Movie review: A darker Hobbit than expected

Reading Time: 2 minutes
A more lighthearted wizard for The Hobbit.

Bilbo Baggins discovers the power of the Ring when he trips and falls and it magically slides onto his finger. Sound familiar? Probably because the same sequence of events happens to his nephew Frodo in Lord of the Rings.

Anyone who has read The Hobbit would be aware that this film version of the classic children’s tale is much darker than Tolkien’s original story. But why let a mere book get in the way of a cinematic interpretation such as this?

The Hobbit is a traditional tale of the archetypal hero’s journey. On wizard Gandalf’s advice, thirteen dwarves (led by Thorin Oakenshield) recruit Bilbo Baggins (a Hobbit) to help them reclaim treasure from a dragon. Gandalf’s reason for choosing Bilbo is unclear, although an intuitive hunch is the most likely explanation.  He introduces Bilbo to the dwarves as an expert thief, capable of sneaking into places unheard and unseen.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for children and its chirpy characters and simple plot are reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s benign, light-hearted storytelling where, like her, he often addresses his reading audience in an amusing, pantomime-like fashion. There is nothing sinister about most of the characters:  Hobbits are small, human-like creatures with hairy feet (less hairy than the Ewoks in Star Wars, but equally harmless nonetheless). Dwarves sing, dance and behave just as you would expect them to behave and dragons are as unsettling as ever.

So why has Jackson introduced new (and dark) characters such as an evil white Orc with a grudge?  Why has he added Sauraman, Radagast and Galadriel to the plot?  And why has he included a Nazgul?  Just for the hell of it (or so it seems).

Jackson appears to be suffering from the burden of his previous success. His highly acclaimed work on Lord of the Rings was the result of meticulous attention to detail and truly gifted cinematic storytelling. His vision of Tolkein’s Middle Earth beset by evil creatures was perfectly framed. Lord of the Rings is a dark and scary story. Tolkein intended it to be. He often said it was his horror of the industrialisation of the English countryside that inspired him to write his tale.

In contrast, The Hobbit was penned as a light-hearted romp to capture children’s imaginations.

Jackson can’t let go of his Middle Earth vision, even at the expense of Tolkien’s. Despite these reservations, I liked the film even though Jackson tries to turn it into The Lord Of the Rings.

The Hobbit is entertaining but it could have been much lighter. It will be interesting to see if the second part of the installment gets even darker.

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Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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