As I feared…

…the bawling sound of a cash cow being bled to death that rippled out of En Zed when Peter Jackson announced he was turning the slim and joyous children’s tale The Hobbit into a three part epic was not just my ears playing tricks on me.

It sounds like it’s not a *bad* movie (70-ish rating at Rotten Tomatoes is respectable). But as Greydanus, Overstreet and Dreher point out, there’s a certain tin-eared quality to Jackson when he’s reading Tolkien that gets some things right but other things badly wrong. Still, I’ll go see it since (pace Jeffrey Overstreet) I would pay almost any amount of money to see a sleigh drawn by rabbits.

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  • The Lord of the Rings IV: The Sequel I

  • Crapola, that should be The Prequel I. Never try to be pithy before my morning coffee.

  • On the plus side, The Hobbit is basically a simple adventure story itself, so is much better suited to Jackson’s style of filmmaking. He’ll have a harder time getting the characters wrong, just because there’s less to get wrong about the characters in The Hobbit.

    On the down side, these films are likely to so dominate the public imagination that those in the future who go from film to text are likely to find themselves confused and even disappointed because they’re distracted by stuff that Jackson thought was cool, and are less open to what Tolkien saw was good.

  • Kate

    I am not seeing this movie and forbid my children to see it (well, at least the ones still at home). I hate to see Tolkien and my children’s imaginations manipulated by Jackson. Suppressed sexual/romantic tension between Gandalf and Galadriel? You have got to be kidding. Is it because their names both begin with “G” and they both own nifty exclusive rings? I actually started watching his “Fellowship of the Ring” but had to turn it off when the Balrog appeared as I was laughing so hard at how hokie and non-demonic it was.

    • Rachel K

      Kate, I saw “The Hobbit” and there are definite problems with it, but romantic tension between Gandalf and Galadriel isn’t one of them. The trailer certainly made it look that way. but in the part where Galadriel touches Gandalf’s face, it’s a purely platonic “hey, friend, cheer up and have hope for the best” gesture. Now, that said: definite problems. I enjoyed the film overall, but it was far too long and far too PG-13 in terms of its unnecessary violence. My dad read me “The Hobbit” when I was eight years old, but I wouldn’t let an eight-year-old see this movie.

    • Brian

      My wife and I will also not be seeing these films in any incarnation. I refused to have anything to do with anything Peter Jackson touches after the things he did to the books. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
      I’m not going to play “Show me on the movies where the bad man touched you,” here. Mostly because I think I’ve just lost the ability to be nice about it, and Mark doesn’t need that here. Also because I’m just tired of arguing with friends, coworkers, and the spiders living under my skin about it. (Though I assert that just because I can’t be nice or sane about it doesn’t mean I’m illogical. My problems with it are relentlessly logical, which is perhaps half the problem when critiquing an entertainment source)
      And so I end with this one, controversial motto I’ve adopted concerning the first trilogy:

      I’d rather watch Bakshi.

  • I think the problems may be that, first, Tolkien was not a modernist writer, (I would say that he rejected modernism, except that I don’t think he gave the matter a second thought, and wrote as he wished) but Jackson is a Postmodernist Director. There are parts and corners of Tolkien he is simply blind to, and cannot understand.

    Secondly, Jackson cannot seem to stand the idea of something pure and innocent and true. One of his early movies was a parody of the Muppet Show, except in this case the puppets were running a drug and pornography ring out of the back of the theatre while they put on their show. That he would twist Tolkien even as he brings the stories to the screen is no surprise to me.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    I’ll probably go see it, too, but I’d like to point out that RottenTomatoes is not always a good barometer; sometimes they sell out just like other critics.

    Case in point: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull dropped a 78% fresh. Seriously.

  • I just finished listening to the BBC radio drama version of ‘The Hobbit’ and enjoyed it. A good audio drama is worth listening to. My daughter listens to the ‘Focus on the Family’ radio drama of Narnia every-night as she is falling asleep. Before that I listen to the unabridged version of ‘The Hobbit’ while riding around in my car delivering pizza to elves, dwarfs, goblins, trolls and wizard’s. I went in and out of interest as I listened on. There are exciting moments of action and introspection and long periods of walking in the woods too long that I get weary right along all the characters. The radio drama cuts off the fluff. I want to re-watch the 70’s animated version to compare it with the new version once I can get time and money to actually see it.

    I think I might enjoy the film despite the semi-negative reviews. I enjoyed the movie versions of the LOTR more than I did the book versions which I found slow and dull in many parts. It had the realistic aspect of real time found in ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ or ‘24’ except without Jack Bauer killing people every hour. Too much walking in the woods without provisions or bathroom breaks.

    I prefer Narnia overall in the written form but LOTR movies has the movies beat. To make a comparison to another popular fantasy franchise I prefer the LOTR movies overall over the Harry Potter movies but would rather read the Harry Potter books over LOTR books or The Hobbit. Although I’m glad that the top fantasy of all time was written by a devout Catholic who took his faith seriously. Although till someone had pointed it out a while ago, I would never had thought of LOTR as a devout Catholic work.

    Anyway that is just my opinion.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      LotR isn’t obviously Catholic, but the music of Catholicism is on every page. I don’t doubt that were it not for LotR, I would not be Catholic today. It was probably the single biggest influence in my conversion.

      I love the Narnia books as children’s stories with lots of meaning. But now that I’m an adult, they fail to satisfy. Whereas the Narnia books oftentimes become a Sermon on the Faith, The Lord of the Rings is a symphony, and I prefer the music.

      • Gary B

        Having seen all of the LOTR movies as well as the first installment of the Hobbit, I still fail to see the Catholic connection, obvious or non-obvious. Perhaps I need to read the books. I still love Narnia more both written and in film and think of it as much more than a children’s story.

  • MI Will

    Metacritic only gives it a 58. Lincoln gets 86, Skyfall 81, and Django Unchained 80. I have not seen it yet but am disappointed by the ratings.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      Of those, I’ve only seen Skyfall. I still think CASINO ROYALE was a better story, but there is no doubt that SKYFALL is not only the most beautiful Bond film ever made, it is without exception the most beautiful movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. If the cinematographer for SKYFALL doesn’t walk away with an Oscar, I hope George C. Scott’s ghost haunts the Academy till Judgment Day.

  • Maiki

    I’ll reserve my full comments until I see it. From the reviews I’ve read, my favorite scenes have been done really well, and the scenes I didn’t care about anyway (battle scenes) have been embellished. It sounds like it is not aimed at children and that is the main complaint — similar story as the books told in a different tone. I can live with that. I’m also watching it first in boring 2d 24 fps, so hopefully that will also dim down some of the extraneous noise.

    • Maiki

      Kay, saw it. I understand people’s complaints about too much action. OTOH, I really, really liked it. They really spent a lot of time with the dialogue/exposition shots, and the songs, and whatnot, to counteract everything else. I don’t think I would enjoy it in 3d though. I think my mind would explode with too much information.

      But really, it is not for little kids, no, but I would say that it was quite enjoyable — pretty much all the scenes in the book that I liked were portrayed well, and it made me happy, and the new scenes did not seem too bad. I guess if you didn’t like the LotR movie adaptations, you won’t like these. If you liked those, these were in the same vein.

  • Chris-KABA

    I was mildly interested in this film way back, but it was gradually drained by “hype” and announcements of what was to come…

    First, the announcement of trying to make this into a three part cash cow, Er, I mean, a trilogy. The last “prequel Trilogy” I can think of is Star Wars Episodes 1-3. Major disappointment.

    Next, I read that Jackson and his feminist co-writers think Tolkien’s work is hugely unfair and oppressive. The Lord of the Rings needed some womanly tweaking, but The Hobbit is apparently REALLY bad. So they arrogantly decided to “fix” Tolkien’s mistakes by adding “feminine energy.” Apparently slowly at first, by showcasing Galadriel initially, which isn’t bad in itself, but it will apparently speed up in the part 2 with the addition of a made up elven heroine, who will serve to create an elf/dwarf “unrequited love” romance sub-plot with Kili.


    The most praise I’ve seen is the “Riddles in the Dark” part, with Gollum. Sounds great, although given the other “creative liberties” and “improvements” to Tolkien’s work Jackson has already done, I’d be willing to put money on a heavy dose of Gollum through the next 2 episodes as well, even though he drops out of the story after Bilbo scatters his buttons on the doorstep. I can see Gollum being presented as pursuing them relentlessly, and maybe even starting up the guide service he offers to Frodo and Sam later, showing the goblins the way to the Battle of Five Armies in hopes they will kill Bilbo and he can get his preciousss back…

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    My older boys (11th grade and 8th grade) saw it last night. Their reaction: It’s okay. Jackson can’t seem to find the difference between funny and goofy, and he made way too much goofy. Once again, the stand out star of the movie is New Zealand.

    I’m sure I’ll end up seeing it, but I’m in no hurry to do so.

    I would dearly, dearly love to see THE CHILDREN OF HURIN or THE FALL OF GONDOLIN or BEREN AND LUTHIEN on the big screen some day. But I hope it isn’t Jackson who does them.

  • tz

    I saw it. I regret doing so, at least the rad-aghast portions, and the juvenile yucky stuff. He didn’t have to contaminate the story. There were no “Indiana Jones” extended scenes in the book. We’ll see if there was a reason beyond cash to split it into more than one part – if the other events and episodes are preserved or the time is wasted with more trash.

    The other movies were at least tolerable – they stuck to the story for the most part – as much as you could do in a movie abridgement. has the CD and no-DRM mp3 available of the whole series if you prefer using your ears instead of your eyes.