Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit was just minding his own business, when his occasional visitor Gandalf the Wizard drops in one evening . One by one, a whole group of dwarves drop in, and before he knows it, Bilbo has joined their quest to reclaim their kingdom, taken from them by an evil dragon named Smaug. The only problem is that Gandalf has told the dwarves that Bilbo is an expert burglar, but he isn't....Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I saw the Rankin/Bass 'Hobbit' for the first time when I was about eight or nine years old. I was enchanted by the movie, and I credit it with motivating me to read 'The Hobbit' and later 'The Lord of the Rings', thereby transforming me into a lifelong Tolkien fan (albeit not as die-hard as some, I admit). This is probably the highest praise I can give it.
I re-viewed the movie recently. How does it stand up now that I am older and better-versed in Tolkien? So-so, I would say. Some comments/criticisms, in no particular order:
* The movie, I now realize, was seriously hampered by time constraints. The creators attempted to squeeze a very eventful novel's story into a two-hour TV movie, with commercials. The result is that everything seems very hurried, events are piled on top of each other with great speed and moments that ought to be savored get rushed. Also, the periodic fade-outs/fade-ins for commercials are distracting.
* A product of its time, the movie is wall-to-wall with songs, most with lyrics written by Tolkien, one written originally for the film, all sung to '70s folk ballad melodies. Tolkien's elves should not sound like hippie chipmunks.
* The '70s context also gives the movie a strongly pacifist message. All scenes of fighting are rendered, somewhat awkwardly, so as to avoid any actual blood or carnage (a mortally wounded character will be glimpsed in a freeze frame that will then spin into a blur, mirroring the character's disappearance from this life, I suppose). Speeches about the glory of war are presented so as to make the advocates look ridiculous. None of this is a bad, and is even refreshing, but it is the work of Rankin/Bass, not Tolkien.
* Some of the key players are perfect: Orson Bean as Bilbo, John Huston as Gandalf, Richard Boone as Smaug and Theodore as Gollum bring great life and character to the movie. The one-on-one scenes between Bilbo and each of the other three are easily the best part of 'The Hobbit'.
Overall, the movie is best suited for the audience for whom it was intended, children. Kids will probably like it, and might even want to explore Tolkien further.
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