The Hobbit: An Unexpected Movie

The Hobbit is a book about good and evil, but the movie is all about the fighting. Photo: Warner Bros.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co., December 27, 2012 ― There is much to like about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. There are also some cautions. Reviewer opinions are mixed, and for good reason.

Fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy will enjoy The Hobbit. Some major characters – Gandalf, Golum, Galadriel and Elrond – return. Even Elijah Wood’s Frodo makes an appearance. There is no need to adjust to new faces in familiar roles. The magnificent New Zealand mountains and countryside return as well, as do the familiar Hobbiton and Rivendell.

The opening scenes of the dwarves meeting up at Bilbo’s house are simply delightful. The viewer immediately enters a familiar world.

Since the Lord of the Rings movies were produced one per J.R.R. Tolkien novel, we might have expected a single film for The Hobbit, but Jackson has decided to milk that book for three. How does the relatively simple tale of The Hobbit get expanded into a three-part movie series? Two movies would have been enough, but how do you expand it into three?

The answer, unfortunately, seems to be by elaborating on all the fighting and battle scenes.

The scene with the trolls goes on too long; it is a mere diversion in the book. There is some great movie magic as the mountains turn into stone giants, but again it goes on too long. The escape from the goblins entails countless bridges falling just as the company of dwarves crosses them. In the end, these extended action scenes dominate. Tolkien’s story is about overcoming challenges and growing as a person (or a hobbit, as the case may be), the movie does not focus on that at all.

It is not just that the movie minimizes those elements of the story – which are still present – it is that all the fighting and slaying of orcs and goblins makes the movie seem more like a video game, where the object is to kill as many creatures as possible to get to the next level – where the object is to kill even more of them.

And it is not just the movie, either. Before the movie started, the audience was treated to what seemed to be a trailer for every single movie to be released in the next six months. It seemed that every one of those trailers highlighted scenes of shootings, explosions and wild chases. Django comes to mind, but after five or six previews they all ran together.

Perhaps the trailers were targeted to The Hobbit’s audience, but the lobby posters for upcoming movies were for the movies advertised in the trailers. Nothing different.

In the wake of the violence at Sandy Hook, we should stop and consider the culture of violence in our society and how Hollywood glorifies it. Why is it all right to slice and dice alien and fantasy creatures, but not human beings? That’s a question of morality. That is a question not addressed by Hollywood, a question not even considered relevant by our increasingly secularized society.

Yet it is a vital question if we are to remain a civilized society. Hollywood reflects the culture, reinforcing it. When we were a more moral society, movies were about such themes as courage, honesty, overcoming adversity, and good winning out over evil. Today movies are morally ambiguous, a reflection of postmodernist moral relativism.

That ambiguity is fully played out in The Hobbit. A simple tale of adventure made to be read to children has been turned into a PG-13 video game. That’s really a shame, because it could be so much more.


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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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