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6 Reasons Why the “The Hobbit” Isn’t As Good as Any of the Lord of the Rings Movies

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns.

(Spoilers spoilers spoilers below. You have been warned. Do not read on if you want to watch the new movie without knowing some elements that happen)

Just saw THE HOBBIT. Was not impressed. It’s not good when a 9-minute preview (Star Trek Into Darkness) outshines a 2.5-hour movie. But alas, I felt that to be the case. You know how sometimes when you walk out of a theater, you either liked or disliked the movie, but you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel how you feel? That happens to me, too, naturally. But with THE HOBBIT, I was immediately able to point out some major flaws that made the plot & story, which should have been epic, merely OK. Here are 6 things that come to mind without much thought:

 

Credit: New Line Cinema.

 

1. Story points and scenes feel stretched.

It feels like too many sequences go on for too long, or take their sweet time. This problem is one you could see coming a mile away. With the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies, each Tolkien novel became one film. That’s a lot of material to squeeze into a movie. But when you condense a novel, you have an opportunity to cut a lot of fat and just show the juiciest parts. That’s likely what LOTR did so well.

Meanwhile, with THE HOBBIT, they’ve taken just one book and divided it into three whole films. That means they can’t cut much out of the book, and that’s not a good thing. Heck, during the course of this film, 3 villains are introduced — the dragon, the “neuromancer,” and the pale orc. How many die by the film’s end? None. We get closure with none of these villains. At the end of LOTR, at least the tall Uruk Hai, Lurtz, was killed by Aragorn.

2. We know Bilbo and Gandalf will survive.

I believe that part of what makes a movie good is believing the main character is indeed in mortal danger — that they could die in the end. But here THE HOBBIT is at a disadvantage in that we know that Bilbo and Gandalf survive the events of the film. This is not the filmmakers’ faults. But does it affect the moviegoing experience? Yes.

3. No good guys die.

Same thing with this one. We must believe that death is a legitimate possibility. That’s what gives a movie tension and stakes. Here we have 15 characters that set out on an insane quest and, by the end of the film, no one dies. One of the best scenes of the first LOTR was when Boromir died at the end. It was touching, and reminded you that this quest has mortal danger. (And don’t forget that Gandalf “died,” too.) In this film, there is an incredibly long sequence where all the dwarves fight their way out of a goblin lair. They must kill — I’m not kidding — about 300-500 goblins — yet all the dwarves come out on the other side unscathed. Once that happens, you pretty much know no one will bite it by the movie’s end.

In THE HOBBIT, we get no deaths. And that is quite a thing considering–

4. We don’t care about 11 of the 13 dwarves.

In my opinion, only 2 of the 13 dwarves are developed (and therefore likeable). The rest are forgettable and interchangeable.

Think back to the fellowship of the ring. There were 11 characters, and they were all unique. Even though there were 4 hobbits, you could tell them apart and they each seemed like good characters. Frankly, it just made them more interesting to watch.

5. The stakes aren’t as high.

In LOTR, it was a quest to stop the end of the world, basically. In THE HOBBIT (so far), it’s merely a quest for dwarves to regain their home (the inside of a mountain). In my opinion, it’s simply not as gripping. (I realize the stakes could change in the next 2 films.)

6. We’ve seen plenty of this before in the LOTR movies, so originality is lost.

  • A hobbit slips while carrying the ring of power and it accidentally falls on his finger? Seen it.
  • The eagles arrive to rescue the good guys when all hope seems lost? Seen it.
  • Gandalf does a spell over a wounded character so they are jarred back to life/consciousness (Pippin in LOTR, Oakenshield here)? Seen it.
  • And so forth.

And if all these problems are attributed to being in the source material (the novel) and the filmmakers’ reluctance to change anything at all (such as the number of dwarves), then maybe the movies shouldn’t have been made. (That’s right. I said it.) Or perhaps they should have made 1-2 films instead of 3.

But it’s not ALL bad news regarding THE HOBBIT. We get a lot of returning characters that are nice to see, and the inside of Erebor is beautiful. It was cool to see the orcs speak a language that wasn’t English, and the film’s score is awesome, as always. So the film has those elements going for them. Plus, the 9 minutes of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (select theaters only) were pretty darn awesome. The footage definitely looks like it is setting up another death of Spock. Not sure how I feel about them playing that storyline out again…

I know that it’s become very hard to comment on my blog (hurrumph) because all the WD sites have implemented new, aggressive anti-spamming measures (not my call), so if you want to chat about this and cannot comment below, tweet/argue with me at @chucksambuchino. By the way, the trick to commenting is simply to keep trying. If you comment and the page tells you “You’re commenting too fast. Please slow down.”, then just hit “back” to go back to the blog page where your submitted comment text will reappear. Try submitting it again. Doesn’t work? Just hit back and try again. One of the times, it will take. It usually happens on the third try or so for me, and the whole process takes about 30 seconds.

 

Credit: Paramount Pictures.

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3 Responses to 6 Reasons Why the “The Hobbit” Isn’t As Good as Any of the Lord of the Rings Movies

  1. Haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but it seems for sure that dragging this one book out into three movies is a bad idea. I really loved it when I first read it growing up, but as three movies? I really can’t imagine what they’d do to fill up three hours three times! Therefore, your review doesn’t surprise me. I’ll definitely have to see it/them, but maybe if I go into it with low expectations, I might come away liking it, vs. the other way around…

  2. NSaber says:

    Chuck, I think your movie analysis applies directly to the book itself also. Read each point again and think about the book and you’ll see. I read the book last month, for the first time, and was annoyed by the horrendous writing and terrible story-telling. I can’t believe how the writing meanders and turns back upon itself. I have heard that C. S. Lewis and Tolkien were friends and rivals and that Tolkien considered himself the better writer. Lewis’ writing is far clearer, better and more interesting than Tolkien’s. I’m sure all of this will anger the Tolkien-faithful. :) Plus, there will be various comments that I do not understand that Tolkien was writing an epic in the tradition of Homer and all that. Well, whatever. I can recognize bad writing when it glares up at me off the page. :) Thanks for your insights about the movie.
    Keep on learning, keep on writing.
    ~Newton Saber
    100 Beginnings For Writers My blog analysis of published books from the fiction author’s POV.

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