I love you Peter Jackson, really I do, but the Hobbit Films are just godawful. Yes, he may have artfully directed the LOTR trilogy, but he completely butchers The Hobbit. Even with a superb cast, great director and fantastic locations, the Hobbit movies completely failed to capture the magic of the book. We were promised a gourmet meal and instead were given leftover school dinners.
For starters, some wise aleck producer decided to make three films. You can forget about artistic integrity- these days it’s all about the money. So because of that there’s loads of room for bloated exposition and heavy-handed references to the LOTR trilogy. This is like taking a sledgehammer to do the job of a screwdriver. And on top of that there are ridiculous cameos (I mean, for crying out loud, what was Legolas doing in the movie?), the ludicrous love story (erm where did that come from?) and the hilariously daft special effects (did anyone else notice the advertisements for the new Hobbit video game shoehorned into the last film?).
The films are overblown and overlong, sure. But for all that it leaves out half of what goes on in Mirkwood. It forgets all the subtlety of the book- Mirkwood could be viewed as crossing the boundaries of the human psyche- but did we get that in the film? No, it is just a brief jaunt through a drug induced haze. No need to delve any further.
Then there is the whole incident with the “dragon’s curse”- which of course does not exist in the book. By turning Thorin’s greed into a supernatural curse, Jackson completely removes his culpability and undermines the nuanced good versus evil narrative of the book. Tolkein clearly wanted to show that even the best of us are not immune to corruption. The film, however, fundamentally misses this point and does a great disservice to the source material.
The truth is, in the book, none of them fall easily into the categories of heroes and villains- not even Bilbo. After all, Bilbo’s betrayal (and yes it is a betrayal) is far more morally ambiguous in the book. Yes, he does it for the greater good- but his actions do not prevent the deaths of his friends. In fact, it could even be said to cause them. I remember reading that for the first time and being horrified by Bilbo’s treachery. Yet, I could see that it was a selfless act and that he felt he had no choice. What then, could he have done otherwise? It raises fascinating moral questions- but the film never bothers to pick any of this up.
And before you say that this is a children’s film, it doesn’t have to be so complex, remember that the book was aimed at children. Tolkein did not feel the need to talk down to his audience- why then does Jackson? Why does the film have to make it so black and white? Why must Hollywood insist on patronising its audience and treating us all like idiots?