The first film in the Hobbit trilogy is on ITV tonight at 9pm But now that all three films can be held up against the original award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy that preceded them, how do they compare? Can the new trilogy measure up to the old? Well, no – and here’s why.
It’s too long
This is kind of an obvious one – the original Hobbit novel is shorter than any one of The Lord of The Rings books , but while each of those had to be cut down in order to make it work as a film (thus losing a bit of flab), The Hobbit has dragged out material, invented new stuff and basically stretched its premise too thin.
It’s not as interesting a story
The Lord of the Rings books are an epic high-fantasy tale of a struggle against tyranny – whereas The Hobbit is a children’s book about 13 guys going on a jolly quest to find some gold. The attempts of the new films to justify turning the Hobbit into a darker film (sort of implying the dwarves are part of a larger diaspora that also includes Gandalf seeking out Sauron and some orcs doing something or other) feel false – The Hobbit is a good story on its own, and all you do by including dark foreboding is make it a poorer adaptation of the source material.
They’re weirdly structured
While the Lord of the Rings films stick roughly to their corresponding books, the Hobbit trilogy is all over the place. For example, the latest film starts where the last began – which means we see the aftermath of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug heading off to attack Lake Town, which feels more like a finale and correspondingly makes a quieter middle chunk of the final film feel a little staid by comparison.
Too much CGI
Obviously there’s going to be a lot of computer effects in a fantasy film like this, but there seem to be significantly more in The Hobbit films than in Lord of the Rings. As a result it’s somehow subconsciously less convincing – the Star Wars prequels versus the originals (if that’s not too harsh a comparison).
CGI Orcs (which deserve their own section because they’re so bad)
The generically evil orcs are now generically motion-captured and computer generated, instead of the men in prosthetics that they were in the Lord of the Rings films – and it’s an awful idea. They don’t look any better, they seem like less of a physical threat and are harder to take seriously. Also, they look completely different which is just confusing.
I don’t know about you, but the weirdly rushed story of how a hot dwarf (Aidan Turner) fell in deep irreversible love with a badass elf (Evangeline Lily) after meeting her for two minutes in a cave isn’t a big draw for me in the Hobbit films, and in the Battle for the Five Armies it’s particularly cringeworthy. In fairness Lord of the Rings had a similar love triangle in its plot, but that at least had some implied backstory.
There’s also a weird comic subplot in the latest film that involves Ryan Gage dressing up as a woman with gold in his brassiere. It’s pretty unfunny, and yet gets more screentime than James Nesbitt. Injustice, thy name is Hobbit.
There are too many lingering shots of people looking intense
I’m not sure about this but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember the camera lovingly hovering over character’s faces for unsettling periods of time, but that’s a big part of The Hobbit series. I mean, if you’re looking to cut down a three-hour film there’s an easy saving right there.
It ends with a bit of an anticlimax
Without giving too much away, the last Hobbit film is mostly a big battle – but you might not even realise when that titulat skirmish has been won because it mostly happens offscreen while our heroes do some one-on-one battles. Famously, Lord of the Rings had multiple “endings”, but they were more satisfying.
Also, despite taking 3 films and going through a lot of trauma to reach the Dwarvish Kingdom of Erebor from his home in Hobbiton, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) manages to make the return journey in a seconds-long montage with no ill effects. Did they just forget to take a satnav the first time round?
But it’s not all bad…
In fairness, the series still has some great performances from the likes Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellen, with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) as good a villain as Lord of the Rings ever had with some brilliantly realized sequences (Smaug with Bilbo in the vaults, and an aerial attack scene from the latest film).
The Hobbit films are also incredibly technically proficient with a great aesthetic (though some of that magic has been lost since the original trilogy), and are an undeniably impressive feat of organization for any filmmaker, let alone one who had the weight of expectation on him like Peter Jackson did.
In fact, The Hobbit isn’t a bad series of films, and it has a lot of good qualities. It’s just that Lord of the Rings has those good qualities, and builds on them to create a much better trilogy that offers a lot more to the viewer and tells a better story. That’s why the Hobbit trilogy suffers in comparison.
Well, that and the big talking trees. The Hobbit films were definitely lacking in big talking trees compared to Lord of the Rings.