The Hobbit, Movie v. Book

I know, I know. I’m months late to the party on this one. I did see the movie while it was still in theaters – that special film 3-D IMAX version even. But after I watched it I decided I needed to reread the book before I could have any real opinions on it.

When I first heard they were making The Hobbit into a movie, I was pretty excited. I read the book in middle school and it was GREAT. I couldn’t remember details beyond that the characters were charming and well developed and the story was enthralling. (I definitely didn’t remember the orks being quite so nightmare-inducing.) Then I heard that it would incorporate a lot of the Silmarillion and be three movies LONG and my enthusiasm waned.

The movie did do a great job of casting with regard to how the characters described in the book and just general quality actors. They stole people from everything I love (I’m still kind of mad at Mitchell for leaving Being Human). Also, Martin Freeman is great in everything. (Sherlock, Hitchhiker’s Guide, seriously everything he touches) How is he doing that?! Oh and Lee Pace.

Full disclosure: the pro that tilted the pro-con list on my decision to see it in theaters was finding out they had cast Lee Pace – the Pie Maker from Pushing Daisies. As it turns out, he’s in it for all of five seconds and I might have missed it if I didn’t know he was an eight-foot tall blonde man in real life. So, logically, he’s an elf. (He’s the one who’s leading the army over the ridge as the dwarves are fleeing Rivendale and decides to turn around. In case you missed it.)

The movie is, as my rereading confirmed, pretty true to the book. Except that the beauty of the book, in my opinion, was that it’s a quick paced adventure (aka: no dawdling). So the characters, though flawed (and thus believably well-rounded), never get on your nerves. Not even Bilbo and his oft discussed buttons (Tolkien really wanted you to know the status of Bilbo’s buttons at every turn) and handkerchiefs. The movie does not have that going for it. It’s weighed down with character backstory, a lot of history and what seems to be real-time walking.

I also¬† much preferred Beorn, the bear-man of the book, to Radagast the Brown, the woodland-creature-obsessed-semiwizard of the movie. I’m assuming Radagast is from the Silmarillion that the writers/directros felt was necessary to include – I suspect there was a lot of Silmarillion in there that I didn’t understand and that there will be even more in the two movies still to come. But I really do not care enough to read the whole history of Middle Earth. Sorry, Mr. Tolkien, you seem really smart and all but inventing whole languages is just too much. The movie did represent Gollum perfectly though; he was somehow both scarier and more sympathetic than in the trilogy. Good job, CGI toad-man.

Ultimately, as is almost always the case with me, I enjoyed the book more. In this instance I love the book for its brevity which is not the usual way of book to movie conversions. And I seriously question the creators decision to include so much of Tolkien’s other material – it feels like it’s just dragging things down when they could have made it into its own series next (infinite LOTR films and money for them!) or included it in the already pretty weighty trilogy films. Why you gotta mess with the book I liked the best, producers?

Fun fact: The Hobbit book doesn’t actually describe the elves physically. If I hadn’t already seen the trilogy movies, I definitely would have imagined miniature flying humans with wings. Can anyone who has more recently read the other Tolkien books vouch for them having always been tall Lee-Pace-like creatures?