I have to admit, I wasn’t as excited about the Hobbit coming out as I was about Lord of the Rings. I’m not a big fan of the book, I’m not keen on the character of Thorin, and just generally it doesn’t compare all that well to the Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion. However, it was Peter Jackson in charge, Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Martin Freeman who I love from Sherlock as Bilbo. That and they pulled Richard Armitage out to play Thorin, which could never be a bad thing.
From the moment I first watched it though I absolutely loved it. A lot of people I know are sceptical about how they can make a short book into three films, but when you do read the book a lot does happen, but it lasts two paragraphs in the book and then it moves on. There is also a lot of backstory in the films can you can only find in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings. It is also a lot easier to focus the story and work on the character interaction in the film, compared to the book and even to the LOTR films because there actually is a main character in the Hobbit.
Focus on Bilbo, and then you can draw out the story line around him basically being the audience and asking the questions about what happened and what the other motives of the characters are. In the book it is just sort of we’re going to the mountain to reclaim our homeland but the story of how it was lost isn’t that drawn out.
The tragedy of the mountain being taken and Dale being destroyed is mentioned but not in great depth, and what the dwarves did afterwards is barely mentioned at all. All of the characters have depth and personality, some with backstories that add to the story. The opportunity of the filmmaker is to visualise all of this, make it more real and expand upon the book, where the story is there but it isn’t as interactive and immediate as in the Lord of the Rings books.
Another thing that people also tend to forget is that to make the Lord of the Rings into just three films they cut an awful lot of material out, which is why the extended editions are treasured by die-hard fans, but even then entire storylines are just brushed aside. So making one book into three films I suspect was less of the challenge than making three extensive and long books into three films.
And then there is the scene in Gollum’s Cave. Riddles in the Dark is the single greatest scene in all six of Peter Jackson’s films of middle earth. The Fellowship of the Ring might have Arwen fleeing the Nazgul, The Two Towers might have Helm’s Deep and the march of the Ents, and the Return of the King might have the one ring melting in the fires of Mount Doom, but none of it compares to the sinister yet sweet interaction between Bilbo and Gollum.
Gollum who has lived so long in the dark can think only of riddles about the world he knows around him; the mountain, time, the wind, whereas Bilbo has teeth and eggs, before Gollum accidently slips up and tells him to ask him a question rather than a riddle. The horror Gollum faces when ‘what is in my pocket?’ makes him lose the opportunity to have a decent meal (Bilbo) for the first time in centuries. And then he finds the ring is gone, he snaps and Bilbo has no choice but to flee.
Pity though stays Bilbo’s hand, which means Gollum lives and waits for decades to hold his precious again, admittedly in the fleeing moments before he falls into the fire of Mount Doom and is part of the destruction of the one ring, because it is only in accident when Frodo and him are fighting over who gets to keep the ring that the ring is even destroyed. All that history and importance in one scene, you can’t help but love it, and because of it even the most sceptical person like myself can fall in love with Middle Earth again.
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