Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book & Movie Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Hobbit 

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: 3 Stars

I can never forget the first time I picked up a Tolkien novel - never. I was only thirteen, but I read through the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, appendixes included, in just eight days. Yes,eight days. As you can imagine, I did nothing but read those books, for they kept me utterly riveted to the page. The Hobbit, on the other hand, took me over eight weeks to read. In fact, it felt like a solid eight months. Sure, I have more work now that I did when I was thirteen and less free time to read, but for a novel as short as The Hobbit is, eight weeks (or more!) is a looong time. Needless to say, I never thought I could be disappointed by a Tolkien novel, but I was wrong. 

You should, straight up, that I worship the very ground Tolkien walks on. I've read nearly all his books, from The Lord of the Rings, to The Silmarillion, to The Children of Hurin. Thus, for me to say that The Hobbit was disappointingly boring, believe me, it was boring. In fact, if you plan to read a Tolkien novel, do not start with The Hobbit. Instead, start with Lord of the Rings. I say this for a few reasons, most notable because The Hobbit was written for children - and this, I suspect, is the root cause of my disappointment with it. 

The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy filled with darkness, with desperation, with fierce hope, and courage, and strength. It is masterful, it is genius, and it is a legendary timepiece of literature at its finest. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a rather comical, bumbling tale of Bilbo Baggins who finds himself accompanying a group of dwarves on their quest to retrieve their treasure that is currently being hoarded by the dragon Smaug. On their journey, they meet a variety of creatures and obstacles and, as usual, Tolkien excels in his imagination. It never ceases to amaze me the depth of creativity that he uses in his stories and his writing quite literally transports you to Middle Earth - the only reason I am giving this novel three stars. 

Nevertheless, in terms of character-building, this novel suffers. Although it has fewer characters than the entire Lord of the RingsTrilogy, I felt this one lacked more of everything. First we have the dwarves, the majority of whom we can forget for their names only appear again in passing and as individuals, they possess no character. Gandalf, while remaining to be the enigmatic wizard we knew and loved from The Lord of the Rings, seems to only exist to save everyone from doom. Bilbo, as a hobbit, only dreams of food and warm fires, until, of course, Gandalf leaves and he suddenly becomes the savior of all the dwarves. Needless to say, there is a severe lack of growth which I found disappointing - the book is, after all, called The Hobbit! We barely get a glimpse into the actual hobbit's growth or impact of this journey on him. 

In many ways, The Hobbit serves as a means to better The Lord of the Rings. Certain scenes, such as Bilbo's meeting with Gollum and his ultimate possession of The Ring was very interesting while others, such as his meeting with the dragon Smaug, felt all too hyped-up and anti-climactic. Thus, while The Hobbit is a must-read for all fans of Tolkien, or just all nit-picky readers who refuse to watch the movie before reading the book, I wouldn't recommend it as the starting point for any fantasy lover. It was a relatively slow, boring, and forgettable tale that I know I won't be returning to in the future. I fear that this will be one of the few moments in life where I will find myself admitting that the movie is far, FAR better than the book. I can't see how it can't be, especially since more time is spent developing the characters themselves. While The Hobbit was a disappointing read for sure, I still reveled in being back in Middle Earth and if there's any reason to read this, then it's that. Truly, there is no place that feels quite as home as Middle Earth does - for me, at least.

Title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 

Director: Peter Jackson 

Rating: 5 Stars

I'll admit it: the movie is better. I never thought I'd say that about any novel until I read The Hobbit, but Peter Jackson makes a droll novel like The Hobbit, one that is barely three hundred pages long, seem like an epic saga - because in his eyes, through his vision, it is. With "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," Peter Jackson breathes life into the flat, underdeveloped characters of Tolkien's children's novel. Not only that, but he gives them character, purpose, and a startling realistic quality that renders them remarkable heroes on their own right. While The Hobbit focused merely on Bilbo Baggins as he agreed to join a group of dwarves on their journey to reclaim their lost treasure, Peter Jackson turns this into a journey of reclaiming a lost homeland, a place to belong, and a fight for one's own land. 

What makes "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" such a remarkable film is, first and foremost, the way it has been shot. I saw this film in 3D and the vision was remarkable. It truly felt as if I was in Middle Earth myself, not sitting in a theater seat with a giant bag of popcorn in front of my face. Yet, what I liked best about Jackson's movie is that he added his own flair into it. As I mentioned before, we only witness what happens to Bilbo in The Hobbit. We sense no desperation from the dwarves to reach The Lonely Mountain except for a greed of gold and Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, has no personality whatsoever. In the movie, however, Jackson begins by telling us the tale of the dwarf kingdom that Smaug razes to the ground and overtakes; he tells us of Thorin, son of Thrain, and his childhood of watching his grandfather and father perish before his eyes and lose the kingdom that he is the rightful heir to; he tells us of the orc that kills Thrain and renders Thorin an orphan; he tells us of how Thorin builds a new life for the dwarves he is responsible for and how he bides his time, waiting to reclaim his lost home. Thus, in a matter of minutes, Thorin becomes, to us, as significant, heroic, and great a leader as Aragorn is. 

Furthermore, the troop of dwarves that follow Thorin become much like the beloved Fellowship, helping one another, adding Bilbo to their circle of friends, and joining together for a greater cause, all under the wise leadership of Thorin. Perhaps, best of all, however, is how Thorin underestimates Bilbo and how, in reality, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a tale of friendship where the novel was not. It is the story of how Bilbo comes to find in himself a greater courage and power than he thought possible and the general theme of home, of a place to belong, is so aptly felt. Jackson adds on a storyline that wasn't prevalent in the novel, but one that works perfectly with the plot, never changing the actual adventures that Bilbo faces. Instead, he only alters them ever-so-slightly to give them more depth and shows us what occurs to Thorin and Gandalf whenever they are separated from Bilbo. 

In this manner, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a long film, but one that doesn't feel that way. In fact, I would have sat in that theater for nine hours if it meant watching the entire film and now I am itching to at least see the trailer for the next movie, which I am certain will be just as bold, brave, and remarkable as the first. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a must-see for all fans of the "Lord of the Rings" movies or books and even if you're not a fan, I'd encourage you to give it a shot. In my eyes, it's the best movie of the year - even better than "The Dark Knight Rises", which is saying a lot since I am crazy about Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan and just Batman in general. Believe me, this is one movie you'll want to go see in the theater again and again and again - it is like nothing you've ever experienced before. 


  1. Confessions: I have not read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings BUT now that I've been warned, I will read LoTR first!

    While the book sounds...okay, I am SO excited to see the movie (when ever I can; maybe that and Les Mes together!) I LOVE LoTR that Jackson did and I am just super excited. Plus, I've heard Martin IS Bilbo so you know, excellent acting! Also: the always amazing Richard Armitage plays Thorin so I'm going to need to see it (even though he's a dwarf with a beard!)

    Great review of both the book and movie girl!

  2. I have not read The Hobbit. I think I tried once as a teen and got bored. I am listening to it on audio but I'm not loving it, which is weird since its full cast.
    I am WAY excited to see the movie though! I'm hoping we can go this weekend. I'm so glad it wasn't a disappointment!

  3. Too bad you didn't like it! I loved it. I started it 3 times before this summer and never finished it, but for some reason I inhaled it this year. At first it was nothing serious, a bit childish, but after you plow through that it gets pretty interesting.
    I am going to see the movie tonight, I cannot wait! Although 3 hrs in the theater might be a bit too much.

  4. I am the total opposite of you Keertana, I devoured The Hobbit when I was younger in a few days, but just couldn't get through the Lord of the Rings books. I think this is totally my fault though, as I watched all three films, and I can never get back to a book afterwards, I found it to be too descriptive. But yay for enjoying The Hobbit film, my friends really had mixed reviews for it, so I was unsure about watching it, but you've got me super excited about it once more! Brilliant reviews Keertana :)

  5. I am SUCH a picky kid; I really don't enjoy reading classical books, therefore I haven't read Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit yet. Actually, I think one of my elementary school teachers read part of The Hobbit to us, but I don't believe we ever finished it. I remember watching the old movie, though, and also recall that I was unimpressed. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy The Hobbit that much Keertana! It definitely seems like you have valid reasoning, since nothing sounds developed.

    But I'm so glad that the movie is fantastic! I've only heard gushing things about it, and can't wait to see it for myself. It definitely seems as if Peter Jackson blew some life into the characters and setting of the Hobbit. I can't wait to see it for myself!

    Lovely reviews as always Keertana. <3

  6. I am sure I read The Hobbit as a child but unlike the LOTR books, I don't have much memory of it, maybe that's because I found it boring too?

    In any case, I am always surprised when a film is as good or better than a book - it doesn't happen often, but when it does it's fantastic! I wasn't planning on seeing The Hobbit, but you can convinced me!

  7. See, this is where I went wrong. I started reading The Hobbit years ago and got about half way through, felt bored out of my brains and abandoned the Tolkien as an author, so it's clear that I need to try Lord of the Rings and not just give up on the guy if you say The Hobbit isn't nearly as good.

    Still, I will be going to watch the film (hopefully) as soon as I can, so I'm very pleased to hear you enjoyed it so much more and I know half the storyline, so hopefully I'll gather most of what's going off since it's so long since I watched TLotR that I fear all characters names and places will long ago have gone from my head.

    Lovely reviews as always! :)

  8. I want to argue that the movie and the novel worked in the same themes, feelings, and character growth. Because when I watched the movie all the things I felt while reading the book surged. But, instead I'm mentally lifting a finger and opening my mouth in protest only to close my mouth again because I can't be sure I'm remembering right. I read this book FIVE YEARS AGO.

    So. Moral of the story. There's only one thing left to do. Reread the copy I borrowed from the library to make my point. So I will do that.

    BUT I'M SO GLAD YOU LOVED THE MOVIE. I will be back.

  9. I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I have not read The Hobbit. I think I'll stick with not reading it and go see the movie instead! I LOVED (okay, maybe OBSESSED over is more accurate) the LoTR movies, and I'm dying for another piece of Peter Jackson's brilliance. So glad to know you loved it Keertana!

    Happy Holidays:)

  10. I must admit I read The Hobbit when I was fifteen and at the time I loved it...never as much as LOTR but I liked it...I though about rereading it before seeing the movie but my time didn't allowed it. But somehow I'm happy for it, cause I want to remember the Hobbit as something interesting. I highly doubt I'd like it so much today. But needless to say the movie was AMAZING! I loved everything form the character to the effects! :) Great reviews :)

  11. I definitely feel like I can understand where you're coming from on your thoughts about both the book and film. There are troubling aspects in the book, although I personally don't consider it to be dull. It's far simpler than The Lord of the Rings, but, when taking into consideration the intended audience and the fact that this book represented Tolkien's first exploration into Middle-earth, I think it works well. I did enjoy the film as well and for the most part approved of the changes made to the book, but not all. It became more epic for the big screen, but I wonder if it lost some of the sense of what The Hobbit is truly about in doing so. I plan on posting a film review as well, but I want to see the movie at least once more before attempting to do so!

  12. I haven't read any of Tolkien's novels but I've watched the Lord of the Rings movies and loved them. I usually watch them every year or so :) It's why I'm really excited about watching The Hobbit. So, it's good to know that you thought the movie was worthy of 5 stars.

    Hope you had a happy holidays, Keertana!

  13. I love everything that you're sharing with us, Keertana! To me, The Hobbit is more like chamber music while The Lord of the Rings is kind of like a symphony orchestra. So, while The Hobbit may not seem to be as flavorful or exciting, it still carries its own charm. I haven't watched the movie yet but I think I definitely will :)

  14. Oh I love The Hobbit! I love it for its simplicity and the fact that it is a middle grade novel. I recently re-read it (after reading it as a young person actually in the middle grades) and was fortunate to read it alongside my 9-year-old, Greta. Perhaps this has put on my rosy-shaded glasses for the book, but I remember loving it before then. HOWEVER, I am a very gullible reader and have always enjoyed Elevensies. I haven't seen the movie yet and for some reason, I don't really feel like I want to rush out and see it. I think it is maybe that it is broken up into three movies and the book isn't that long, so my mind wants to rationalize that there is NO WAY the movie can stay true to the book so therefore I CAN'T POSSIBLY enjoy it. But I don't know.

    I AM curious, however, at what point of the book the movie ends. Like, where does it cut off so the next movie will begin? Or am I just wrong about the movie in general? I am under the impression they've made the relatively short Hobbit book into three full-length Peter Jackson movies.

    But, yeah, I absolutely adore The Hobbit and LoTR.

  15. Great review...even if I'm a tremendous fan of The Hobbit and have been since my mom read it to me when I was in kindergarten! (Are you *sure* you didn't like it??) Anyway, I loved the movie too. I thought they had handled it very very well, and those three hours passed in a snap. Can't wait for the next one. :)

  16. I read The Hobbit when I was 8 and completely loved it which led me to read LOTR and the other writings of JRR Tolkien. I have not revisted the Hobbit book in adulthood but must say it sure was amazing when I first read it.

  17. Whoops, looks like I'm reading The Hobbit first, after two people told me to do so. Should've read this review first :D

    Anyway, this is a great review, and I think I like your movie review even better. It shows how much more enthusiastic you were about the movie than the film, and I have to agree. I'm not that far into the book but I read it a couple years ago, and the dwarves don't have their own identities. I can never keep them apart, but in my mind I see the movie characters and that helps.

    Nevertheless, the book is a children's book and I love the simple humour it uses :) it reminds me a little bit of Roald Dahl.

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