Wot I Think: Lego The Hobbit

By Adam Smith on April 17th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Lego The Hobbit could simply be called ‘There’ because there ain’t no ‘Back Again’. Lacking the narrative content that will form the final third of the swollen and gaseous film trilogy, this is a perfectly acceptable entry in Traveller’s Tales’ Lego franchise but the release comes at an odd time. The disappointing Lego Movie Videogame is barely out of diapers and Smaug has finished his desolation of multiplexes, leaving the game stranded in the wilderness before the final chapter of an unfinished story. Here’s wot I think.

I haven’t seen the second film because I did go to see the first one and I’m not convinced that it’s finished yet. Every time I wash a dish I have nerve-needling flashbacks. The Lord Of The Rings films were effective because Wingnut created a Middle Earth that felt historical rather than mythological, treating the silliness of elves, dwarves and all with just enough gravity that most audience members accepted that serious business was occurring.

The first Hobbit film flits between cartoon capers, Looney Tunes violence and beard-stroking pensive conversation. The tonal confusion – is Bilbo’s journey a jaunty inconsequential series of misadventures or an epic quest with grave political implications – is absent now that The Hobbit has been translated into Lego language, and (unsurprisingly) the use of dialogue, scenery and set pieces from the films is similar to that seen in Lego Lord Of The Rings.

Indeed, it’s not quite true to say that the tonal confusion is absent because, as in the last visit, much of the humour in Lego Middle Earth comes from the juxtaposition of pratfalls and mischievous fourth wall breaking with Howard Shore’s wonderfully grand score and the often earnest performances of the cast. Graphically, the Lego games are now at the point where visually spectacular setpieces are possible and The Hobbit is packed with them.

While some sections, particularly the escape from Goblin Town, are almost as overlong and cumbersome as their cinematic inspiration, most are much improved in this version of events. I found the blunt, literal interpretation of the storm giants’ game was one of the film’s weakest scenes but it’s a highlight of the game, cheekily tipping a hat in the direction of Shadow of the Colossus. For the first time, a Lego game with scenes directly pulled from a cinematic source actually surpasses the original with its depiction of the action.

As with Lego: LOTR, Middle Earth acts as an expanding hub, with hundreds of discoveries scattered about its lanes and settlements. Major events in the films take place in separate levels, several of which are lengthy and unimaginative. On the whole, each adds something enjoyable to the toybox though, usually a new character, minigame or simple mechanic. While there are no particularly astounding surprises for anyone familiar with at least one other recent Lego game, The Hobbit is as polished and content-rich as I’ve come to expect.

At one point, I decided to rush through the remainder of the story missions so that I could get on with writing the review, but five minutes later I’d returned to my old habit of smashing every object on every screen so that I could collect all of the sweet, sweet studs (also the name of the ‘dance troupe’ I accidentally joined during Fresher’s Week). I don’t know whether it’s the audio-visual feedback or a completionist streak in my character, but something drives me to hoover up those little colourful blobs. Give me an attractive backdrop and some precarious piles of bricks to smash and I’ll sit hammering buttons for hours at a time.

I don’t think it’d be fair to describe that process as grinding because I don’t collect the studs to progress or to achieve anything in particular, I do it as if it’s an end in itself. The Hobbit does contain honest-to-badness grinding though in the form of collectible gems and other doohickeys that can be used to craft objects. The drop rates are reasonable at first but on later levels, mining the clearly marked spots didn’t always earn me enough bits and bots to forge items on an initial runthrough.

Part of the appeal of these games is the ability to replay areas with new characters and abilities, but I’ve never particularly enjoyed that aspect, preferring to wander around the hubs in my spare time rather than replaying the linear levels. The Hobbit feels like more of a chore than previous games, partly because it is so packed with things to do and see. My completion percentage is low and I’m not inclined to return and bump it up, but I do feel like I’ve missed some of the good stuff, which isn’t usually the case.

One new feature (new to me, may have been in the Lego Movie game, which I haven’t played) is a minigame that attempts to introduce the joy of building things into the game. It’s always seemed odd to me that a game about a construction toy doesn’t contain anything resembling creative assembly other than the rapid piecing together of blocks, accomplished by performing the extraordinary architectural feat of holding down a button. The Hobbit takes things a step further by adding minigames, in which certain items are assembled automatically piece by piece, with occasional pauses during which the player must select the next item from a small selection.

The minigame is even simpler than it sounds – the game shows you the necessary item so you just have to match the shape with the silhouette – but I enjoy seeing tiny pieces of Lego clicking and clacking into place. That such a dull process can please me says a lot about my tolerance for such things but also makes me once again recognise that whatever other license is attached, the Lego license itself continues to be a strong part of the appeal.

Character switching is the most frustrating part of the game. With LOTR or the superhero franchises, I have a good sense of who can do what. Need to smash something? Go with Hulk. Need to shoot a target? Try Legolas. In The Hobbit things aren’t quite as obvious. Need to drag a block? Flick between four fucking dwarves with different shades of beard until you settle on the only one capable of shifting it. Every character has one ability, with one specific use, but levels tend to require switching between those abilities every couple of minutes. Playing with a friend would cut down on the need to swap so often but it still feels like work rather than play. It’s a shame that instead of thinking through problems, players are essentially asked to try every key on the ring until they find the one that fits each lock blocking the way forward.

It feels good to finish on a complaint. When I was writing about Path Of Exile a few days ago, I felt a bit mean finishing on a sour note, but The Hobbit left me feeling a bit grumpy. Admittedly, burning through a Lego game as quickly as possible isn’t the best way to play, and I’d probably feel more fondly toward this one if I’d dipped in and out over a period of weeks.

Even the most ardent of Lego game fans probably haven’t run out of content in all of the previous releases yet, and I can’t imagine many people feel a burning desire to see Jackson’s latest in Lego form RIGHT NOW. With a Complete Saga no doubt due sometime after the final Hobbit film is released, along with a probable DLC pack, it seems sensible to wait. But if you do need a new Lego game in your life right now, this is a good one. Bits of it are awesome, most of it is decent.

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97 Comments »

  1. clive dunn says:

    Blooming hell, I was googling ‘Flick between four fucking dwarves’ and it brought me to this site. Grrrr, I’ll try again.

  2. Shodex says:

    Unrelated to the game, but I find the most baffling part of the films are the fact that despite how much crap they’re adding on for the sake of padding they seem to be cutting an absurd amount of content. Every scene is there, but it’s all shortened to hell like they had to rush through it.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Jackson did exactly the opposite with King Kong — he took original scenes and stretched them out to hell and back. The man loves his filler material.

    • danijami23 says:

      I might be biased because of my fandom for Middle Earth, but I think what Peter Jackson did a really cool job in mentioning certain stuff; things that are mentioned in the book but rely on you to go reading about in that companion book Tolkien wrote on Middle Earth, in order to get a full picture. It was giving viewers new to the world of ME a chance to hear about all the wonderful guff that Tolkien came up with.

      I did not however, appreciate that stupid elf woman they fabricated so that they could have the sexy chick from Lost in the film.

      • Shodex says:

        My three biggest gripes with the films are:

        1. All the Orcs and Sauron subplot crap, they just show up at random times for an action scene then disappear. None of the Sauron stuff can be resolved because that’s for Lord of the Rings, so it serves no purpose of being in The Hobbit. Why not pad out the movies with all the content you’ve cut instead of muddying up the plot and ruining the simple charm of the original story?

        Also, this is 50 years before LotR. How the hell did Sauron catch everyone by surprise if they had found him out and he was moving Orcs around 50 years before the Fellowship.

        2. WE GET IT. THE RING BECOMES IMPORTANT LATER. BUT NOT IN THE HOBBIT, SO STOP WITH THE SPOOKY FORESHADOWING EVERY TIME BILBO LOOKS AT THE DAMN THING, WE ALREADY KNOW.

        3. “Why didn’t Gandalf just call the eagles from the beginning?” “Why don’t the eagles just fly them to the mountain?” “Why did the eagles leave them on a big ass rock?” In The Hobbit novel everything about the eagles is thoroughly explained and is perfectly logical, but even after all the eagle complaints from LotR they still completely screwed up the eagle scene bringing in a whole slew of plot holes.

        Actually… no, I have a fourth gripe too:

        4. SMAUG IS A DRAGON GOD DAMMIT. THAT’S NOT A DRAGON. WHY DOES NOBODY KNOW WHAT A DRAGON IS ANYMORE. GAME OF THRONES, SKYRIM, THE HOBBIT, EVERYTHING. NOT A SINGLE DRAGON.

        • eleion says:

          In what way are they not dragons? I am genuinely curious.

          • Shodex says:

            Dragons have four legs, those are all Wyverns. They even edited the small bits of Smaug you see in the “Extended Edition” of the first film since he was clearly originally intended to be a dragon.

          • eleion says:

            D: I never noticed their lack of forelegs before. That’s really going to bother me, now!

          • Damn Rookie says:

            @Shodex. Very good point! Thanks for pointing that out, I can’t believe I missed that. I think I even knew the difference between the two once upon a time, as well… I’m really surprised Peter Jackson and his team would make that kind of a mistake, what with all the effort they put into realising Tolkein’s work on the big screen.

          • Shodex says:

            http://masaru2042.tumblr.com/post/68783608368/i-heard-they-made-smaug-a-wyvern-that-makes-me
            Here’s some comparison shots, so it’s not even just a misunderstanding in this case. They clearly made him a proper dragon originally, but decided to retcon him into a wyvern for… some reason.

            It’s a really nerdy thing to bitch about, but this is Tolkien we’re talking about. I’m allowed to be really nerdy about Tolkien.

          • gwathdring says:

            I’m sorry, but I don’t think something as fuzzy and wibbly as the taxonomy of *dragons* is something you can argue about as though it’s a matter of factual correctness.

          • Shodex says:

            Even if they are fictional, dragons and wyverns have existed in European history for a VERY long time (no I don’t mean they were tromping around, I mean in mythology, art, literature, etc.) and the difference between the two was always the same.

            Dragons have been four legged and wyverns two legged for centuries. Dragons were also described and drawn properly with four legs by Tolkien, since Middle Earth is supposed to be Europe and the European Dragon or the Wyrm has four legs. You can call it “fuzzy and wibbly” all you want, but the fact remains that this is a distinction that has been made for centuries and centuries and while I don’t think authors should never be allowed to do things their own way, Tolkien should always be done Tolkien’s way.

            Mislabeling a wyvern as a dragon isn’t really creative anyways, 9 times out of 10 it’s probably just a mistake made by people who don’t know any better.

          • gwathdring says:

            You misunderstand my gripe and I believe it was my fault for putting the emphasis wrong.

            What impact on the experience does the beast having the wrong number of legs have? Does it change the potency of it’s anger and it’s breath? The way in which it is defeated? The conversation it has with Bilbo? Those are things that matter to me; and I have some qualms with how the film handled Smaug to be sure. But how many legs it has just … I understand why that matters to the study of fictional creatures. I get that sort of thing. I really do. But … why does it matter if Smaug is a Dragon, Wyvern, or something else entirely? Why does it matter if *the characters in the story* call it Dragon or Wyvern correctly? Can those characters not also make errors?

            But frankly, the distinction between Dragons and whatevers is quite a bit more vague than you make it out. There are any number of beasts with odd numbers of legs and odd features that have been called dragon over the years. The key is that it is reptilian, scaled, and breathes fire. The trouble with this sort of distinction is that people have been “mislabeling” dragons for as long as you claim the distinction has been of import … so at what point does the pedantic measure become less accurate than the vulgate measure? If I call it a dragon when it has the wrong number of legs, everyone still knows what I mean. If there is a Manticore and a Dragon in the room and I say “Shoot the dragon!” no one is going to be confused. If there is a Wyvern and a Dragon in the same room, a great many people who know a great deal about such things may well be pretty damn confused when I say “Shoot the dragon.”

            But, again, that wasn’t meant to be my main interest. My main interest is that the impact all this has on the fictional structure of the Hobbit is non-existent and it need not indeed be a dragon to you or anyone else to be a dragon to Bilbo and company and to avoid confusing the audience. I assure you, there was no ambiguity for the audience and therefore no miscommunication and therefore no need to be concerned about the mislabeling. No one was harmed in the naming of it Dragon. Though I suppose harm may have come to Smaug if his legs were hacked off and not simply never-been.

            In any case the “european Wyrm” is a conglomerate vision, not a taxonomic constant. It is a collection of common themes. An approximation of mixed folk-lore. It is not a precise and definitive thing. Anyone who says otherwise misunderstands the organic nature of these sorts of legends and, indeed, of language itself. Taxonomy is, in a way, it’s own language designed for very precise purposes. Natural language is much less precise about a great many things for, as it turns out, the kinds of fine details that make all the difference in the world of genetic codes and cell lines and bone structure and evolutionary development make very little difference in terms of whether the creature is food, nuisance, or what-have-you. Many distinctions essential to science are utterly invisible to lay-folk and thus irrelevant to colloquial speech. So with the number of legs on a god-damn dragon. Visible it may be, but dragons not being real and being otherwise very much the same thing as wyverns for most practical purposes and being subject to the whimsy of poetic license which further blurs and feathers these lines … it’s really not a relevant distinction in terms of how people actually talk about dragons.

            To try to apply a precise taxonomy to creatures that didn’t exist based on a retroactive average of their many historical incarnations is utterly foolhardy. Especially since even Tolkien refers to the creatures with inconsistent terminology. I think this was partially intentional mixing rather than a perception on his part that all of the terms were supposed to be synonyms, but that’s a pet theory without real merit. In any case: how do Drakes and Worms fit into your precise classification system? Because Tolkien mixes both terms with Dragon.

          • tnzk says:

            What impact on the experience does the beast having the wrong number of legs have?Does it change the potency of it’s anger and it’s breath? The way in which it is defeated? The conversation it has with Bilbo? Those are things that matter to me; and I have some qualms with how the film handled Smaug to be sure. But how many legs it has just … I understand why that matters to the study of fictional creatures. I get that sort of thing. I really do. But … why does it matter if Smaug is a Dragon, Wyvern, or something else entirely? Why does it matter if *the characters in the story* call it Dragon or Wyvern correctly? Can those characters not also make errors?”

            Especially for Tolkien fans, the impact is pretty big, because Tolkien did place heavy emphasis on world-building. While the function of characters and plot is important, to deny that form is not important to be taken seriously in Tolkien’s material is erroneous. This is partly due to the fact that Tolkien is a medievalist, and took the culture of medieval Europe seriously, folklore included. On a more esoteric scale, Tolkien was ardently Catholic, and we Catholics are huge sticklers for form, for clarity in knowledge, which ultimately leads to faith. I’m not sure if Tolkien’s classification of Smaug as a dragon is meant to be an allegorical adherence to form, but I would suspect it was residual.

            The simple fact that we’re confusing dragons and wyverns today is due to ignorance (and stupid D&D classifications, I presume). And no, it’s not important that we know the difference, but it’s the honest reason for the confusion. Today we envisage dragons to be winged super reptiles. That’s more or less the wyvern. A dragon as depicted in medieval folklore evolved into something legendary.

            I think for many Tolkiens fans, we really wanted to stick it to Harry Potter, Eragon, Warcraft, and other high fantasy fans and say “See this creature, Smaug? Now this is a dragon.” Unfortunately, Smaug ended up looking like any one of these other bastards.

            Oh well, at least we have Sean Connery as Draco!

          • Shodex says:

            What he said. As I said before it’s a nerdy complaint and to most people it seems petty, but this is Tolkien. Tolkien is nerd crack. It’s the epitome of nerd. It’s right next to Star Trek in terms of things nerds nerd out over. And I’m not even allowed to be nerdy about Star Trek anymore because the new movies are action film toss.

            I mentioned other media aside form The Hobbit when I first griped about it, because nothing has proper dragons anymore. And (In response to the guy below) I know a 4 legs and 2 wings is silly and unrealistic but, it’s a fucking dragon. I know that’s the expected and easy response, but it’s the only one I can give you. It’s a dragon. It’s massive, defies gravity and flies around, breaths fire, and for the love of god Smaug even has a British accent. The realism of his limb count is the last thing I’m worried about, nor is it something anybody would worry about if he was a proper dragon in the film.

            Like tnzk said, Smaug is a really iconic dragon and I was looking forward to arguments with people over Smaug vs. Dany’s dragon’s in ASoIaF. Smaug is one of my favourite dragons, he’s a real dragon. He’s what I think of when I think dragon. This massive, slumbering, behemoth (with four legs), on a pile of gold and treasure. What irks me the most is just the fact that they had originally made him a proper dragon, but he was retconned. So it’s not just a mistake, this was a deliberate choice they made.

          • Gap Gen says:

            “It’s right next to Star Trek in terms of things nerds nerd out over.”

            This is kinda fun, since one is set in a hi-tech future and one has industry and technology being the domain of evil wizards (there are fun rants by Michael Moorcock and China Mieville about this aspect of Tolkein).

          • gwathdring says:

            @tnzk

            When did it become irrelevant that Smaug is never given a canon number of limbs? Also when did it become irrelevant that Middle Earth Canon is, like MOST large mythos’s, not entirely internally consistent?

            My points stand regardless of how much you claim Tolkien’s work deserves some kind of higher standard of nerdy pedantry applied to it than other works; one of my points of which you bolded but a timid fraction could loosely be interpreted as an attack on the very concept of pedantry but that interpretation has a looseness that is made really rather amusing in context of what we’re discussing.

            In any case, you have not dealt with my contention that pedantry doesn’t apply particularly well to *dragons* in particular–whether in Tolkien or elsewhere–which is a rather more essential point to the discussion.

            But let’s come back to that first point. If you understood me meaning “why do details matter” than you missed the point entirely. I’m asking you why the number of legs matters. Why THIS detail matters. Pedantry should not be used as a shield. Obsessiveness is not itself a defense against criticism or of arbitrariness.

            Let me put this another way. In Harry Potter people went all weird about Radcliffe’s eye color. Look, as long as the eyes that were supposed to match each other matched? That’s fine; the color itself was not of particular significance to the book’s mythos or characters but rather *the relationships that color represented.* So with the color of Radcliffe’s hair. What DID bother me was the primness of Radcliffe’s hair–Harry’s untamed head-mop was part of the fiction. It was a detail that established his otherworldliness. A cute little detail that connected him to the world of wizards. That’s the kind of pedantry that interests me.

            But going “OOOH! He had SIX coins in his purse in that scene instead of TEN!” or “That otherwise-easily-recognized-creature-has-the-wrong-limb-arrangement” when the limb arrangement is not important to the beast’s impact on the story or the characters? That kind of stuff is EXACTLY where I want to see an adaptation re-imagine and rejigger and bring their own flavor into the proceedings.

            My argument is not against the application of nerdy pedantry. I’m all over THAT. My argument is against *THIS* application of nerdy pedantry, and I’m backing it up with nerdy pedantry of my own. As such, your “details matter” boiler-plate doesn’t get you very far.

            Yes. They do. Which is exactly why I’m fighting you on this one. The flip side of details matter is that *which details matter and in what ways* also matters.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          This is the man that cut “The Scouring of the Shire”, and believes that Sauron physically manifests himself as a giant eye perched atop Barad-Dur. His grip on the material is not what I would call a profound one.

          I would love, however, a film based on the events of the fall of Numenor, or of the war against Melkor, or of the life of Turin Turambar. My one caveat: that it not be made by Jackson.

        • Shodex says:

          Oh I forgot, Thranduil’s eyebrows bugged the hell out of me too. It’s nice to see Bogdan finding work after Breaking Bad, but come on.

        • frightlever says:

          Wow, just… wow. I have never had the displeasure to see a differently-abled dragon treated so shoddily.

        • FriedrichSchritt says:

          You’re both wrong, you are not the judge of what is and what is not a dragon when it comes to LOTR lore, that would be Christopher Tolkien, if this was about about the common dragons in our medieval histroy then yes that would be a wyvern but in the LOTR lore that is a dragon. Because C Tolkien said so.

          • Cockie says:

            But JRR Tolkien himself drew Smaug with four legs and two wings.

          • Werthead says:

            “But JRR Tolkien himself drew Smaug with four legs and two wings.”

            Tolkien also drew Minas Tirith without the central rocky prow. By his own admission, Tolkien was not a very good artist (well, he was better than he gave himself credit for, but he was never great).

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Dragons are described in the Silmarillion as creatures with four limbs, with some of them having wings perched on their backs. Pretty sure there’s no room for interpretation here.

        • Jams O'Donnell says:

          I call wyverns “realistic dragons” because of the whole forearms have turned into wings vs reptiles somehow sprouting two extra limbs thing. I don’t get halfway through that sentence before Mrs Jams starts mercilessly mocking the concept of a “realistic” dragon.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I typed a joke about Mrs Jams being the real dragon before I remembered I’m not a dick. But I still had to tell you about it, so actually I am.

        • Werthead says:

          Tolkien drew Smaug as a 6-limbed beast, so I agree it’s not really appropriate for Jackson to change it in the movie adaptation of the work.

          As for your other complaint, it’s pretty pointless. Six-limbed creatures are pretty rare in nature and it doesn’t make sense for a dragon to have them. If you compare them to other winged beasts, it’s redundant (they either use their jaws, wings or back legs to manipulate things) and doesn’t make any biological sense. So four-limbed makes more sense, and in fact it’s a huge bugbear of George R.R. Martin’s when dragons are presented with six. That’s why he made sure the dragons only have four limbs in the GAME OF THRONES novels, TV show and even spin-off products.

          Saying that it’s a hard and fast rule that 6 limbs = dragon and 4 limbs = wyvern is silly. Wyverns are also traditionally smaller, have barbed stingers in their tails and don’t breathe fire (or at least not a lot compared to dragons), but that’s not a hard and fast rule either. Originally, going right back to China, dragons were wingless giant worms. Like all mythological things, dragons can be interpreted pretty widely and reinterpreted continuously. It doesn’t make them any less dragons whether they have six limbs or four.

          • xao says:

            Of all the limbed creatures in nature, more have six legs than any other number of legs…

          • Werthead says:

            I should have said six-limbed reptiles or dinosaurs, which are the closest RL equivalents. There’s been some indications of a few dinosaur types with two extra vestigal limbs, but notably the flying ones are all four-limbed.

        • Werthead says:

          In addition: is your contention that Glaurung is also not a dragon? No wings, only four limbs. Because I think you’re going to have a tough time convincing the Tolkien hardcore that he isn’t.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Smaug did originally have six limbs, but when they came do do the motion capture it transpired that Benedict Cumberbatch had exaggerated in the “number of limbs” section of his CV. I would’ve booked Jeff Goldblum anyway.

    • jonahcutter says:

      I have to agree. There’s all the padding with the love triangle I could give fuck all for and action sequences extended to the point of wondering when they’re going to end. But then Beorn, one of the most enigmatic and cool characters from the actual novel, is in a couple of don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-him scenes.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        Jackson knows which side his bread is buttered. With each passing film, he caters more and more to the “OMG, fanboying/fangirling out SO hard right now!!xD” crowd. He even seems to have abandoned the heavy use of miniatures that made his LoTR films so visually memorable (even if their scripts were by and large dreck).

        • Shodex says:

          Everything that gets cut is scenes where they talk about things, and do things that aren’t fighting. And they’ve all been replaced with pointless, lengthy fight scenes against orcs. Why? Because a large portion of the audience is young boys, and if LotR taught them anything it’s that young boys love fight scenes with orcs. And chances are the young boys don’t give two shits about whether the fight scenes with orcs have any actual place in the story.

          And you hit the nail on the head about them appealing to the (for want of a better term) “Tumblr fangirl crowd”, and their extreme attachment to Fili, Kili, and Thorin (as well as Jackson’s obvious attempt to doll them up) makes me wonder if *** SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT IT’S A 77 YEAR OLD BOOK COME ON *** Jackson will have the balls to kill them in the battle of five armies, or if their place will just be filled with some of the other dwarves.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            It will become the battle of 15 armies, because shit we’ve gotta make this last. Oh, and Legolas kills Smaug. And the Lonely Mountain was Mount Doom all along.

            Also, the Sackville-Bagginses are Nazgul sleeper agents. You heard it here first.

          • MacTheGeek says:

            *Nail Nazgul*

    • fish99 says:

      He did the same thing with LOTR. Am I the only one who reread the books after watching the films and noticed the huge amount of dialogue that’s been cut? And yet we still have entirely invented scenes, bizarre story changes and a crap ton of unnecessary special effects sequences (I’m taking about LOTR here not the Hobbit, which I haven’t seen) and awful slow motion sequences, whereas we could have had a lot more characterization.

      I’d like to see someone who’s actually good at making films have another go at LOTR. In many ways the unfinished cartoon version is superior.

      • bill says:

        Not really. Sure, he cut quite a bit, but it was reasonably logical cutting (I love tom bombadil in the books, but it wouldn’t have worked in the movie at all) and he didn’t really add in that much. (other than a bit too much legolas-can-kick-ass action).

        If you watch the extended version (which you really always should) then they even add back a lot of the small parts that they cut out. LOTR was a pretty accurate adaption imho, at least about as accurate as we could have ever hoped for. The hobbit (part 1 that i’ve seen) not so much.

        • fish99 says:

          I’m not referring to the whole bits that were removed, like Tom Bombadil (who IMO has no place in a LOTR movie, although obviously Tolkien purists would disagree with that), what I’m talking about is the amount of dialogue in each scene. Most of the scenes from the book are there, but stripped back to the minimum dialogue that makes the scene still work, and the film loses a lot of flavour and characterization because of it.

          A lot of that could have been retained instead of some of the pointless effects sequences. The films rely far too much on visual effects IMO. There’s also quite a few story scenes that are just invented and aren’t in the book at all. Then there’s the key scenes that were changed in really naff ways.

      • malkav11 says:

        I’m not a fan of the theatrical releases of the LOTR films, especially Two Towers and Return of the King, which in the theaters were heavily action-oriented with a minimum of characterization, but the extended cuts add a ton of that sort of thing back in and make them immensely better. So are you talking about the theatrical or extended cuts?

        • fish99 says:

          Only seen extended of pt1.

          • malkav11 says:

            I would recommend checking out the extended cuts of the latter two films, as they suffered worst from having meaningful characterization and dialogue sequences cut in favor of SFX and battling and the difference adding a lot of that back in makes is pretty dramatic. I mean, even in the extended cuts there’s probably stuff missing that really ought to have been, and there’s definitely still directorial additions that favor action over character, but I suspect it’s a lot less problematic.

      • Shodex says:

        It bothered me more with The Hobbit because I cherish The Hobbit for being a simple and charming story. LotR was cut down, dialogue was removed, scenes shortened, etc. But the same thing was done for The Hobbit movies too. Except not because they’re trying to fit all the content into the one movie like with LotR, with The Hobbit they’re cutting all this stuff to make room for a bunch of LotR-related subplots and foreshadowing that wasn’t in the book.

        It’s boring, it’s pointless, it’s muddying up the story, and I have no idea where that plotline is going. All my friends that haven’t read the books have asked me about all the lengthy shit Gandalf is doing at Dol Guldur with the Orcs and Sauron and I just have to say, “No clue, just ignore it or something that wasn’t in the book.”

        • fish99 says:

          Before I say anything let me say that I haven’t seen either Hobbit movie and I don’t know what happens in them, but the problem here is that you have The Hobbit, the book, and then you have other sources of information about the LOTR universe and timeline such as the LOTR appendices and the Silmarillion, and one of those describes (in little detail IIRC) Gandalf, with Galadriel and Saruman, going to Dol Guldur to investigate a ‘dark presence’ taking hold there.

          So that is all official lore for the Hobbit time period, even if it’s not in the book the Hobbit, and it does explain where Gandalf disappears to during the book. I can see why Jackson put it in there, to tie the two series together, and it’s hard to get away from the fact that The Hobbit and LOTR books don’t sit well together (one a light hearted and often silly childrens fantasy, the other a long, dark and depressing tale).

          • Shodex says:

            I agree with you from your standpoint, and before I saw the first film I was actually interested to see the new stuff Gandalf was up to. But you’d have to watch the films yourself to see the real problem. New content is okay, but the new content here comes at the expense of the original content. They’re cutting down the original story like it’s getting fit into a TV special, not a trilogy of over two and a half hour movies.

            And it doesn’t help that the new stuff isn’t particularly well written. Gandalf tromps around Dol Guldur and notices a dark presence, a la the Necromancer. Then he returns in the next film and finds Sauron there and has a battle with him. Radagast was also there a couple times for some reason. It spends a lengthy time here, and also introduces this army of Orcs that Sauron has sent after the part of 14 who show up at random times for really lengthy action scenes then run off.

            The new content isn’t interesting, it’s not particularly well written, and doesn’t add anything to The Hobbit’s original story. Maybe the third film will prove me wrong and I’ll love it, but until then I remain grumpy.

          • fish99 says:

            That’s a shame it isn’t written better, and a shame a lot of good stuff from the book is missing.

            TBH I always thought it was a bad idea to spread such a short book out to three films, it should have been one. Jackson’s whole approach to LOTR has been to maximize revenue though rather than treating the material with respect.

    • Lemming says:

      What I find highly suspect is that we were told they needed to split the story (2, then 3 films) because there was a lot of Tolkien appendices stuff or gaps that needed to be filled. Fair enough, I thought. But then the stuff that seems added (predominantly in the second movie) just comes straight out of Jackson’s head and feels tacked on. I’m looking squarely at the ‘romance’ in Hobbit 2.

  3. AngelTear says:

    players are essentially asked to try every key on the ring

    I see what you did there, Adam…
    *drops hat*

  4. SKapsniak says:


    - WAIT

    You wait. Time passes.

    Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.

    - CLIMB THORIN

  5. Gap Gen says:

    I shall never let go the hobbit!

  6. Frank says:

    There should be a Hobbit named Lego.

  7. Zap Brannigan says:

    I felt a bit mean finishing on a sour note, but The Hobbit left me feeling a bit grumpy.

    If a game about dwarves left you feeling a bit Grumpy, didn’t it do its job?

  8. Janichsan says:

    “The tonal confusion – is Bilbo’s journey a jaunty inconsequential series of misadventures or an epic quest with grave political implications –…”
    I can only assume that it’s been a while since you read “The Hobbit – The Novel”. It’s tonally confused as fuck. If you remember, it starts out as honest to god children’s book and ends with massive slaughter and the death of various of the funnily named dwarves.
    Hell, even The Lord of the Rings is tonally confused. Only two words: Tom Bombadil.

    • Scurra says:

      Tom Bombadil is not tonally confused at all – he is very much a part of the transitional element of the first book. The start of the story is all bucolic charm: a Hobbit birthday party and the setting off on a sort of Grand Day Out. The four Hobbits find it hard to take things seriously, even when pursued by a Black Rider. And so the first time they step outside the Shire, they get caught by Old Man Willow and need external help to escape. And Tom appears as a forerunner of the external help they need all the way through. And what happens after they leave his house? They promptly get lost and nearly die on the Barrow Downs and need his help again. And it’s at that point that the style of the narrative changes to reflect the fact that they are about to hook up with Aragorn who will then continue to provide the external help for most of the rest of the story.
      I can understand why most adaptations choose to cut Tom Bombadil, because frankly Weathertop can be made to do much the same sort of thing (makes the Hobbits realise this isn’t just a holiday) and Aragorn is our “mythic hero” anyway, so the quicker we can get to him, the better.
      But Tom is not tonally confused. He’s pitched exactly correctly. [And that's without considering his role as reassurance that, in essence, Sauron can never win because Tom will always exist.]

      • SomeDuder says:

        I get what he is saying tho – here’s yet another seemingly omnipotent character who could just make all the bad shit go away (Others being the eagles who could drop the ring into the nearest volcano, Gandalf who is OP as fuck and I’m sure there’s more). Hell, I think he even picks up the ring at one point and isn’t affected. Just give the guy the ring! HE WONT USE IT AND IS A FRUITY GOD! Done! Quest over! Back to tea and crumpets at Bag End.

        IMHO the story would have been all the better without fruity Tom and I’m glad it was left out of the movies.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          “Gandalf is OP as fuck.”

          I love this sentence so much.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          A much-weakened Sauron practically breaks Gandalf at Dol Goldur, they’re not comparable in power. Also, Gandalf already does bear the ring of Cirdan the Shiprwright, and has for thousands of years, hence his ability for communion with Galadriel. Temptation for him, as an existing ringbearer, is on a level than for Frodo.

        • bill says:

          It’s hard to say gandalf is OP when I think the most power he ever exerts in the book is lighting his staff. Though I guess he does take down a balrog, but he almost dies in the process, and for a god that’s a bit wussy.
          Plus he says that he’d become the new sauron if he used the ring. As would galadriel, etc..
          The entire point of the book is that power corrupts so it takes the least powerful people to win.

          The eagles meme was funny, but the hobbit explains why they don’t help further in that book, and in LOTR if the eagles had headed to mordor then they’d have gotten killed in short order. And saruman had his birds out watching.

          • Berzee says:

            What if you gave the ring to an Eagle and he just went bad? Eaglewraith. :(

          • welverin says:

            Balrogs are Maiar just like Gandalf, so not so wussy at all.

          • Lemming says:

            He’s not really God-like though. He’s more like a low-level angel in human form, Sauron being a much higher-level one.

        • welverin says:

          That’s all explain within the book itself and even without being explicitly called out can be figured why none of those things are sensical with a little thought.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      A charming and relatively low-risk adventure gone horrendously awry is an important part of both The Hobbit and LOTR. They both progress in a fairly linear fashion from tea-and-cake and comfiness, through misery and iron and steel and towards redemption. It doesn’t just chop and change, there’s an arc.

    • tnzk says:

      The Hobbit is not confused: it’s a children’s book that gets increasingly more dramatic and bloody, which was the entire point. I believe Harry Potter was much the same.

      Sometime in the last 20 years, we’ve neutered childrens’ entertainment to infinity and beyond. Then again, we’ve neutered all aspects of childrens’ lives: my brother’s school, for example, allows no chocolates, peanuts, sweets, soft drinks, bullrush, rugby, or playfighting. I remember they started implementing all that crap when I was a kid. Interestingly, one school here (in New Zealand) has ditched all that this year and now allow their children to go nuts in the playground. Apparently it has had stellar results: the children are much more focussed in the classroom. While that example isn’t directly related to children’s entertainment, it would be interesting to see a similar effect it would have on the current generation of kids. The Lego Movie is popular but toothless. I wonder how they’d fare with something like The Goonies.

      • bill says:

        I find it interesting that kid’s cartoons in japan are chock full of sex, violence, blood, death, drinking, smoking, etc.. and no-one seems to even think about it.

        • Myrdinn says:

          Think you mistake your hentai fansubs for ‘kids cartoons in japan’?

        • malkav11 says:

          I think you may be committing the common Western error of assuming that just because something is a cartoon that it must be targetted at children. A lot of anime is not.

          • bill says:

            I think you’re committing the common western error of thinking a lot of Anime is somehow more grown up and aimed at adults, when often times it’s not. ;-)

            I guess I should define “kids”. Things for under 5s tend to be more safe (anpanman, doraemon, etc.. er… Precure kinda..) But things like One Piece and Naruto are most definitely hugely popular among kids from about the age of 6 up. One Piece, for example is watched by people from 6 to 40, which leads to some (to western eyes) very inappropriate things for kids.

            There are of course, more ‘adult’ anime (or manga, as that’s where it originates). But the weekly manga compilations are often aimed at junior high school kids, and they are packed full of sex and violence. Those same kids will sometimes continue reading the same content well into their 30s/40s.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            I don’t care what you call it. If in Japan its possible to accidentally buy your 5 year old niece a cartoon DVD in which a woman is apparently shi**ing a 7 foot erection out of her anus, I’m out.

          • AngelTear says:

            @CookPassBabtridge and others

            Well, in the West we have South Park, and to a lesser extent The Simpsons and all the Simpsons wannabe (Family Guy etc). They’re unmistakably cartoony, but they’re certainly not for children.
            Most anime are meant for teenagers (like the mentioned Naruto and One Piece – and I don’t think they’re all that bloody for their target audience). Hentai anime are porn and they’re advertised as such, starting from the cover. I don’t think you can buy an hentai anime by mistake, it’s easier, judging from the cover, to think that SP may be for children.

            I agree with Malkav on this.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Yeah, I’ve met a lot of 9 and 10 year-olds who play GTA V. Cartoons are not only for kids, just as videogames are not only for kids. Who actually gets their grubby mitts on them is kind of another issue, right?

          • Philomelle says:

            @bill:

            You must be confusing weekly magazines with monthly ones. Monthly ones are darker and have sex/violence because, uh, they are not aimed at kids. They are aimed at young adults of ages 17+. Weekly compilations of manga are milder than Powerpuff Girls. One Piece had roughly one death in years (and it was a Really Huge Deal), and in Naruto everyone who dies, disappears into butterflies and flower petals. Yes, pre-timeskip Naruto was much grittier than that, but it lost that edge a good five years ago.

            The very vast majority of anime popular in the west (Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass, Princess Tutu, Death Note, to name just a few) aired in the dead of night in Japan and was thus unavailable to kids and most teenagers. Death Note aired at midnight and Code Geass at 3AM, for example.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            I was actually joking. Am possibly in overly ‘dry’ mode today…

          • malkav11 says:

            I will admit that there are certainly manga from the pages of Shonen Jump that are more sophisticated and maturely themed than I had expected from a youth-oriented publication (Death Note being the main example that I’ve actually read) but as I recall they’re published under a label that’s more teen oriented and even there, they don’t actually depict all that much in the way of gore, actual nudity/sexual content, etc even if they suggest them. I don’t think it’s that different from some of the currently trending dystopian YA (i.e., teen oriented) novels in America, like the Hunger Games, or Patrick Ness’ amazing Chaos Walking trilogy, etc. They can have surprisingly dark themes and sometimes brutal plotting, but by the same token they tend to skate around anybody actually having sex or being killed in explicit ways “on camera”, etc. Stronger fare tends to be intended for adults on both sides of the ocean, far as I can tell, although that doesn’t necessarily preclude kids getting ahold of it.

          • Shodex says:

            I’d just like to add that if you walk into the adult section of a video shop and buy a copy of “Anal Dick Shitters v.13″ for your 5-year-old niece than you’re just not a very good uncle. Fucked up hentai isn’t deceptive, it lacks all subtlety and is pretty damn clear about what it is. It’s unfair to blame the medium for your inability to research it’s contents and read it’s ratings, this is the same arguments we use whenever the violence with video games argument comes up.

            Anyways, I hate arguing about anime/manga on the internet since usually there are only two parties involved. People who dislike anime but don’t know anything about it outside of shitty battle shounen for kids like Naruto and have heard lots of tentacle hentai jokes, thus assuming that’s all there is. The other is people who also know nothing about it outside of battle shounen and hentai jokes, but praise it like the second coming of sliced bread making those that like anime/manga look like twats (admittedly most are).

            It’s not for everyone, but it’s for a lot more people than people seem to think. And I encourage people to look at more “adult” oriented anime/manga, but not necessarily ones that overuse gore in a stupid attempt to feign maturity. There is a lot of really great stuff, and dismissing something because of it’s medium is unfair.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Tonally confused, or tonally variable?
      God forbid a story become more serious as it goes on. Higher stakes? Mounting tension? Climax? Comic relief? These things have no place in an adventure story, by gum.

      • Shodex says:

        I’ve always seen The Hobbit’s steady transition from whimsical to violent as very much so deliberate. As Bilbo begins his adventure a very whimsical man, but by the end he’s become much more accustomed to violence and adventure. Gandalf said that if Bilbo returned he would be a different man, and I think that is the entire point. The Hobbit is effectively a coming of age story, Bilbo starts off naive and becomes wise. But ignorance is bliss, and as he learns more of the world and becomes wiser he learns that the world isn’t as peaceful and cozy as the Shire.

        This transition also amplifies the nostalgia and home sickness, if they were hopping, skipping, and having a merry time all the way there and back again the idea of a warm cozy Hobbit hole wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal. You’re supposed to think back to the brighter days after Smaug wreaks havoc and people greedily fight over the treasure, and you’re supposed to miss them.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Yeah! Precisely what I was sarcasming about. Well put, sir.

          Although having said that I just had an idea for a gritty reboot. I’m going to call it Bilbo Beggins.

  9. oatmeal2k says:

    The writing on this site just keeps getting better, so many good lines in here, entertaining and helpful – thanks!

  10. Geebs says:

    I’m planning a game in this series based on the life of Moses. It’s called “Lego My People”.

  11. dangermouse76 says:

    What always blows my mind is that as part of the creation myth for the LOTR lore in general, Gandalf is part of the broken unremembered shared of the music that was the universe as described by it’s creator……….Boom!
    He is a tool of the Valar. The creation myth is well worth a read.

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