The Hobbit: the unexpected sleep

My trip to see The Hobbit this boxing day was best summed up by my girlfriend: “if I was watching it at home I would probably have gone to the kitchen half-way through to get a drink, and then would have gone back and seen what else was on”.

The Hobbit is too long and too dull. Mashing a three hundred page children’s book into a trilogy of films seems to have been a step to far for Peter Jackson: a man that succeeded in making a truly great trilogy out of a fifteen hundred page epic. I stole a seat in the slightly more expensive section of the Vue cinema in Camberley, but even it’s leather comfort and cushions could not stop me from noticing how sore my arse was after 169 minutes. I felt like I’d been beaten repeatedly by a paddle. Blinking into the corridor light afterwards I asked my girlfriend what she thought of The Hobbit; she smiled awkwardly – I felt guilty for dragging her along.

For those who’ve been living in a Hobbit-hole for the past ten years, The Lord of the Rings was a box office smash-hit grossing lots of numbers (£2,917,506,956 – to be precise). The Hobbit is the prequel to the trilogy and follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, the halfling who discovers The Dark Lord Sauron’s ring of power causing shit to hit the fan.

When the Matrix trilogy went tits up, I was one of the fanboys who defended the second and third films saying, “you have to judge every film on its own merit”. Sadly these were the crazed ramblings of a boy in love with a concept and not an intelligent summation. I am older and wiser now, so thank goodness that the same will not be said of The Hobbit which is set to bother my conscious mind for another six years or so. It beggars belief that they’re going to make three Hobbit films it really does!

It might be easier for someone who hasn’t read the books to see this film as a natural progression rather than a series of nostalgic moments similar to the dross that was Pearce Brosnan’s last outing as James Bond in Die Another Day. This is a film that keeps harkening back to its former glory without actually saying anything new or creating anything like the same emotions. The Hobbit feels like The Lord of the Rings cast have got together and decided to make a reunion film; American Pie: The Reunion, geek style.

The opening scenes in The Hobbit introduce an Ian Holm (Old Bilbo) who looks like he’s wearing makeup, an Elijah Wood who looks twice the age of his former self but who is mean’t to be younger (still looking about twelve), and an Ian McKellen who has five times as many wrinkles. I must momentarily apologise to all these brilliant actors for being so cruel, but this is the truth, and actors must handle the truth.

Once the understated Martin Freeman has been introduced as Young Bilbo the adventure stalls into a thirty minute evening meal where we are shown repeatedly that Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit who used to like adventures but doesn’t any more. There are also some dwarves who all have terribly strong regional British accents, including a cameo by b-lister James Nesbitt thrown in for good measure. About an hour in, the audience is finally allowed to set off on the unexpected journey by which time I’ve eaten most of my pick and mix and been to the toilet.

In the Fellowship of the Ring –  a film I watched the week prior to The Hobbit in anticipation – Bilbo says that he :”feel[s] thin, like too much butter spread over too much bread”. And lo, his prophecy doth come true in The Hobbit which manages to build almost no empathy for any of its characters despite its length. The film meanders along with no discernible purpose and little development of either Bilbo or the Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield.

Seemingly grasping for content to pad out their puke of a screenplay the writers seem to have inexplicably drawn on the fairly unknown Tolkien novel the Samillarion to jam in some more characters for no reason who vanish as quickly as they’ve appeared. Radagast the Brown is an eccentric hermit who dwells in Greenwood and is a wizard of the order which includes Saraman The White and Gandalf The Grey. Radagast’s kooky character is akin to Ja Ja Binks in Star Wars because he does very little to enhance the plot other than discovering something bad is happening and reporting it to the main protagonists. Radagast then nobly diverts the attention of the enemy before disappearing without a word, and then some Elves randomly turn up to save the day. Rather than stay for another ten minutes of dialogue, the dwarven party just walk off. But not to worry, the Elves turn up again at Rivendell and it is clear that Lord Elrond from The Lord of the Rings was leading the Elven riders. Cue a cameo from a withered Christopher Lee (I’m sorry Christopher) and Galdriel at Rivendell and a series of special swords being shown around which seem to have no relevance.

There are some giants who throw rocks at each other, a Goblin King with a tumourous growth on his chin and a game of riddles with Gollum which lasts six turns and that’s pretty much the end. Some mush about the importance of the home and belonging gives the audience a spital of depth as to why Bilbo Baggins has embarked upon his life changing quest. Although I could probably ramble on further – and I would make no apologies for doing so in this case – I won’t.

The only saving grace of this film is the special effects particularly when it comes to the Orcs and Goblins which are genuinely disgusting and terrifying in equal measure. The villain Azog certainly delivers a strong sense of trepidation and gives you something to cheer against, although you aren’t necessarily cheering for any of the heroes.

In sum, this is a long, tedious, ill conceived and ill executed film. The Hobbit is arguably a much better book than the Lord of the Rings in terms of the way it is written but it is not worthy of a trilogy. Despite the small glimmers of hope, this film is completely the fault of those who were looking in their pockets rather than at what the film was becoming. I must be realistic and admit film is an industry that makes money the same as any other. But surely making one great film is better than making three shocking ones in the long run?

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