The Hobbit has got to be one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year; helped no doubt by its Christmas release, enormous budget, visual effects, studio backing and not least by its loyal ready-made following of Lord of The Rings fans, its commercial success was almost guaranteed. Having said this, and having gone into the cinema with these expectations, I was hugely disappointed. While everyone knows what to expect from a Peter Jackson film, and he is probably up there with George Lucas and James Cameron in terms of great visual effects directors, The Hobbit seemed far too much a case of style over substance.
Firstly, and this is my major criticism of the film, Martin Freeman, playing the central character of Bilbo Baggins, gets the role utterly wrong. Put it this way: when you’re watching The Hobbit, you don’t want to be constantly reminded of Tim from The Office. All of Freeman’s annoying quirks as an actor, from his timid way of moving to his nervous English stutter are painfully drawn out for 169 minutes, which is far too long for my liking. This is precisely the problem with Freeman – he brings far too much of himself to the role, rather than truly getting into the character of Bilbo Baggins. As opposed to Ian Holm, who plays the older Bilbo Baggins in the LOTR series, Freeman just doesn’t seem to internally believe or relate to his character or the fictional world around him, causing the lines where he talks about being a ‘hobbit’ to come across as phoney and one dimensional.
In addition, whilst I understand that Bilbo is supposed to be sceptical and afraid of going on this journey with Gandalf and the thirteen dwarves, his character shows little signs of development throughout. He is just as timid and afraid at the end of the journey as he was at the beginning, which doesn’t really make sense given the bravery it would have taken to reach his final destination.
One other big criticism I have of the film is that there was no need to make it into a trilogy, a decision that screams ‘money’ rather than artistic reasoning. The Hobbit could have easily been cut down in length, as while the energy of the beginning and ending is exciting, there are far too many flat moments during the middle that just seem unnecessary. This is perhaps due to the fact that the book of The Hobbit is actually quite short, and the writers have therefore had to pad the films out with extra content to be able to make it into a trilogy.
I hear what you’re saying: “Is there no merit to watching The Hobbit?” Whilst I stand by my opinion that it is a ‘style over substance’ film, that isn’t to say that there is no worth in Jackson’s stunning visual style of filmmaking. Speaking purely in terms of visual effects, special effects, cinematography, costume and overall aesthetics, the film certainly appeals to the eye and to the imagination. The realisation of mythical characters from the book such as the goblins, dwarves, wizards, orcs and elves is highly imaginative and entertaining. Finally, one aspect of the film which is hard to fault, and which many fans seem to have enjoyed, is the return of Gollum. The scene featuring Gollum and Bilbo in a dark underground cave has got to be one of the most vivid and enjoyable of the film due to the snappy chemistry between the two, and the brilliant Andy Serkis (who does the voice and movement for Gollum) is simply a joy to watch.
Serkis seems to be able to carry any scene he is in and takes on the deeply twisted and erratic persona of Gollum spectacularly, as in the LOTR trilogy. Unfortunately, given the fact that this scene only takes up a very small portion of the film, it leaves us wanting far more of Gollum, and far less of Bilbo and his clan. So, sorry Peter Jackson, I certainly can’t give you a gold star this time – but with box office statistics like this film is getting, I guess that is enough for you!