Our friends Alan Jacobs and David Goldman give their thoughts on The Hobbit, a quick response to which I wrote on Saturday.
Alan’s review is fairly critical. Reacting to all the action — what I called the “bang/pow/slash/crash/boom” stuff — he wrote:
all I could to was watch the dwarves bounce around from horror to horror. My hands felt empty and useless without the controller they so obviously needed. Video-game aesthetics are built around the assumption of manual activity: they work far better when you have something to do. I didn’t really want to sit passively and watch Peter Jackson play with his Xbox but that’s what I felt was happening to me for much of the second half of the movie. All I could do was sigh and wait for Peter to finish so we might return for a while to something like a human story.
And the human story is there, just underdeveloped.
David’s review is more positive. The problems he saw in the movie “are not minor flaws,” but the movie is ”for the most part . . . brilliantly conceived and executed.”
There are many wonderful things about Jackson’s film, of which the choice of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins stands at the top of my list; unlike the listless Elijah Wood, a boy playing the role of the middle-aged Frodo in the “Rings” trilogy, Freeman is a grown-up. He is a master of English understatement but also an actor of great range, and he carries the film brilliantly. As in the “Rings” trilogy, the sets and settings are marvelous. Especially gratifying was the inclusion of many of Tolkien’s poems with affecting settings by Howard Shore.
I agree with both of them. Alan speaks of the film makers missing “a vital opportunity” to tell the powerful story that underlies the plot of The Hobbit. He’s right about this, but that’s also exactly what I expected from Jackson. One can complain, but it’s like expecting the Pittsburgh Pirates to try to have a winning season: it’s not what they do. So, as I said, it’s an enjoyable movie if you don’t expect it to be a movie of the book.