Popcorn Chat: The Hobbit vs The Lord of the Rings

Welcome to another post in my ongoing September Tolkien Reading Month series! Truth be told, many have found their way to Tolkien because of the mega blockbusters The Lord of the Rings movies turned out to be. It’s the same for me too as I watched the movies as a young girl of ten and have since declared my undying love for everything Middle-Earth. Imagine my surprise and excitement when Peter Jackson decided to adapt The Hobbit onto the silver screen too! I watched the second and third parts in the theatre surrounded by friends and buckets of popcorn. Although watching on the big screen was an experience of its own, I still like The Lord of the Rings adaptation much better without a shadow of doubt. In this post, I want to discuss what makes The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy a classic and The Hobbit movies a pale shadow in comparison.

Note: This post contains spoilers for the movies as well as the books!

STRM - The Hobbit vs LotR

Authenticity of the adaptation

The Lord of the Rings movie script kept fairly close to the source material. While it couldn’t bring every character we encounter onto the screen, one famous example being Tom Bombadil, it kept the changes to a minimum. Some notable deviations were the character arcs of Aragorn, Faramir, Arwen, Treebeard and Saruman. In The Hobbit, known for the lack of any female character in the books, we were introduced to Tauriel, who by herself seemed like a worthy addition until her character was spoilt by the introduction a love triangle. Bard’s story was also unnecessarily drawn out to gain enough material to justify three movies. Basically, sticking closely to the actual story would have worked better instead of adapting a small children’s story into a movie trilogy franchise just for the money.

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War scenes

Some of my favourite scenes in The Lord of the Rings are from the battle at Helm’s Deep, the siege of Gondor and the final battle at the gates of Mordor. The effects were amazing, the attention to detail stunning and the stunts, especially those performed by Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli, believably badass. The over-the-top action in The Desolation of Smaug as well as The Battle of Five Armies when it came to the depiction of elven warriors was unbelievable bordering on comical. It jarred me out of the narrative and I had a hard time taking any of these scenes seriously in The Hobbit movies.

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Setting

There were some really beautiful shots of the natural beauty of New Zealand in The Lord of the Rings trilogy whereas all we got in The Hobbit were special effect butterflies. A few unforgettable ones in the former were the Cardhras shots in the snow, the White Mountains when the beacons of Gondor were lit and Lothlorien. In The Hobbit, even the Rivendell scenes seemed doctored and didn’t capture the feeling of the place that we got to see in the Council of Elrond sequence.

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Consistency and pacing

While the screenwriters of The Hobbit did try their best, it was no match for how seamlessly the story flowed in The Lord of the Rings. I was constantly on the edge and worried about the characters because the stakes were much higher in the latter. The former is a prequel and doesn’t hold a candle to the enormous scale of the narrative in The Lord of the Rings. There were a lot of dull and draggy moments in The Hobbit along with unwanted filler scenes. The whole third movie about the downfall of Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies seemed hopelessly in need of more conflict to spice up the story. more so because it only takes up a very small portion of the book.

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Humour

Pippin’s constant chatter and the banter between Legolas and Gimli as well as Sam and Gollum were much needed moments of comic relief in an otherwise dark and epic story in The Lord of the Rings. While a few did seem forced, they added an element of lightness that was mostly absent in the books. In The Hobbit, a lot of the humour felt contrived and completely out of place. In the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey, when the Company halted in Rivendell, the dwarves were portrayed in a comical way as they complained about the “green food” and acted like the most immature and ill-mannered guests. Bombur also had to deal with his fair share of “fat jokes”, as he was shown to be the stereotypical glutton. Both of these didn’t really appeal to my sense of humour and were in rather poor taste, especially in the times we live in.

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Having said all of that, there were some good things which I liked in The Hobbit movies, so let me make a quick list of those:

  • Superb cast of characters
  • Brilliant soundtrack by Howard Shore
  • Riddles in the dark scene with Gollum
  • Benedict Cumberbatch’s motion capture portrayal of Smaug
  • Bard’s fierce daughters
  • Thorin’s descent into madness
  • The White Council’s attack on Dol Guldur

Overall, I very much prefer The Lord of the Rings movies to The Hobbit, although it must be said that both are not perfect adaptations. I would highly recommend watching The Hobbit first to lay some groundwork and also so that when you get to The Lord of the Rings, the wow factor is much more pronounced. After all, the movie franchise to have won the most number of Oscars has to be given the reverence it deserves.


Comments

Have you watched these movies? If so, which is your favourite series? What scenes from the book did you think should have been included in the movies? Let me know in the comments section below.

19 thoughts on “Popcorn Chat: The Hobbit vs The Lord of the Rings

  1. I really think the LotR films did better because they stick closer to the source material, and not because I’m a book purist. First of all, as you mention, The Hobbit was never meant to be an epic. Pretending a children’s book is an epic war film was never going to work. Secondly, Peter Jackson’s added scenes just weren’t as good as Tolkien’s. The strongest parts of the films were the ones straight from the book, such as “Riddles in the Dark.” The characterization and the pacing are phenomenal. Jackson just gives us a trippy wizard, a weird relationship between Galadriel and Gandalf, a love triangle with Tauriel, and a glowing Galadriel. Meh.

    Plus, all these added scenes ruined the pacing of the story. In the books, Bilbo’s character change comes in Mirkwood when he is alone and must face his enemies himself. He finds his courage. Jackson moves this moment up when Bilbo rescues Thorin’s life in an added scene. So then Jackson has to have Bilbo’s character regress so he can find his courage AGAIN once the films finally make it to Mirkwood. It’s terrible writing.

    I’ve long maintained that The Hobbit should have been two films with the break occurring in Mirkwood. We could end with Bilbo finding his courage facing the spiders and then start again with him entering into the Elven halls. Then his character wouldn’t have to go back and forth for added “drama.”

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    1. After reading your comment, all I want to say is “I agree with every single thing!” πŸ˜‚

      I think the only scene with Radaghast I liked was the one with Sebastian because the hedgehog was very cute. They took Tolkien’s mention of an “odd” wizard a bit too far. Oh, I completely forgot about the weird “hints” we got about Gandalf and Galadriel. I really didn’t enjoy that either.

      I really like your version better with the two movies and Bilbo’s character arc. I was very much enjoying the first movie until that unnecessary climax because I was expecting they’d make it all the way to Mirkwood. This journey wasn’t as long or complicated as the one to Mount Doom and it just doesn’t have enough material to justify three movies.

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      1. Yeah, I have a feeling Tolkien didn’t imagine his wizards as ever being quite THAT odd. But Sebastian is cute!

        I agree! Even with the material from Dol Guldur, there wasn’t enough for three films. That chase through the goblin halls was just ridiculous.

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  2. Pingback: September’s Blogsphere Highlights #1 (2018) | BiblioNyan

  3. I agree with everything in this post, including all the bits of The Hobbit that you did love. However, while LotR will always be vastly superior than The Hobbit films for me, there are enough aspects of The Hobbit movies that I adore which make me grateful that Peter Jackson got to make them (the riddle scene alone would make me feel that way). I also agree with Krysta that The Hobbit would have been much better as two films, without so much of PJ’s original storylines added in. I remember being excited when I heard it was going to be two films, then feeling wary when that was changed to three…

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Jenna! 😊

      Yes, I felt the same when they changed from a duology to trilogy! I just really liked the first movie and was prepared for some really intense action in the second one, but even Benedict’s performance of Smaug couldn’t counteract the over-the-top fight scenes and unnecessary love triangle. The third one I was hopeful for because I LOVED the war scenes in The Lord of the Rings but war pigs and the Thorin-Azog showdown at the end just didn’t cut it for me. I think it went steadily downhill from the first movie for me personally. πŸ˜”

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      1. Ugggggggh the love triangle =.=. The first time I saw The Desolation of Smaug, I actually cried because I was like “What is this, why is this happening, why is it so bad??” (The second time I watched it I was less traumatized, lol.) I have only seen the third movie twice, both times in theatres when it was released. Have you seen the extended cut of BotFA? I am curious about the funeral scene that I think is in there, but also I head it’s mostly just extra action stuff…I enjoyed the first movie best as well. I thought it was pretty true to the books, minus the awkardness of Rivendell, and up until the goblin caves when things started getting over the top. πŸ˜›

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  4. *applauds Nandini*

    Excellent job with this post! I agree with just about everything you said, though I will say that I enjoyed the first Hobbit movie quite a bit. I was so thrilled about a new Middle-Earth movie that, while I wasn’t and still am not blind to the movie’s flaws, I still had a ball watching it that first time. But then I had some issues with Desolation of Smaug, and Battle of the Five Armies… well, I was so disappointed with that film that it actually hurt. :/

    I also was NOT a fan of the Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle, and as a result I felt bad for Fili because his character was somewhat brushed off in the second and third Hobbit films. (If one brother gets that much attention, why can’t both of them?) And I’m glad you pointed out the “doctored” bit of the settings in the Hobbit trilogy. That was something I noticed when I watched those films, too, and it reminded me of how the settings in the Star Wars prequels (the ones with young Anakin Skywalker) relied so heavily on CGI that they didn’t look realistic. Granted that the original Star Wars trilogy was filmed 20+ years earlier, but when a prequel trilogy that chronologically takes place 15 or 20 years earlier looks more futuristic than the original trilogy, you know there’s a problem.

    I have more to say, but I’ll stop here for now. XD πŸ˜‰

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    1. Thank you so much, Sara! 😊 I was so nervous posting this because I didn’t know how many people would get what I was talking about. πŸ™ˆ Yes, I actually enjoyed the first movie and then it got steadily downhill for me too. If it had been shortened to a duology I think I would have liked it more.

      That’s a good point you made about Fili. When they are first introduced they start off on an equal footing and then Fili fades into the background, so much so that I would’ve felt nothing at all at his death had I not had the background of the book.

      That’s an interesting comparison, Sara! Although I watched the Star Wars movies “backwards”, i.e. prequels first and then the original trilogy, I liked the older movies so much better and didn’t think the prequels did them justice.

      Haha, I’d love to ramble on about this too. πŸ˜‰ You can always DM me or write a blog post of your own whenever you find the time so we can discuss some more. I’d really like to hear your in-depth thoughts about this! 😊

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      1. Well, you’re not in the minority there. From what I remember reading from other fans, and from talking with friends IRL, LOTR is widely viewed as the superior of the two Peter Jackson Middle-Earth film trilogies.

        I’m sure there was more I wanted to say, but now I don’t remember most of it. XD But I do remember wanting to add that, despite all the criticisms I have about the Hobbit films, I really enjoyed the acting performances by Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug), Martin Freeman (Bilbo), and Richard Armitage (Thorin). They each did an amazing job with portraying their characters. I just wish the material was written well enough to truly let them shine.

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      2. Haha, that’s fine! πŸ˜‚ Yes, those are my three favourites too and then probably Evangeline Lilly as well as Christopher Lee because The Battle of the Five Armies is the last movie I saw him in. They actually had a superb cast just like they did with LotR and I wish the same too! πŸ˜”

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  5. elissa

    I was going to say, “Does anyone even thing The Hobbit series was good?” but I see someone commented above that they liked it better, so hmm! I liked the Hobbit (the book) fine but didn’t even watch the 3rd movie after watching the bloated 2nd film, and that’s with my love of Richard Armitage (Thorin). Aside from everything else you said, I think the change in the way the movies were filmed also affected how I felt about them. Hobbit was so much CGI and green screen; LOTR used camera tricks and practical effects, which made the characters’ interactions with the world seem more real to me. The sort of “grounding” made the LOTR films feel more substantial and like there was more at stake for the characters. This is a great post πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Elissa! 😊 Apparently, yes, and I didn’t know they existed! Richard Armitage’s acting is dazzling in the third, but it’s really not worth the time if you’re already so disappointed with the second. Yes, that made a huge impact on how I felt too! Thank you so much for sharing your opinion. ❀

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