The Hobbit vs. The Lord of The Rings Screen Adaptation
The Mastermind himself, J.R.R. Tolkien
Why am I writing this?
I am an avid Tolkien fan, and know significantly more about this subject than most average Joes. Believe me, I am not arrogant about this in any way. Actually, it's shameful how many times I've read The Lord of The Rings trilogy (5) and The Hobbit (4). I've also read The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and taken a class on Tolkien's literature to round out my perfectly shaped nerd bubble. I have tons of LoTR posters, I've played all the video games, I am a member of the Nashville chapter of The Tolkien Society, and I more often than not make the subject of my sketches into characters from Middle Earth as adapted by Peter Jackson. This brings me to the subject of this essay, which will be a comparative analysis between The Lord of The Rings, and The Hobbit as screen adaptations. I will attempt to look at this topic in several different ways. I will address what emotions each film evokes and why, I will talk about the contrast of characters such as Gandalf, Bilbo, and Legolas between each film, and I will make a case for which was truly better overall in my opinion. So sit back, pour yourself some ale from the Green Dragon, pack your pipe with some Longbottom Leaf, and lets nerd out.
Emotional Pieces of the Puzzle
At first I found it frustrating that The Hobbit was being made into a trilogy when it was shorter than any one book from The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I thought, "Wow, how are they going to string such a short book into three 180 minute movies?" It didn't make sense to me at all, and while there were a lot of invented aspects to The Hobbit that were thrown in for filler, it did end up allowing for more character development than in the LoTR trilogy. I found myself more emotionally bound to characters like Thorin and Bilbo because I was able to get to know them better throughout the course of the films. You were able to see noticeable character changes, like how Bilbo found his courage, and developed a profound sense of loyalty to the dwarves who shared in his adventure, or how Thorin battles his seemingly destined failure as a king and redeems himself by striking out triumphantly into battle. These are the types of things that draw one in emotionally to The Hobbit films. It is so easy to become invested in a character you identify with, then as a result you feel lost and bereft when any of them meet an ill fate. In the LoTR trilogy there is so much ground to cover in each film, and so many things happening that you don't feel quite as attached to any single character as you would in The Hobbit. You may develop favorites, and pick a hero you can identify with, but you don't get to know each character as well because you are cutting in between scenes and going to different places so often. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of emotionally stirring scenes in the LoTR film trilogy, but they evoke a different kind of emotion. When the riders of Rohan storm down the slope to crash into the enemy ranks on the Pelennor Fields, I get goosebumps and a rush of adrenaline every time. But I don't get as heavily invested in characters like Aragorn or Merry because I am constantly being swept off to another part of the adventure. Each film trilogy evokes a different kind of emotion, and I believe The Hobbit clearly has an advantage in regard to character development.
Character Contrast: Gandalf, Legolas, and Bilbo
Gandalf, Bilbo, and Legolas are very different in each movie. In Bilbo's case, it certainly comes from his age between The Hobbit and LoTR, but Gandalf and Legolas are virtually ageless beings, and yet still show drastic differences in the films. I'll start with Bilbo. The Bilbo at the end of the Hobbit is much closer in similarity to the Bilbo in LoTR than he was at the beginning of The Hobbit. Still, though, Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings are not the same. Mostly, this is due to aging under the influence of the one ring. Though hobbits are much more resilient to the the powers of the ring than other races found in Middle Earth, Bilbo is not immune to them. Many of the more admirable characteristics that Bilbo develops in The Hobbit are masked and diminished by the ring, and thus he becomes more recluse and dependent upon his precious trinket. Once Bilbo parts ways with the ring, he feels refreshed and lightened by the loss of his burden, but the effects of his old age quickly catch up to him in the coming years. Strangely enough, though, once Bilbo loses his ring he becomes to draw closer once more in similarity to how he was at the end of The Hobbit.
Now lets take a look at Gandalf. The Hobbit was originally written as a children's book, but gradually begins to approach an adult level as the story progresses. I think this was aptly portrayed in the film adaptation of The Hobbit as well. Everything is very lite and happy when the dwarves are in Bilbo's home throwing his dishes around, but things get much more serious once the get on the other side of Rivendell. This progression is seen, as well, in Sir Ian McKellen's portrayal of Gandalf in The Hobbit. He starts off as a seemingly senile, deranged old man who seems woefully unprepared for what the quest is seeking to accomplish, but shows hints of his power as the story progresses. However, Gandalf is not nearly the serious, brooding, and powerful being in The Hobbit that he appears to be in The Lord of The Rings. In the Hobbit trilogy we see Gandalf kill some goblins and stone some trolls, but then get utterly owned by Sauron, but in LoTR we see him going toe to toe with a Balrog, schooling the ring wraiths, and being the shining white beacon that armies rally around. In The Lord of The Rings we certainly see Gandalf as a more stern and powerful being. This could be because he is more closely associated with his sole purpose for being in Middle Earth in the first place, which is opposing Sauron and seeing the ring destroyed.
Legolas is definitely different between the two trilogies, but for drastically different reasons than either Bilbo or Gandalf. I believe that Legolas has simply become more wise, and has shed some of his immaturity between The Hobbit and LoTR. In The Hobbit films, Legolas seems to be portrayed as more petty and arrogant, while in LoTR he becomes more humble and understanding. I can not see any other way of explaining this than to say that his experiences and adventures between the two time periods have changed him into a more mature and wise individual. Also, I have to think that his experience with the dwarves had something to do with that.
Legolas, Bilbo, and Gandalf as portrayed by Steven Colbert
Which is better?
Alright, so I know this is largely up to the opinion of the viewer, but I have to say that I thought The Hobbit trilogy was better than the LoTR trilogy. Bear with me here. When I was watching The Hobbit, I felt like I was beginning to know the character themselves because of the time they had to develop. I began to feel more excitement in their successes and I began to feel a deeper despair upon seeing their failings and hardships. After comparing the two, I felt like the LoTR was much more busy and action packed, while The Hobbit was more dramatic and told the story better (accuracy not considered). I just enjoyed the ride much more watching The Hobbit than I did watching The Lord of the Rings. Once again, this is just my opinion, but I believe The Hobbit is the better trilogy of films.
Beautiful trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Lets see what you think
Below I've inserted a pole to get your opinion. Which film trilogy was better? Was it The Hobbit or The Lord of The Rings? Or do you just not care at all?
Which trilogy was better?
Which film trilogy was the best? Was it The Hobbit or The Lord of The Rings?
Bilbo is feisty
Please leave your comments
I would love to hear what you think about what I've written above. Am I a true and worthy fan of Tolkien or am I a wannabe orc loving ninny hammer? Please leave a comment below whether you hated or loved what I had to say. I would be more than happy to spark a conversation over this. If you want to troll, be my guest. However, don't be upset if you get turned to stone!
© 2015 Logan Denton