scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Bests and worsts of ‘The Hobbit’ on film

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

In the process of adapting — and stretching — “The Hobbit” into three films, Peter Jackson and his Company had to make thousands of choices. They designed a world that hitherto existed only in the reader’s mindscape. They also added scenes and invented characters. Many fans applaud the decisions, but not everyone is happy with the results. Where were the filmmakers humble, and where did they stumble? Has Jackson become a master of CG technology, or its slave? And what about that Elf-Dwarf romance between Tauriel and Kíli? Weighing in is our panel of experts: Shaun Gunner, chairman of the United Kingdom-based Tolkien Society; Larry Curtis, senior writer for the Tolkien fan site; John Garth, author of “Tolkien and the Great War”; and Noble Smith, author of “The Wisdom of the Shire” and a narrative designer at Microsoft Studios. Here’s what the director and his team got right, and what should have wound up on the cutting room floor.




“Peter Jackson and company have consistently made great casting decisions. . . . Lee Pace was inspired. Richard Armitage was a great choice.” — Curtis

“[Martin Freeman] brilliantly captured Mr. Baggins’s metamorphosis from slightly prissy hole-dwelling bachelor to courageous and worldly adventurer, while retaining his lovely Hobbitish qualities: kindness, good humor, a sense of fair play and undying friendship, and a love of the simple joys.” — Smith

Martin Freeman as the Bilbo Baggins. Warner Bros./Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

Computer-generated characters

“It’s quite telling that the best creation in the ‘Hobbit’ movies is Gollum, inherited from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films and a really inspired visualization of the Tolkien original.” — Garth

“[Jackson] laid down the standard for what dragons are in cinema. He made him talk without looking absurd.” —Curtis

Visualizing Middle-earth

“Thanks to the influence of John Howe and Alan Lee, both well-known to Tolkien fans, Middle-earth looks the part as an authentic portrayal of Tolkien’s world.” — Gunner


“I’m blown away by the art direction from Alan Lee and John Howe. Those guys are like Renaissance masters born in the Third D Age (the era of 3-D cinema, that is).” — Smith

“World building. Peter, and the people he hires, have a real knack for making Middle-earth feel real. It isn’t just that he gets pretty landscapes, it’s that he fleshes out his sets and backdrops with detail and a feeling of genuineness that other directors lack. We feel Hobbiton, we feel Mirkwood, we feel the Dwarven Kingdom and Lake-town and each is distinct with culture and life in every shot because people live in them, or so we hope.” — Curtis

Warner Bros.

Expanding the story

“The writing team has cleverly interwoven bits and pieces from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Appendices and ‘Unfinished Tales’ to flesh out the whole Necromancer angle, which was not mentioned in the original version of the Hobbit.” — Smith


Expanding the story

“Jackson and his writing team didn’t stick to the story and instead adapted too far, bringing in too much and because of that leaving out too much. Reminding us over and over and over that yup, this is like ‘Lord of the Rings’! The connecting moments or nods to ‘Lord of the Rings’ were far too plentiful and too obvious. It wasn’t foreshadowing, it was beating the audience over the head.” — Curtis


“Hollywood is not exactly a bastion of feminism, yet even they felt the need to create the character of Tauriel. Tauriel is an authentic character with strong moral values; it’s a shame that she was cheapened to exist purely for a love triangle.” — Gunner


Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel. Warner Bros.

The Tauriel-Kíli romance

“A preposterous idea and involved some of the cheesiest dialogue in the films.” — Garth

“The ludicrous Dwarf-on-Elf love story of Kíli and Tauriel comes across as a cheesy adaptation from some dubious slash fiction source.” — Smith

Computer-generated characters

“The most effective villains in ‘Lord of the Rings’ were men in prosthetic makeup who felt real and terrified us. The CGI bad guys in ‘The Hobbit’ feel like cartoons, both in how they are written and how they are executed. Jackson wanted to perform great feats of CGI characters doing athletic, amazing things where the camera can follow anywhere, but the sacrifice was the feeling of real. . . . The bad guys never felt good.” — Curtis

Action sequences

The escape by barrel, which becomes an absurd ballet meets battle meets theme-park ride.” — Garth

Warner Bros./Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

“The gratuitous use of chain-reaction set pieces to show off the 3-D nature of the films. I’m thinking of the tedious escape from the Goblin King’s cave, and the endless flight from Thranduil’s house down the river, and the ridiculous Smaug chase inside the furnace-factory of Erebor that’s like some giant Rube Dwarfberg machine. Enough, I say! Give us more quiet moments. More Dwarven songs. More Bilbo!” — Smith


More coverage:

- Plots of first two ‘Hobbit’ films

- ‘Hobbit’ by the numbers