The Hobbit: Something Thomas Wolfe said

[Screenshot]This was one of my childhood favorites; we had it on a VHS which I did my best to wear out. So revisiting it was simply something I had to do. Sadly, it hasn’t aged too well in my eyes. The most obvious thing I notice now that the animation’s actually pretty crude, one step up from having a stationary cell moving in a quick hop across the screen to represent running. The character designs aren’t too bad, but they’re not too expressive a lot of the time. The backgrounds, by way of contrast, are excellent, and the voice acting is generally sound, so on technical issues this is actually considerably above-average for the generally crude designs of Rankin/Bass.

As for adherence to the story: I remembered some things had been dropped, but I forgot which, There were a couple things I was sure were in this that I was disappointed to learn my mind had edited in later: in particular, the manner in which Gandalf defeats the trolls (clever in the book; completely incomprehensible in the movie), and the entire Bilbo-as-hardline-peace-negotiator plot device with the ransoming of the Arkenstone and whatnot, which I thought one of the more interesting bits of character development. In terms of faithfulness to the story, however, this movie is actually pretty impressive for something coming well shy of 90 minutes, and in one regard it is particularly laudable, namely the inclusion of almost all of Tolkein’s songs (albeit abridged,a nd with new tunes). They unfortunately didn’t keep this restraint for the sequels, and inflicted gems like “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way” on geekyouth. That said, the one original song for this production (“The Greatest Adventure”) is annoyingly folksy and overused, so maybe they were never that restrained to begin with.

As for tone, while this adaptation started out pretty strong and faithful, I was disappointed to feel that, as it went on, I was being subjected more and more to something which felt aimed solely at children. Yes, I know it’s a children’s adaptation, but the original was a children’s book, and somehow it wasn’t quite as juvenile-feeling. Part of it is the extensive explicitness, including the overused narration, I think. Pretty much nothing in the latter half of the story is shown without also being told, at least once, and even though it was simplified, it dodn’t have to feel simplified to the extent it did.

Maybe I should’ve been content with my happy memories. It’s still a fine children’s movie, and I can appreciate it on that level, but going back and looking again has not exactly vindicated my memories.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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