The first installment of Peter Jackson’s interpretation of The Hobbit lacks the charm of the first three Lord of the Rings (or LOTR) films. Yet, it isn’t the disappointment many critics have painted it as. So, should you pay the cash to see it in a theater or should you wait for Blu-Ray?
If you are unfamiliar with J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic works, The Hobbit was the Oxford Don’s first work concerning “Middle Earth.” It follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit (a quiet creatures small than a dwarf), who is recruited by a wizard, Gandalf, to help 12 dwarves re-take their ancestral home, which has been invaded by a deadly dragon. Writer and director Peter Jackson successfully produced the trilogy of sequels, (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King) between 2001-2003, even winning an Oscar for the final installment.
Yet, the director has done little of note since. Thus, many fans were excited when they learned he had signed on to bring the original story to life. In fact, The Hobbit trilogy is the most anticipated prequel/sequel since George Lucas revived the Star Wars franchise in 1999. Many critics have argued that Peter Jackson’s return to the shire is as flat as Lucas’ reboot but that’s a gross overstatement.
The screenplay for The Hobbit is fine, the special effects are amazing and the action sequences are first-rate. The reason this first film fails to measures up to any of the previous LOTR movies is the lack of chemistry between the actors. Elijah Wood’s Frodo and Sean Astin ’s Sam were a bit cartoonish at times but we cared about them and felt they genuinely cared about each other–not so much here. Also, the character of Gollum (played brilliantly by Andy Serkis) provided a tension to the story that balanced out the friendship between Frodo and Sam that could have been too sappy. Here, Gollum doesn’t appear to the last 30-minutes and then, at least in the theater I was in, his dialogue is almost inaudible.
There are also several major differences between the book and film that even my 9-year old noticed and didn’t appreciate (e.g., Thorin really hates elves, Radagast the Brown makes a unecesary appearance, etc.) But all of these gripes do not mean The Hobbit is a bad film, in fact it is quite good. In fact, the special effects are so amazing that I would recommend seeing in 3D and in a theater despite the film’s flaws.
I also suggest seeing it as part of a church group. I would suggest discussing Bilbo and his fellow hobbits from a theological point-of-view and what you believe you want your story to be on your death-bed–one of boring comfort or one of adventure. After all, like Gandalf, King Jesus calls us into dangerous situations as well.
I give The Hobbit a strong B+ and suggest you ignore my usual advice and see it in a theater even though I would shoot for a matinée if it costs you less.
Turn back next week for a review of the new Quentin Tarantino film.
Tune back every week for fresh movie reviews and recommended theological or philosophical discussion topics. Movies are rated as follows: A+ (a classic and must see even if it involves throwing down the $10 to see it in a theater). A or A- (recommended though with some minor flaws. You may want to wait for Netflix). B+ or B (a good film worth saving to your Netflix queue). B- or C+ (decent movie worth seeing on Netflix or cable if the trailer intrigues you or you are a fan of the particular genre). C or C- (so-so and worth seeing only if you are a die-hard fan of the genre). D+ or D (Avoid unless you absolutely have to see it i.e., a relative is in it or you are a pastor and Kirk Cameron is in it). D- or F (avoid even if Kirk Cameron is in it).