When I walked out of the theatre on Boxing Day, 2012, I was livid! I had almost walked out before the end of the movie – which would have been a first, for me – but I had held on, hoping that my troubles might end. They didn’t, at the time, and I was forced to watch what I immediately thought to be a bastardisation of one of the paramount stories of the 20th century.
Peter Jackson had ruined The Hobbit.
Or so I thought. I recently received the Extended Edition BluRay to review, and I promised myself I would go in with an open mind. Maybe I had been mistaken, and maybe the extended edition would help.
This is part one of my review – focusing solely on the movie itself – while part two will deal with the Appendices (loved by many, dismissed by even more, I suspect). So when I finished watching the movie, turned off the TV, and let myself think for a moment, I realised that Peter Jackson may not have completely ruined one of the most beloved books around.
To do these two reviews justice, I also took the time to read the relevant chapters of ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien, in an effort to really gauge whether the changes made for the movie were necessary, or simply egregious.
Some of the changes made from book to movie are obvious and necessary. No matter how hard you try, dwarves with bright blue hoods and yellow beards tucked into silver belts just doesn’t work these days, just as Tom Bombadil would not have worked in the Lord of the Rings movies. Similarly the treatment of the dwarves’ stay in Rivendell is somewhat excusable, as it allows for an adult telling of the story, rather than the uncomplicated rendition found in The Hobbit – the reality is that there was bad blood between the elves and dwarves, as is seen in ‘Fellowship of the Ring’, and the tension portrayed by Peter Jackson adds an element which has continuity with Tolkien’s overall Legendarium.
Similarly excusable are the scenes within the Misty Mountains. While these scenes are absolutely beautifully crafted – specifically the dwarves and Gandalf’s race from the goblins over the intricately complicated network of bridges – they also combine to create a less-childish version of their capture by the Goblin King (who might have gone a little too Dame Edna Everage for my liking).
The fundamental issue I still have trouble accepting is the rewriting that allows for the inclusion of Azog, the pale orc who is supposed to have been dead 150 years. Having not had the time yet to sit down and watch the Appendices for An Unexpected Journey I am yet to encounter any reasoning for his surprising immortality, his inclusion, and the impact he makes on the movie – namely his confrontation with Thorin and the dwarves in the scene depicting the chapter ‘Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire’.
The scene is a moving, tense, and beautifully choreographed piece of storytelling, amping the stakes and allowing Thorin’s distrust for Bilbo to be erased (an interesting shift in the story which I never really minded, given its execution and likeliness).
All in all, watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a much more enjoyable experience this time around, leaving behind my literary rage and opening my eyes to the decisions that had been made. I am excited for the Appendices, and for getting a look into the storytelling decisions that were made, why they were made, and the behind the scenes look at how they were executed.
Unsurprisingly then, I would heartily recommend the Extended Edition BluRay of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s a beautiful package that looks really nice next to the BluRay collector’s edition of The Lord of the Ring.