Main menu

Hobbit

Much could be written about this movie, and I am sure that someone will write much about it. For now, I will be brief, and if readers of my medievalwisdom.com want more, then I would recommend that you read my article “Is Tolkien Truly Medieval”. If you have already done that and you still want more, then please tell me so – leave a comment. Though I am well pleased with the web site, I am not pleased by the paucity of the comments. I would much like for this site to be more interactive.

The movie fits the spirit of the book. Tolkien wrote the book for his children, so it is a children’s book. Adults might enjoy "The Hobbit", but unlike "The Lord of the Rings" it is intended for children. On this point, Tolkien was not medieval. We living in the 21st century might look at tales about dragons, knights and wizards as necessarily for children, but they were not so in the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, adults liked stories. They had no newspapers to read, nor movies or television to watch, so they liked listening to stories. As far as I know, nobody in the Middle Ages wrote stories for children. Children were probably told the same stories as adults.

My experience watching this movie, on the first day it was released into theaters, was thought-provoking. A coming attraction before the beginning of “The Hobbit” advertised a soon-to-be released new version of “Superman”. The character of “Superman” began in a comic book almost a hundred years ago and, when it began, it was based upon F. Nietzsche’s ubermensche. An ubermensche, which was translated into English as “superman”, and more accurately into French as “surhomme”, is an individual whose super-human strength of will, combined with high intelligence and a strong, healthy body, makes his superior to normal men. Such a person looks down on others, when he bothers to look at others at all, which is not often. According to Nietzsche, an ubermensche is so completely in control of himself that he can remake himself into whatever he wants; he is thus his own creator. Nietzsche, remember, was an Atheist, and in his mind this ubermensche who creates himself, much as an artist might write a novel in which he himself is a character, is the pinnacle of humanity, and the struggle to become such a glorious being is the purpose of humanity. This was unpopular in comic book form in the United States. The makers of the superman comic book, therefore, changed their character. Instead of having superhuman strength of will and high intelligence, superman would have superhuman physical abilities: strength, speed, the ability to fly, etc.. The new version of superman became very popular with Americans. The villain, arch-enemy of superman was Lex Luther, who was an evil genius. Lex Luther was followed and preceded by other evil geniuses. In fact, the evil genius is a very common character type, a leitmotif, in American comic books and other literature. Thus, it seems, Americans like heroes with amazing bodies, and villains with amazing minds. Why is it that Americans feel like good guys have great bodies, but a person with a great mind is probably evil? J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Hobbit, shows us the inverse. Bilbo Baggins is more intelligent than all the forces of evil, who are all rather dumb. All of the trolls seem to be retarded, and the orcs are stupid too. Bilbo is the smallest of the people in the movie; he is smaller than an orc, and so much smaller than a troll that his whole body would barely be enough to provide one with a good meal. The forces of evil are much stronger, physically, than the forces of good, but the good guys in Tolkien’s stories are more intelligent than the bad guys. Bilbo is very clever; Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond are very wise. Combined, they outsmart the bad guys.

1 comment

by highspeed on Tue, 01/08/2013 - 19:11

I had many problems with this movie, none of which had anything to do with the issues raised above except the children point. I personally found the movie slow and surprisingly boring, but the larger problem I had was the changes that were made.

First, the scope of the movie. The original book was short and written for children. While it did have many large and impressive events, dragon fights, the finding of the ring, and the Battle of the Five Armies, at the end of the day it was a simple story of a Hobbit on an adventure. The story was mostly about Bilbo proving his worth in surprising ways while introducing this magical and varied land. The problem with the movie is the desire to make it "epic" by adding in all the historical context which Tolkien addressed in other books. This causes the movie to randomly jump from the story of Bilbo and the Dwarfs, to issues in the wider world.

Raghust the brown is given an incredibly long, and painful, flashback so we can have and understanding of Mirkwood. The Council of White is given 10 minutes to throw out Elven catch phrases so we understand just how important all of this is. These are information dumps that do not move along the plot of this particular movie. The Elves and Dwarves don't get along? Great. In this movie, it means nothing because the Dwarves just walk out of Rivendale and the Elves are too dumb to do anything about it. Why did we need so much dialog and flashbacks to get this across? You could have one scene where the Dwarves tell the young inexperienced Hobbit what they think of Elves and then we know (they also changed the hate from an ancient one to a more personal one for reasons unclear at this time).

All these subplots distract from what is a very simple children's story. Group of plucky adventures go from point A to B while having run-ins at every turn. By stopping the action and pace to try and squeeze in bigger issues and problems you ruin both the simple and epic story because neither is then the main focus of the movie. The party is not on a mission to stop the necromancer. Their goal is unrelated to the goals of the Council of White.

We're told how important this necromancer is, how important the changes that are occurring to Mirkwood are, yet our protagonists don't know or care about any of this. Thorin does not like elves so he's leaving, off to restore his family's house. Sure, Gandalf is pulling some strings, but the story of the Necromancer and that of Thorin are two totally different events with different scope and characters involved. Combining them to make a more epic Hobbit just makes a bloated one.

Second, I disliked the kiddy humor as well as unnecessary additions to make it more Hollywood. The first movies, which I enjoyed a great deal, had some of this, but it was always in moderation and seemed to balance out a pretty serious story. In this one, not so much. I don't like CGI goblins who look into the camera to throw out one-liners as they die. I don't like wizards who act like fools and ride around in CGI rabbit pulled sleighs. I dislike ridiculously fat Dwarves that seem to exist only to be comic relief. I hate when the entire party falls off a ledge and seems no worse for it. I hate White Orks that are added to give the movie series a villain with a face.

I felt far too often someone said, "well we have to have this" or "but the kids will love it" when creating the script.

Third, I really don't like the fights. The first movies were great in that the fights we easy to follow and looked real. This one was all quick cuts and shaky cam. Was this because of the Prosthetics the actors used? Bizarre that the same people made it.

Fourth, I don't understand why they felt the need to change Bilbo's relationship with the party. My recollection, which could be off, was that Bilbo kept it something of a secret he was not a real thief. In the movie he tells the dwarves before they go, and it's only Gandalf pressuring/telling Thorin that causes them to take him. Um, why? They still need a thief, right? Their just going to walk a 1000 miles through rough country and hope Bilbo can get the job done? I know the movie makers want it to be obvious the Bilbo is not wanted by Thorin, so we can have him show his value against all odds for three movies, but it makes no sense for them to take him if they think he can't do the job.

Fifth, and related to the above, stop winking at the camera. If Gandalf looks at something we the audience knows will be important, pauses and makes a face I might tear my hair out. He did this for both Sting and the ring. We get it.

I guess that's it. I think most of these problems have to do with 3 movies. If you cut the extra filler, you could have 2 nice movies that move at a good pace. By adding a third movie you keep a lot of extra scenes that really don't have much to do with the main plot.

My biggest worry is they mess with the Battle of the Five armies, but I guess I have to wait a year and a half to have that meltdown.