Perhaps it is best to preface this with the fact that I am big fan of The Hobbit as written down by J.R.R Tolkien. I first read the book when I was perhaps seven or eight when my elder brother brought it home as part of his homework. In fact it was many years before I moved onto The Lord of the Rings and though I enjoyed the text, feel it somewhat bloated next to the tightly told account of the Dwaves and one unlikely Hobbit attempting to reclaim their lost treasure from a greedy Dragon in a mountain far away.
However I can not abide what Jackson has turned it into and here I intend to lay out what I consider the problems, why they are there and what could be done about them to turn the whole thing into a worthy homage to my childhood favourite. Beware that spoilers will lurk in wait for the unsuspecting reader though I shall do my best to keep them from the path you shall tread.
But where to begin, why the beginning of course.
Unfortunately this is where we find the biggest fault of the Hobbit movies evidenced by a scene not from the text or even hinted at and that is the belief that the audience is a bit thick and there must always be a connection to the superior earlier work for which he was praised. The movie begins shortly into Peter Jackson’s ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ as Bilbo completes his memoir and Frodo prepares to go out to meet Gandalf who shall be soon arriving for the birthday celebrations. This kind of padding shall be discussed later but the main problem I had with this scene was a throwaway line from Frodo as he looks down at the drawing of a young curly haired Hobbit and inquires who it might be. It is of course Bilbo, drawn shortly before he set of on his quest.
Now the reason this line exists is that Martin Freeman shall be taking over the role of Bilbo whilst Ian Holme is currently on screen. This could have been a problem for audiences some years ago but in age of multiple bat-men, a bakers dozen of Bond, two Kirks and a Starbuck with breasts you must question what audience they are writing for that could not flow with the idea that Bilbo has been recast. In fact if they are that worried that audiences will not be able to follow such a simple thing I must question why they have brought Ian Holme out at all to remind us. Surely it would have been better to follow the Battlestar Galactica route and simply have someone greet Bilbo, perhaps as they deliver letters to his waiting hand as he sits and enjoys a good pipe?
This urge to drive home the connection between the two and walk everyone through it in very small simple steps surfaces again and unfortunately leaves us wondering if Sauraman was right to question whether the love of the Halflings leaf has slowed Gandalf’s mind. You see if we are to follow the books or even Jacksons own Lord of the Rings Trilogy and ignore these movies for now then the order of affairs is simple. Bilbo returned from his travels with a ring he claimed to have found deep under the misty mountains. Though Gandalf does not entirely buy Bilbo’s story he goes along with it for now and after some time begins to look into it. Though there are few magical rings in middle Earth there is no great fire burning under Gandalf to do so as it is probably nothing too serious. How after all is he supposed to link it with Sauron who has been nothing but a story for hundreds of years.