Books vs Films: The Hobbit

By Charles Armitage

The Lord of the Rings is, in my opinion, the best trilogy to have ever been made. Peter Jackson created an (albeit being very long) masterpiece in visual effects, action and storyline adapted from J.R.R Tolkien’s novels. So why then could he not do the same thing for The Hobbit? Set in the same universe and by the same author, Jackson produced a trilogy of films so disappointing that it made me seriously doubt my love of Tolkien’s novels.

It is unfair to say the entire trilogy of The Hobbit is bad, however, as there is some real excitement on screen in the movies. For instance, Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins is possibly the greatest casting choice ever. His comedic value and likeable personality makes audiences connect with the protagonist and hope he succeeds in the quest – even though we know he does as he appears in The Lord of the Rings. The dragon Smaug is also excellently portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch as his voice creates a sense of fear whilst simultaneously having the typical “Britishness” of a villain with his softly spoken dialogue and very good manners towards Bilbo. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Gollum in the first movie and is, as always, brilliant to watch in his performance. It is also pleasing to see, from someone who absolutely loved the novel, that some scenes imagined in my head became a reality on the screen. The barrel river scene, although rather ridiculously portrayed, did make me nostalgic as it reminded me of reading the scene in the book and thinking how this would look on film.

This, however, leads me on to my criticisms of the Jackson adaptation. Let’s start with the elephant in the room – the fact it is a trilogy. The 1937 novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was a singular book, around 300 pages long. So why feel the need to split a short book into three 3 hour movies filled with cringeworthy action, slapstick humour only a child would find funny and over the top references to the original Lord of the Rings? The answer is simple: money. Hollywood can make the most of paying customers by forcing them to pay a rather pricey fee to hear a character put fruit in his top to simulate breasts and hear him say: “Abandon the cripples!” (an actual quote from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies). Whoever wrote the script for these movies, although credit is due for using direct quotes from the book, needs to be fired as Middle Earth language would not stoop to 21st Century dialect.

Overall, the book is a lot better than the movies. My favourite of The Hobbit trilogy is the first movie (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) as it is the only one that reminds us of why we loved The Lord of the Rings. Maybe I am being too harsh on Jackson as The Hobbit was never going to be as good as The Lord of the Rings, so I may just be comparing the two, rather than looking at The Hobbit on its own merits. But when compared with the book, the film does not live up to the excitement as the added in characters and storylines by Jackson show little desire from him to truly show Tolkien’s creation on the screen and instead just make a trilogy that will make money. I could go on and on about how the book is a lot better than the film – the introduction of Legolas, the terrible finale movie, flimsy portrayal of action and ‘danger’ – but I only have a finite amount of paper. So, I’ll just finish with this: read the book because it is awesome but only watch An Unexpected Journey and parts of The Desolation of Smaug for comparison. Don’t bother with the third one, it’ll spare you the pain.

Image “The Hobbit Character Poster” by Jakarta Fail licensed under CC BY 2.0

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