In my opinion, Peter Jackson’s adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels are unequivocal masterpieces. Simply put, Jackson worked magic with the wonderful natural locations in New Zealand, an incredible cast, top notch special effects, and, of course, did proper justice to the source material. I would happily watch these again and again. These have become my younger daughter’s Star Wars (and quite frankly they are better but they have had decades of film work on which to build).
I was thrilled when it was announced that Jackson would be adapting The Hobbit. I was a little less thrilled when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would direct and that the book would be broken into two movies but I could still envision it. There is an awful lot of action in The Hobbit so two movies would be stretching but perhaps better than trying to overcrowd a single film.
I simply could not understand the decision to adapt the single book into three movies, and not three short movies but three epic length ones. I was hopeful when Jackson announced that it was so that additional material from Tolkien could be added.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out. It was not a terrible movie by any means but it was very disappointing. Here’s my summary: “We’re walking, walking, walking, RUN!, walking, walking, walking, RUN!, repeat until nearly three hours are done”. Rather than a finely prepared meal with thought given to how all the ingredients interact with each other, we were given a random hodgepodge of things meant to appeal to various fanbases.
Instead of carefully paced and choreographed action sequences, we have scenes that look more at home in a videogame, particularly the extra-long mine sequence. Jackson chose his cast quite well and Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis naturally reprise their roles as Gandalf and Gollum respectfully. Genre favorites Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are cast from Sherlock as is Sylvester McCoy from Doctor Who.
That apparently was not enough so he shoehorned in more cameos from Lord of the Rings than you could shake a staff at. He added a framing piece so that he could feature Ian Holm as old Bilbo and Elijah Wood as Frodo. He then added a council meeting so that Christopher Lee (Still going strong at 92!) could return as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, and Hugo Weaving as Elrond.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is essentially the same, a wonderful world of Middle Earth, somewhat spoiled by lengthy videogame sequences, and characters shoehorned in. This time fan favorite Orlando Bloom has returned as Legolas. He is joined by Evangeline Lilly as female elf/superhero Tauriel. I applaud the sentiment as there aren’t enough women in the story but it was poorly handled.
In spite of all these complaints, here I sit at the Regal Biltmore Grande, prepared for an entire day of The Hobbit. Despite all the shortcomings, The Hobbit series presents a wonderful world and if you haven’t seen it at the high frame rate, you certainly should.