With this month being the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I would like to take the time to express my honest opinion on The Hobbit trilogy so far.
As you may remember, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a phenomenal success that made Peter Jackson a household name and an icon. It’s a monumental trilogy that has endured over a decade and hasn’t aged at all. The CGI and practical effects are still top notch. It is considered by many, myself included, to be the greatest trilogy in film history. The bottom line is that you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. This is precisely what Jackson has been trying, and failing, to do with The Hobbit trilogy. To put it even more simply, The Hobbit is a poor man’s Lord of the Rings.
Where to begin? I guess I’ll start with how The Hobbit succumbs to my least favorite Hollywood gimmick- splitting a film adaptation of a book into two or more parts. Warner Brothers made a killing off both halves of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows; twice as much as they would have made off just one film. Other franchises soon followed. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay was split into two parts and The Hobbit was split into THREE parts. Even upcoming projects, such as Avengers: Infinity War and Justice League, will be split in half. Why have studios recently caught onto this? The answer is obvious. It is not because they are trying to capture everything in the book. Some of the most critically acclaimed motion pictures in history have been adapted from books. None of them were split into parts. Studios do it for a greater profit. Plain and simple. The Hobbit takes this to an extreme by expanding a simple 320-page book, which children are reading as early as third grade, into a motion picture trilogy with each film having a running time of approximately three hours. With The Lord of the Rings films, it was necessary to make a trilogy since there were three books. With The Hobbit, it felt like Peter Jackson was milking the cinematic Middle Earth franchise for all it’s worth. He has essentially become George Lucas 2.0, meaning that he was once a man of great artistic integrity who is now focused more on box-office profit.
I believe that Jackson got overly confident and full of himself after winning his Oscar for The Return of the King. He remade King Kong in 2005, a three-hour-long retelling of a simple story, which only took an hour and 45 minutes to tell in 1933. The film felt bloated and overindulgent in its use of CGI and green screen technology. This should have served as a warning sign for some of the problems with The Hobbit. A large portion of what made The Lord of the Rings so memorable was its limited use of green screen. Many scenes in the trilogy were shot using models, miniatures and even actual sets. CGI was used when necessary. The orcs were done with brilliant makeup effects. They looked gritty and dirty—how orcs should look. The goblins are largely done with CGI in this new trilogy, making them appear more polished and clean. The trilogy was shot on location in New Zealand, making audiences fall in love with the country’s breathtaking landscape. We see none of this beauty in The Hobbit. It is not very difficult to tell that almost everything is shot in a sterile, lifeless green screen environment. All of the magic of the original trilogy is lost in the process. Although not as extreme, this feels as if it could be compared to the original Star Wars trilogy vs. the prequel trilogy. In one trilogy, scenes are shot on location and on sets. In the other, scenes are shot in a much more controlled, less lively environment. The comparison is fair, as is the parallel between Jackson and Lucas.
Another significant problem with The Hobbit trilogy is the excessive amount of fan service. It isn’t even subtle. Legolas played a very large role in The Desolation of Smaug and in the end, didn’t really contribute a whole lot to the plot of the film. He was only there to make audiences shout “Oh my God!” at his contributions to the film’s action scenes. We get it. Legolas does cool things. Time to move on. Although characters such as Legolas are thrown into the mix for fan service, they also depict how Jackson seems bent on making The Hobbit feel like a true prequel to The Lord of the Rings rather than simply treat it as its own individual installment of the Middle Earth saga. The Hobbit was written before The Lord of the Rings and therefore was not a prequel. The Lord of the Rings was the sequel.
The Hobbit films are not bad, but they do embody a great number of things currently wrong with Hollywood, namely the milking of one book into two or more films. This is an emphasis on CGI and green screen technology over practical effects, and an overindulgence in fan service. These elements combined with the irresponsible and unprofessional practices that led to the deaths of 27 horses make The Hobbit a poor man’s Lord of the Rings. Oh, and by the way, I hope you are all excited about the 6-film adaptation of The Silmarillion scheduled to begin in 2018!
*NO HORSES WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS ARTICLE