The Hobbit movie reviewed by Tolkien virgins. Does the Peter Jackson film make sense on its own?

Two Hobbit Virgins Take an Unexpected Journey

Two Hobbit Virgins Take an Unexpected Journey

Conversations in real time.
Dec. 14 2012 8:08 AM

Lord of the Huh?

Two Hobbit virgins take an unexpected journey.

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EY: Mostly I didn’t understand who the movie is for. It’s not for kids—there are too many grotesque, wart-covered, slavering beings getting their heads and limbs loped off. But what adult wants to sit through this? It soon became clear that no matter what happens, Bilbo Baggins and pals would come out just fine with the help of Ian McKellen’s wizard magic. I kept thinking that they should just use the magic to get them to their destination and cut out all the interim unpleasantness.

KW: As for who should see this movie, I’m guessing Tolkien fans of any age: I can’t imagine a child or an adult going through the ordeal of The Hobbit without prior affection for this elaborate world. The wizard magic was such a boring, nick-of-time failsafe device, and apparently dwarves can be chewed in half and battered with rocks and sent into 60-foot free falls and emerge utterly unharmed. 

EY: For goodness sake, even Bambi’s mother got killed! If they’d been willing to off a few dwarves it would have supplied a little tension. But in The Hobbit there was an endless dreary rhythm of marching ahead, nasty confrontation, marching ahead. I kept wishing Bilbo could return to his little Hobbit home, which had the charm of a miniature Downton Abbey. I would have been much happier with a cozy Hobbit drama set there. 


KW: Bilbo’s Hobbit hole was lovely and tasteful. I felt terrible for him when all those rowdy dwarves barged in and obliterated his pantry! I was also distracted by the fact that some of the dwarves had comical, bulbous faces and others looked relatively normal and human. Does that happen with age? And what did you make of our chief warrior-dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield? Son of blah blah blah.

EY: I thought Martin Freeman as Bilbo pulled off a nicely understated performance, but the rest of them were hokey and broad. The comedy didn’t make me laugh, but the pretentiously serious delivery of the made-up languages did. And I’ll blame Peter Jackson for the performances of the normally fabulous Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving. I guess elves—who are not diminutive!—are supposed to be ethereal and otherwordly. It just seemed like they were stoned on Percocet.

KW: +1 on the inappropriate laughter! I laughed out loud at the solemn shot of the Elvish king gazing down on everyone from his moose. But I enjoyed Cate Blanchett—and not just because she was one of the few women to grace an almost three-hour sausage fest. Her ESP exchange with Gandalf was one of the few moments of humor that didn’t rely on dwarves being loud or trolls being gross. As for Hugo Weaving, he did a great job portraying an inanimate object, albeit one that looks very impressive on a horse!

EY: Thanks for reminding me of the fact that in this entire world there are virtually no females. Give me a break that all epic, heroic deeds are done by males. That highly annoyed me. Also annoying was the ending—there isn’t one! You’re just being set up for the next movie in this series. It starts with that endless, droning prologue, and then it turns out the entire two hours and 45 minutes of The Hobbit is a prologue for the next over-orchestrated fight fest. However many are planned, I’ve had my curiosity sated and will happily skip the next.

Katy Waldman is Slate’s words correspondent. 

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.