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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.