which was clearly made for monetary reasons? Why taint the memory of JRR Tolkien this way? Why watch a story on the screen if you already read the book and love it to bits? ;)

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