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Compact Review: The Hobbit

The craft of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth has captivated readers for almost a century; featuring some of the greatest stories in classical and modern literature, such as The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, and most importantly, the novel that set it all in motion, The Hobbit.


And with The Hobbit’s incredible movie trilogy (directed by Peter Jackson, who also directed the movies for The Lord of the Rings) released consecutively in 2012, 2013, and 2014, the legend has kept going, although much debate has arisen on the quality and content of these films. Quite frankly, I adored all three, with The Battle of the Five Armies reaching into my Top 5 favourite movies, and the other two not far behind. 


In this post, I give my review and thoughts on Peter Jackson’s film adaptations, An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies.


BOOK VS MOVIE: Full Comparison: The Hobbit

Looking for an in-depth analysis? Check out my Full Comparison here.



An Unexpected Journey

Image credit: Amazon


The movie trilogy begins with An Unexpected Journey, which covers Tolkien’s first six chapters of The Hobbit. Many fans welcomed the prologue of the film, where the Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings (Ian Holm) is living his elder years in Bag-End with his young protege, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). It served as a good tie-in between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I thought, and made the franchise as a whole more enjoyable.


As mentioned, An Unexpected Journey covers Tolkien’s first six chapters of The Hobbit—including when Bilbo sets off on his adventure with Gandalf (I adore the Good Morning scene!) and the thirteen Dwarves, the encounter with the trolls, Rivendell, and the Riddles in the Dark with Gollum. All of these I found were depicted remarkably well (save for the many creative liberties taken by the producers, such as the addition of Azog and the orcs as the movie’s primary antagonists).


Yes, at times the movies can be rather gruesome and violent (unlike the book), but the essence of Bilbo’s adventure and daring quest I think was well-kept in An Unexpected Journey. And I do love the way it leads on so well to its sequel.


To rate the movie as a story on its own, I’ll give it a 7/10.

As a film adaptation, I’ll also give it a 7/10.



The Desolation of Smaug


I’d just like to say… never before have I seen such an amazing ending to a movie than that of The Desolation of Smaug. It was designed to be an enthralling cliffhanger, and I have to admit, it worked!


This film, released in 2013, covers Chapters 7-14 of The Hobbit, and is an epic tale of how Bilbo and the Dwarves make their way through Mirkwood, the not-so-warm welcome in Laketown, their arrival at the Lonely Mountain—where the evil dragon Smaug has taken over—, and Bilbo’s conversation with Smaug. 


Tolkien’s story includes much detail on the “Queer Lodgings” with Beorn the skin-changer, dedicating a chapter and a half, where I found that the movie barely touched on it, unfortunately. The producers also took some creative liberties in the movie, here, by including Legolas, and a female character, Tauriel. While Tauriel’s inclusion has been heavily debated, I personally enjoyed the addition of a female character, and it helped to have the Mirkwood Elves more involved in the story. Legolas has been heavily debated, especially since you can easily tell Orlando Bloom is older in The Hobbit than in The Lord of the Rings, but some fans agree that Tolkien could have well included Legolas in The Hobbit, were he given the chance to rewrite his debut story.


Again, like the whole movie franchise, the violence in this movie can be a bit much for some viewers—especially in the scenes where the Dark Lord from The Lord of the Rings, Sauron, is included—but all in all, I loved The Desolation of Smaug just as much as I did its precursor.


To rate the movie as its own story, I’ll give it a 7/10, like An Unexpected Journey.

As a film adaptation, though, I have to give it 5/10, as it steers quite far from the original. 



The Battle of the Five Armies

Image credit: Collider


I won’t wait until the end to tell you that The Battle of the Five Armies was by far my favourite of the three movies. Perhaps it was because of the epic conclusive battle, but the story was extraordinary.


Being the final volume of the trilogy, Chapter 14 through to the end of The Hobbit (specifically, Chapter 20) is covered in this movie. This is the part of the story where Smaug pillages Laketown, Thorin searches for the Arkenstone, Thranduil and the Elves march to the Dwarven city of Erebor, and the legendary Battle of the Five Armies takes place (surprise, surprise).


Where do I begin? Smaug’s attack? Bard’s bravery? Sauron’s battle in Dol Guldur against the White Council? I just loved this movie! I especially enjoyed the bartering between Thorin (“King Under the Mountain”), and King Thranduil with Bard and Gandalf over the share of the dragon’s treasure in the Lonely Mountain. The way it was portrayed was almost exactly as it had played out in my mind when I was reading The Hobbit. The addition of the love between Tauriel and Kili was, however, awkward at times. Indeed, it was a sweet subplot, but I don’t think it was necessary to the main plotline. 


Another creative liberty taken in the film was Azog and his orcs, and as a result, (spoiler!) the deaths of Kili, Fili, and Thorin. The book obviously didn’t include Azog and Thorin’s face-off, nor how Kili and Fili were impaled by the orcs, and the story still worked. However, for a film adaptation, I do think it was necessary—after all, it’s a little jarring for the movie to include “Oh well, Thorin died in the battle. The end”. I think having the Pale Orc as a primary antagonist was a good adaptation. 


And of course, who could possibly forget Alfrid Lickspittle? —the cunning toady and sycophant to the old Master of Esgaroth (Laketown); later Bard’s cowardly counsellor? While he may have not been a named or important character in Tolkien’s novel, I did love Peter Jackson’s inclusion of Alfrid. He served as another antagonist, form of opposition, and altogether a wonderful source of comedy even in the toughest scenes. He may be a sleazy flatterer, but I quite enjoyed his involvement; whether it was relentlessly opposing Bard’s decisions, or dressing up as a woman to escape from fighting in the battle. Of course, like many villains of his type, he suffered a rather ironic downfall when he fell into his own trap. 


As I’ve already told you, I love The Battle of the Five Armies. Rating it will be hard not to lean to my personal bias, but as honestly as I can, here’s how I’d rate it:


As its own story, The Battle of the Five Armies gets an 8/10 from me.

For a movie replication of The Hobbit, I’m giving it a 7/10



Conclusion

Image credit: Reddit


All in all, I love Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, similar to the novel or not. And as an introduction to The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth, it’s quite an epic tale that has been captured amazingly, on both paper and screen.

 

For a movie trilogy that’s come under such scrutiny, I think Peter Jackson’s adaptations of The Hobbit need some praise. What do you think?


 


6 comments

6 Comments


Hi Christopher! I saw this post from YWW! I love your ratings on the Hobbit movie adaption and can agree with you for the most part😉 I prefer to watch the movies for the scenery and music, but read the books for the rest!


Anyway, great work and keep going!

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Hi Phoebe; Welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Movies are great for scenery, and yes, the soundtracks are amazing 😁 Thanks for stopping by! 😄

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Shaylee H
Shaylee H
Jun 26

Fantastic post, Christopher! I’ve only seen LoTR, but The Hobbit has been on my “to-be-watched” list for a while, and this makes me even more excited to watch them. Loved reading your thoughts!

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Thanks Shaylee! You should definitely watch The Hobbit sometime, and when you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts! 😃

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AS A HOBBIT AND LOTR SUPER FAN I LOVED HEARING YOUR THOUGHTS! I agree that the movies differed from the books in some notable ways, but nothing that was script altering. Instead it felt more like how they condensed some parts of the Chronicles or Narnia and the orginal Star Wars Films. Great review Christopher!

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Thank you Edan! 😄 Those are some great ways to think about how they condensed the movies, like how you mentioned they did for the Narnia films.

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