[Yes, it’s been that kind of day! ;o) ]
I just read Gary Westfahl’s review of the last Hobbit movie in Locus. Highly recommended; you can read it HERE. I certainly won’t be composing a complete review of my own, since mine would suffer by comparison. So, I’ll take the low road, and throw out a comment on his review.
Reading Mr. Westfahl’s review was rather like watching the movie itself; I found myself agreeing with most of it, even when it felt a little more extreme than I was comfortable with, but with a nagging little “but” in the back of my mind. It seems that Peter Jackson had two options. 1) Make a movie out of The Hobbit, as written. That would have meant a relatively short, light, kid’s movie that didn’t really dovetail into LotR. Remember, when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, even he didn’t realize it was taking place in the same world as the Silmarillion. It wasn’t until the planned sequel was turning into the much darker, more nuanced and darker LotR that he made the connection, requiring him to do a little revisionism himself. The most satisfying and reasonable choice seemed to be to declare that The Hobbit was Bilbo‘s version of the story, sanitized for his nephew’s consumption. E.g., in the first edition, Gollum loses the Riddle Game, and gives the Ring away; presumably, Bilbo didn’t want it to look like he did steal the Ring, and once “we” know what the Ring “really” is, we realize it couldn’t have happened as Bilbo described it.
Thus, option 2): film not Bilbo’s account, but what “really” happened. That is, film a prequel to the epic Lord of the Rings movies that includes the basic facts of The Hobbit, placed in a wider context. That seems to be what PJ chose, and I for one am glad he did. In fact, my biggest problem is that he seemed to be too intent on constructing a mini-LotR, up to and including replicating his previous writing tricks: expand a minor bad guy to give the hero a nemesis and the nameless hordes a face; construct a new female character to balance the Boys Club somewhat (and give the rest of us something to look at rather than Legolas). So, instead of a prequel, we get a recapitulation.
However, Westfahl stars with a great point: “In sum, just as the original Total Recall (1990) can be described as an interesting 20-minute adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) padded out with 90 minutes of Arnold Schwarzenegger killing people, one might characterize this film as a charming 30-minute rendering of the last six chapters of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) padded out with two hours of repetitive slashing, stabbing, bludgeoning, and beheading. Tolkien, one imagines, would not be pleased.”