The Hobbit Doesn’t Work if Bilbo Baggins Isn’t a Fat Coward

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I haven’t seen any of the 500 Hobbit movies, The Hobbit: Attack of the Nine Barrels, The Hobbit: Bilbo vs. Frankenstein, TheĀ  Hobbit: The Legend of Bagger Vance, but I did see some clips last night.

The most obvious problem, aside from Jackson taking the style that made the Lord of the Rings movies and beating it so far into the ground that not even an army of dwarves could dig it up again, is that the titular Hobbit isn’t in any of the movies.

Bilbo Baggins is a fat coward.

That’s the one joke that keeps the book going. He isn’t Frodo. He’s not towed by the ring or desperation. He wants to prove that he isn’t a joke. And Tolkien eventually lets him do it. It’s a kindness that helped make the book beloved.

Bilbo comes into existence as a joke. He’s a fat cowardly little man who is allowed to be something more.

The Hobbit movies discard this central theme from the start because it’s okay for your hero to be a few feet tall, but he can’t be fat.

And yet when he isn’t fat, there’s no story. The whole plates gag is vaudeville comedy. It works if it’s built around a little fat guy who loves his stuff. It doesn’t work when a vaguely nervous and skinny Martin Freeman is in it.

The rest of it doesn’t work either.

Tolkien wrote this for kids. Bilbo Baggins is given a name that’s one step away from Fatty McFatster. He’s a broad joke. If you replace the joke, you replace the story, which is what Jackson seems to have done anyway. And there’s nothing to hang it on.

All of Peter Jackson’s changes in the Lord of the Rings movies were bad. Now he seems to have built a bunch of movies that are nothing but changes while casting Tumblr friendly actors. He’s gone as deep into CG as George Lucas so that it all looks like one big video game cutscene and has no point. The remaining actors, mainly Ian McKellen, are doing broad pastiches of their old roles. And there’s nothing at the center because there is no center.

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo feels like some obscure fifth hobbit from the Lord of the Rings movies. A fifth wheel who might have joined up without being wanted. The movies drown him in CG battles in a desperate attempt at distracting everyone from their emptiness.

Tolkien told a very simple and appealing story. Jackson killed its simplicity and appeal.