It may have been years in the making, and some cinema goers will almost certainly refer to it as the film event of the year, but unfortunately for Peter Jackson, The Hobbit was far from universally loved, picking up only 6.4/10 average rating on Rotten Tomatoes and attracting fairly wide-spread criticism, not least for its 48fps issues.
Opinions are of course completely subjective, and there are certainly elements of The Hobbit that some audience members enjoyed more than others – some people loved the Stone Giants sequence, while I found it completely superfluous, and others hated the songs, which I found a fitting touch to the original text in an adaptation that slipped quite far away from the source.
So what went wrong? Aside from the technical issues, and the over-extended length, there was definitely something wrong with certain parts of the film from the get go. And now the dust has settled, it seems that the biggest problems weren’t with story-telling, or creative choices (though they each had their issues), but thanks to a lack of that intangible magic that makes grand projects like this so enticing. And the reason for that, chiefly, was the cast.
The film might have been flabby, and the characterisations of certain characters sloppy, but the choices for those main characters just weren’t right in some cases. And that sits even more awkwardly when you inevitably compare it to cast of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Some of the casting was inspired though, and those choices will get their own mentions in due course of this article. But first to the mis-castings…
1. Richard Armitage – Thorin
In many ways the choice for the head of the party of dwarves was always going to be the most difficult: faced not only with the issues of the character himself, the film-makers were also faced with some issues hanging over from the success of the LOTR trilogy.
Unfortunately, the casting of TV actor Richard Armitage was not the smartest move.
As Thorin, Armitage needed to show regality as well as pig-headedness that Tolkien wrote into all of his dwarf characters, but he was clearly also told to take a significant lead from Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn, albeit played slightly more grumpily, and the effect was reductive. The comparison between the two, drawn by the similar ways the characters were brought to screen emphasised that Armitage is the lesser actor. Yes, his character is presented in such a way that we know he’s supposed to be much more important than everyone else, but like The Hobbit itself, by tonal proximity to the Lord Of The Rings, his performance is simply shown up as a little too light-weight.