Cinema Guyd: The Hobbit‘s Trilogy of Terrible

Andrew Tibbetts
Authored by
Andrew Tibbetts

December 17, 2012
9:22 p.m.

I am Tibbetts son of Tibbetts son of Tibbetts. My people forge our criticism deep in the mines of the Black Country. In honour of my ancestors I must hold firm and not let crappy movies pass, despite the delusions of the many. I’m looking at you, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Back of the line! Yes, the very back! The hammer of Moklock, the Goblin Queen, and the chisel of Lermanghaster, the Goblin Queen’s second cousin, have carved a place for you in the stone of Nurmanthalas, the Goblin Queen’s second cousin’s dry cleaner’s nephew: You are the worst film of 2012. Seal yourself up in there and breed no sequels, prequels, or trilogy-sister-wives.

Sorry, like this film, I'm just a troll.

I can forgive the Lord of the Rings being a trilogy, even if the third one seemed interminably bloated, because there were three long books as source material. But The Hobbit is a short, single book. Why has Jackson blown it up to trilogy proportions? Cynics will say for three times the mega-money. But I think it’s worse than that. I think he’s a true believer. He means this.

Fantasies should be delightful, an escape from dour reality, or what’s the use of them? Lightness and speed are crucial to delight, and completely missing in this film. I’ll watch a Swedish documentary on the welfare system’s oppression of lesbians with cats if I want earnestness and glacial pacing. Another vital component of delight is surprise. There’s no surprise in this film. Every single thing is exactly as you think it’s going to be. It’s an utterly expected journey. LOTR had some innovative visuals, things we’d never quite seen before on screen; The Hobbit brings nothing new to the table. And brings that nothing very very slowly and very very earnestly.

Is it well done at least? Not as well as LOTR — the camerawork and editing have a new sloppiness, gone is the crispness of the epic set pieces. Jackson could mash-up a stampede of elephants and a single quicksilver archer and always give you a sense of where everything was. The big fights in The Hobbit are murky and chaotic, you lose the suspense and find yourself waiting patiently for the Jackson Pollacking mud to settle. You know who’s gonna win, so what’s the bother if you can’t enjoy the details.

Bilbo gets more dwarves than Snow White but ones with less character. They have to do a lot of shtick with comical bumbling because there are no funny lines. Their hairdos are hilarious but it’s a long joke at over three hours. And this is just part 1. There’re no females, dwarf or other species. Although Cate Blanchett beams in for a scene to little effect. Maybe this movie is for ten-year-old boys. Anyone with a sex drive is going to find it lackluster. No Viggo; no Liv. Not even the odd barmaid. Even the goblins appear to be a boys’club.

The enemies in this film are monsters, orcs, goblins, trolls, dragons, what have you. It’s a very infantile view of conflict. At this place and time we need films that are subtle and nuanced. We need to develop our capacity to understand the causes of the people we are in conflict with. Demonizing our foes leads to war. Children growing up with this garbage won’t be able to champion diplomacy, compromise, empathy, understanding. They’ll want to chop goblins’ heads off. If we must have villains can’t they at least be charming like Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham or fascinating like Alan Rickman’s Snape. Yeah, this movie needed Alan Rickman, and a character for him to play.

Dull movies are a dime a dozen, even super-expensive ones, but this movie is also wrong. Its hypocrisy makes it especially unforgivable. Gandalf keeps saying things like “the brave can spare a life instead of slaying one” and “it is the small kindnesses that truly keep evil at bay,” and yet the second he’s face to face with a goblin he cuts its head off — of course! Stop pretending to be pacifists, middle-earthers. The entire structure of the plot is geared to power, violence, vanquishing, warfare. If Jackson were truly interested in small kindnesses he would have made The Sessions or Monsieur Lazhar, not this epic nonsense. A case could be made that this whole thing is some kind of allegory, somehow pro-Zionist and yet anti-Semitic. But that might be giving it too much credit for thought. It doesn’t have an idea in its head.

I read The Hobbit out loud to my kids back in the day. And it was entertaining. Somehow Jackson has sucked the life out of it, and launched another bloated dreary franchise with an evilly stupid sense of morality. The whole thing should put on a magic ring and disappear.

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