Why Do So Many Critics Hate The Hobbit?

As our site name reveals, we’re a big lot of article churning fanboys here at UTF, so when we finally experienced THE HOBBIT : AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY in all of its 3D glory, we were the happiest folks this side of Bree… as they say. We even went as far as to give the flick a perfect 5 Stars in our advanced review, heartily recommending it for our readers.

Strangely, the critics haven’t been as quick to embrace it. As we speak, Bilbo’s cinematic odyssey is sitting at a tepid 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, nearly 30 points below all three of the Lord of The Rings films (with Top Critics awarding it a solidly rotten 42%).  The big question is… Why?

He kinda whisper talks… a lot

Now, I don’t want this article to be misinterpreted as a “F*ck those critics!  They’re wrong I’m right!” style of argument.  They’re perfectly entitled to their opinions and they serve an important purpose, informing movie watchers when and where to spend their hard earned cash.  But I just don’t understand why they loved LOTR and not The Hobbit.

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic said:

It frequently seems as though Jackson was less interested in making The Hobbit than in remaking his own fabulously successful Lord of the Rings series.

And his peer Simon Foster at Screen-Space offered a similarly disparaging review:

For thousands, the Lord of The Rings trilogy was an emotion-filled spectacle; The Hobbit, by comparison, is all pixels and no pulse.

Here’s one more, from Lori Hoffman of Atlantic City Weekly:

My biggest complaint about this latest adventure in Middle-earth is that it is three hours worth of set-up for the next movie.

Peter Jackson’s original adaptations of LOTR were certainly amazing, but after revisiting them over the past 2 weeks, they suffer from their fair share of problems (most of which have been improved on in The Hobbit… if that’s not too bold to say).  A fair bit of the dialogue was overly melodramatic, and some of the acting was damn spotty, especially the elves.  Their slow, languid stares into the camera lens fell flat on sincerity **cough** Celeborn **cough**.  Even some members of the main cast suffered in parts, as seen with the whisper-master Viggo Mortensen and the child-like performance of Elijah Wood.

This dude speaks… so… slow

Mind you, these are all extremely small complaints about movies that have received truck loads of praise, but the faults with them, however petty, are completely addressed in The Hobbit (except for the length of the film, of course).  The acting is vastly improved thanks to the two leads Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage, the previously one dimensional elves are now fully fleshed out, and the melodrama is kept to a minimum.  So why have critics, who were so enamored with Peter Jackson’s other films, taken a dislike to this new one?

They’ve stated their complaints plainly, but each one draws comparison to LOTR, and I’d wager that The Hobbit succeeded in more places than those previous three flicks.

What do you think?


Heyo. I'm Nick Dourian, the Editor-In-Chief around these parts. Now, I went to a few other sites, read a few awesome bios, and I really want to fabricate a badass origins story for myself, but I'm feeling particularly unimaginative today, so 'f' that jazz. I read comics, drink bourbon, and cook meats. Imagine Ron Swanson, but with a fuller beard and cuter eyes.
  • Swordfish

    I agree completely. I like the characters more too. I would definitely rather watch a movie with Freeman’s Bilbo than Wood’s Frodo any day. Bilbo is just a better character and Freeman is just a better actor. But as far as the story itself, this story has better characterization than any of the Lord of the Rings movies did. The Bilbo we see in the start of the movie is very different than what we get at the end, and this is great! He goes through a very natural change and it’s one that really works. Some of the additions are (I admit) rather pointless, namely Radagast the Brown and Frodo coming back. But Azog was a fantastic addition to the story, giving Thorin a real connection and a good villian to fight against. I loved it! What good thinking for a villian! This makes Thorin’s conflict more personal and helps develop his character more (it also gives the audience a square-down to root for). All in all, this was a fantastic movie and I thought it suceeded in ways Lord of the Rings didn’t. I agree with what you wrote. This film isn’t without flaws of course, (what film isn’t?) but it’s a good movie. Critics are just bashing it hard as they can because 1) negative reviews make them look like they “know what’s best” and 2) it’s not the Lord of the Rings and these critics don’t know how to deal with that. I’m not saying these critics are dumb, but I am saying they don’t know what they’re talking about.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=15935803 Fats Mclemlich

      Great Writeup. I agree with you entirely. Freeman’s Bilbo is far superior to Frodo. Although, I was happy to see Frodo return for that brief moment in the opening scenes.

      I enjoyed Radagast and Azog as well. The feud between Azog and Thorin mirrors that between Aragorn and Ugluk in the Fellowship of the Ring.

      • merwanor

        I loved Azog, a menacing and strong villain. Radagast was also fun to watch, and I loved the Frodo cameo, but I mostly loved the Trolls and the fact that they even turn into stone exactly as they appear in LOTR.

        • Swordfish

          I loved Azog too. Looking forward to seeing more of him. I admit, the fact that he’s a performance capture character instead of a live actor probably wasn’t the best move, but it could’ve been worse. His son Bolg is set to make an appearance sometime in the next few movies and I think he’s a live actor in makeup. So rest assured, Hobbit die-hards, Bolg will be coming.

      • 1absolutebadass

        Don’t you mean Lurtz? Ugluk was in Two Towers.

        • UnleashTheFanboy

          I do. Good call. It’s been so many years, that I had to wikipedia his name in particular, and I chose the wrong uruk hai

  • http://www.facebook.com/darth.vader.3139 Sanchayan Sarkar

    I agree with your article entirely .. and to answer the question i think the critics were short of knowledge about the books.. To me The Hobbit looked more like a Tolkien novel than a Jackson film .. The movie brings the true nature of the book and therein lies its greatest value i would say . The critics failed to notice this..

    2ndly The critics blamed the length and the supper scene but failed to see that is where tolkien was so real and special and they also i think expected a movie filled with constant action which i dont think is what Jackson wanted

    Thirdly The critics were more onto the 48 fps controversy .. and without knowing the actual virtue of the hobbit they started to compare it with The lord of the Rings.. I found no connection with the nature of the journey with lord of the rings except the theme and certain parts.. The dwarves were beautifully portrayed and more humane. .Its a movie all fans and movie goers will like and more important I believe JRR Tolkien would have loved himself knowing that whatever he wrote has been thoroughly visualized on the big screen .. An asset to the rest of our lives.. Unfortunately the critics dint get the essence of this and the Tolkien-Jackson combo magic

  • http://www.facebook.com/bailey.bednar Bailey Bednar

    Because the source material doesn’t warrant 2 movies… it warrants 1 if that. Talking around a table and singing is not content.. it’s filler and that’s why people say it sucks, which it does.

    • merwanor

      …….. I would hate going to the movies with you, to much negativity. And had The Hobbit been shorter it would suck, it was not long enough in my opinion. LOTR should have been 3 movies for each book, lots of cool stuff was left out. But I love them, because I just don’t have that much negativity in me I guess. If I am not mistaken, if they would follow the book completely, they would have to have a dinner scene with the dwarves one at the time, and songs are a part of the book to, it is great that they actually had them in the movie.

    • Swordfish

      I’ll agree that the content dragged on a bit. Only time will tell if one or two or three movies is a better choice. I’ll have to wait and see how the whole series comes out before I can be a proper judge of that. But I did enjoy what I saw. Was the table singing filler? Probably, yeah. But I enjoyed it. This movie doesn’t suck, not at all. People just think it sucks because everyone is comparing it to Lord of the Rings. The truth is, while it might not be a perfect movie, it’s still a very good film.

  • Alex J.

    I agree with the critics about The Hobbit. After watching the movie, I couldn’t help myself to think that I was not excited at all by it. It didn’t take me long to figure out why: the whole movie feels like a recycled version of LOTR, where Jackson uses the same storyline, narrative formulas and situations than in the famed trilogy (heck, he even uses the same camera shots in many occasions). The similarities between the two storylines are too striking to be ignored: it all starts at the shire, where Gandalf comes to recruit a Hobbit, they go together on an adventure just to get smashed by orc/troll-like CG characters, somehow they end up in rivendell where there is a meeting of the big-guns (take the fellowship of the ring scene and replace it by saruman, galadriel, elrond, etc. and you have exactly the same effect), then they leave rivendell just to get lost in a mountain fighting an army of`goblings (I just missed the big trolls from Moria to make is an exact copy of LOTR), just to be saved in the last minute by Gandalf/the eagles (those damn butterflies are everywhere), they keep going into the dark forest where strange things happen (where they could use some help from talking trees) just to finish the movie with Bilbo looking at the lonely mountain as the final destination (anyone remembers the “Frodo & co. looking at mount doom” scene from LOTR?). After all that I can’t help to think that I’ve already seen the next two movies already…

    While I recognize that the Hobbit and LOTR take part in the same fictional universe and thus, they are bound to share many storyline elements, I think that Peter Jackson did a terrible job by trying to make three movies where there was hardly material for one. He is trying so hard to connect the storyline of the Hobbit with LOTR that it misses the mark of the true nature of the Hobbit: a self contained story that -incidentally- served as a prelude of LOTR (let’s not forget that LOTR is a byproduct of the success of Hobbit).

    All in all the Hobbit was a disappointing experience. And unfortunately, the masterful technical wizardry and the solid acting are not enough to compensate its shortcomings.

    • Swordfish

      Interesting point. I never really thought about it that way. But just because we’re getting a simular story structure, does that automatically make it bad? I feel like in a lot of ways Jackson improved on the faults of the origional film. He made it more self contained. He gave it more character development. He didn’t cut as much content. These were things the audience wanted. Jackson clearly listened to the criticisms he got from Fellowship and took them into account here.

    • Mikey

      Thats 100% because Tolkien wrote both the Hobbit & Rings in basically the same structure

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelii.harbert Keli’i Harbert

    People obviously not read the book….

  • merwanor

    The critisicm towards The Hobbit is just what I call the curse of prequals, no matter how it would turn out, critics would smash it and wreak it. I have read critics that did not even understand that this was made from a book and said that this was just milking the franchise by making up new stories…. :S The two stories are different, and Frodo even say this to Bilbo in LOTR when he reaches Rivendell, that his journey turned out to be very different. LOTR is more dark and gloomy, it starts as a dark adventure, but turns into an Epic War Movie. The Hobbit is what I would call the best pure fantasy adventure movie, they have a quest to retake their Dwarven home from a dragon…. It is the perfect setting for a Fantasy movie, and on my part, Jackson delivered and more. It is the best movie released this year and I actually only have one complaint which differs from most of the stupid critics out there, and that is that it was to short! Yes I said it!

    I have never had a problem with long movies, and people who do must have something against movies. I wont understand how someone who are supposed to really care about movies can complain about length, when I have yet to see a movie that I think should have been shorter…. I have yet to see anyone come up with complaints that I agree with, like the normal complaints towards CGI. This just pisses me of, as I don’t even think about it when I watch a movie, I guess I just let myself get drawn in and imagine it to be real. And it looks amazing in The Hobbit, the best CGI since Avatar. I personally like CGI as it makes things seem more fantastical and not bound to our silly notion of physics and realism.

    Lastly I just want to say that The Hobbit does not deserve the critisicm at all, it is baseless and just ignorant. It is by far the best movie this year, for me it even crushes Avengers and TDKR when it comes to epicness. Thank you Jackson and crew for making another amazing movie set in Tolkiens amazing universe, the wait for the next movie is painfull, but I also love having something like this to look forward to.

    • Dincorta

      I cannot express in mere words how much I agree with everything you just said. It sums up my thoughts entirely and puts words to feelings I have had trouble conveying to friends who didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I did. Awesome sauce.

  • http://twitter.com/ChachouMiaou ChachouMiaou

    While I do agree with what you say about the Lord of the Rings trilogy (I love it, but there are tons of things that bother me, too), I think there are reasons why critics were harsher with the Hobbit. Firstly, the Lord of the Rings was made about 10 years ago, and it had a huge impact on cinema, while the Hobbit comes 10 years later and now nothing about this kind of film is really new. Secondly, I believe the source material is much poorer (while LOTR could have provided material for 4 movies, the Hobbit does not provide enough for several movies…) And thirdly, I do not really agree with you about improvements in the acting. Actually, it’s not really the acting, it’s more that the characters are so uninteresting in the Hobbit. I absolutely don’t see how elves are more “fleshed out”. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was good, but Richard Armitage… Was he even given a character to work with? Thorin is just a stock character with no depth whatsoever, the son of a fallen king who dreams of getting his legacy back, in other words, a poor man’s Aragorn. Aragorn may have been a little annoying with his whispers but you just cannot even start comparing him with Thorin in terms of charisma (plus Viggo Mortensen is at least as good as Richard Armitage). And finally, I believe the Hobbit suffers from many of the same problems that affected Jackson’s filmmaking in the LOTR : everything lacks subtlety, he relies on a lot of noise and pretty images but this time it feels “recyclced”, and there are some completely pointless scenes (like when the Elves encircle the group menacingly for no reason… WTF???) So in the end, I understand why the critics are so harsh. For me the only really good part in the Hobbit was the Gollum scene which was hilarious and absolutely perfect.

  • iseeyoupenguin

    haters gonna hate
    most reviews ive read centre on the issues with 3D/HFR (ive seen it in £D HFR twice different experience interesting but im not a fan of 3d at the best of times – ill be seeing the next 2 installments in standard 2d)
    the story itself does the book justice – the Hobbit novel is a very slight childrens book, with obvious pacing issues, whereas the LOTR was a huge book many adults have struggled with.
    i think PJ has done a great job – all the major touchtones were there – unexpected party, riddles in the dark, firebomb pinecones, goblin king all great also some great foreshadowing of the spiders etc.
    cant wait for the next one!

    • BIlly C

      I didn’t think much of it. To be honest I felt like I’d seen it before. I’ve seen that world, those locations. I know Golum, I know Gandalf. I really felt that not much happened and while there is certainly something at stake, i.e destroying the dragon we don’t even come close to that in this film. It was very slowly paced.

  • kaetana18

    Actually, I totally agree with you. I do not see any reasons why to critizise “The Hobbit”

    1. It cannot be compared with “LOTR”. In one of the Interviews Ian McKellan said, that in “LOTR” it was about saving the world, it was serious and everything depended just on these nine characters. “Hobbit” is different. It is really just an adventure. It does not touch anybody except the ones who live close to Erebor. “Hobbit” is much easier, it is about the dwarfs and only the dwarfs, so how can the critics even compare “Hobbit” with “LOTR”?! They cannot.

    2. The movie had to be that long. In “LOTR” Jackson hadn’t any chance to show Middle-Earth altough in the books were so many describtions. So many things were just ignored because of the lenght of the movies, so Jackson had to show us Middle-Earth in “Hobbit”. And I am honestly thankful for the lenght, I mean, it is based on a Tolkien novel, it would have been weird if the movie was just two hours or even less. Besides, there are 13 dwarfs. Jackson had to show at least some of them properly. He did not miss any details in “Hobbit” like he did in “LOTR”.

    For me, the movie was just as good as the first trilogy, I do absolutely not agree with the critics, because in some aspects “Hobbit” is even better than “LOTR” and his always-dying/crying-Frodo. Peter Jackson showed as everything from the book itself and even something more because he used Tolkien’s notes for the “Hobbit”. The critics failed in their critic.
    This movie showed delevopments of the characters (Thorin and Bilbo), it showed the inner and outer conflicts and changes.
    I think “Hobbit” is a very good movie and Jackson captured the feeling Tolkien created in the book very well in the movie. It is a pity, that the critics do not know how to deal with it just because it is not like “LOTR” and instead of seeing the beauty and magic of the movie try to decry it…

  • pablouk

    Simply the Critics don’t like it as its too good. Its beyond their understanding how a film can be this long yet this fun.

  • http://twitter.com/Tonster333 Eoghan Dwyer

    Maybe because it’s a shameless cash in that is guaranteed to suck in countless fanboys, therefore why would producers/director give a shit about making a genuinely great movie………. 1 movie with some heart and a new perspective would have made for a memorable experience far more than 3 movies of white noise!

  • Roy

    It’s the 48 fps which all the critics viewed it at. Simple.

  • Burningsunset

    I Loved the hobbit, but I can also understand where the critics are coming from. It’s funny because I also marathoned the lotr movies after watching the hobbit, and that just solidified my opinion that the hobbit doesn’t even come close to lotr. Sure, the graphics might have been improved on somewhat, but the lack of good heartfelt content in the hobbit is the main problem. Compare the 13 dwarves to the fellowship of the ring… Which group of people has the most depth, and characterization, and interesting backgrounds, and internal conflicts? The answer is quite obvious.
    The most engaging character in the hobbit for me was Bilbo, but I felt like he took a backseat most of the time as other events unfurled.
    In terms of storytelling, there are fewer memorable conversations and intense moments between characters compared to the lotr franchise.

    In terms of the acting, I honestly can’t say why people would say its better in the hobbit. Aragorn doesnt always just whisper… That was a weird thing to say lol XD. His onscreen charisma and poise is much better than Thorins. He can convey so many things with his eyes alone. As for Elijah’s acting, it suits the character of Frodo. Frodo is not quirky like his uncle… He’s more the quiet and reserved type. Objectively, I do agree that Martin is a more experienced actor, but that is beside he point.

    All that being said, Peter Jackson did a brilliant job with the material he had to work with. My main complaints about the decreased level of intensity and decreased number of memorable scenes in the hobbit are due to the fact that the story of the hobbit itself is less complex than that of lotr. It was meant to be a children’s book after all. Due to this, sometimes the hobbit just felt like another one of those Hollywood action flicks with tons of fighting and cgi, instead of the emotional roller coaster of a masterpiece that lotr was and still is. If better graphics is all that the hobbit has going for it, it will never surpass lotr. Here is to hoping that Martin’s Bilbo will be the main focus of the next 2 movies.

  • http://twitter.com/Nemspy Mike Price

    I saw the 48fps version last night with a friend and we were both absolutely blown away. It didn’t drag for me either. I thought it was a perfectly acceptable length. I have never understood this desire people have for movies to end. Where do you have to be that you can’t handle 30 more minutes of a movie that you’re otherwise enjoying?

  • Tobler 1

    Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” is a film only Tolkien fanboys and people with enough self-control not to compare it to The Lord of the Rings can enjoy. He may have done a good job at characterization, but if so, then Bilbo is an unlikable and aloof hobbit, and the dwarves are cranky and without sophisticated emotions. No complex relationships evolve throughout the film, making it rather a bore. The hobbit is a tale, not an epic like LOTR, but Jackson tried his best to make it one. Unfortunately, this extra work has led to much criticism and disappointment, not from those who have idolized the book, but from the vast majority of viewers with 10 bucks, 3 hours, and fond memories of LOTR.

  • Phil

    As a Peter Jackson Middle Earth tale it was fine. As The Hobbit it was a dismal failure. For example the troll scene was an epic waste of time. Where was the argument amongst the trolls about letting Bilbo go? Where was the ventriloquial trickery by Gandalf that set the trolls fighting among themselves and caused them to be turned to stone? The scenes in the Goblin kingdom under The Misty Mountains reminded me of Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom and I hated that too. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was pathetic but it may have been the fault of the script. The dwarves Fili and Kili represent a dwarf version of Merry and Pippin providing a modicum of humour here and there.

    I defy anyone who hasn’t read The Hobbit but has now seen the movie to go and read the book and successfully relate it to the film. It won’t work.

  • Daz

    Despite the critics, all is well in the shire.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Young-Contrarian/100002373166464 Young Contrarian

    Sorry gang, just saw the Hobbit and I have so say my take on it is worse than any criticism I’ve read – by far THE worst movie I’ve seen in easily 10 years. Horrendous and repeated erroneous assumptions in technical decision making removed me entirely from the story. So utterly pointless and disappointing to put so much talented effort to waste. A spectacular failure on many, many levels.

    • Bunnyc

      I agree totally…..too loud, too violent. The Hobbit book is a classic, The Hobbit movie is a travesty.

    • MarioLuigi

      Probably a stupid little boy who thinks Inception is the best movie in the world. Go fuck yourself. If you think this is the worst movie in ten years, you obvioulsy havent seen many movies. Go to Hell!

  • John David

    nbelievable people calling the table scene filler…Have you actually read the book? I read the book ten times…I read the Simirilian 4 times. Tolkien was a poet more than anything. The Dwarven songs are some of my favorite parts…If you read the book that song goes on for like 6 or 7 pages. That table scene IS the most important scene in the book….I thought it should have been longer actually. I wanted Jackson to do the song in it’s full entirety..

    I really feel that this movie was 99% perfect….It had depth, character development, and excitement

    3 movies is not too long…parts of the Simirillian history can be introduced…The Hobbit has lots of story…Smaug wasn’t the only Dragon…Glaroug was a much more menacing for than Smaug. People haven’t read all his works…As an advid reader of Tolkien, Peter Jackson got it as perfect as you could. Give the man the credit he deserves.

  • Timitus

    Personally, I have never listened to what critics say about any movie. Why would I want to pay attention to someone’s opinion about something they couldn’t create with 10 times more talent than they currently posess. It’s like thinking an arm chair quarterback knows more about how to general a football team than a professional quarterback does. I think movie critics are nothing more than frustrated actors, producers, and directors that can’t get work so they criticize the work of others.
    As far as “The Hobbit” goes, I enjoyed the movie. It didn’t completely follow the book, but neither did the LOTR trilogy. In fact, I’ve never seen a movie that was made just like the book it was made from. I would dearly love to see LOTR just as it was written by the master. I would also love to see the Hobbit as it was written as well.

  • justin

    I agree with this 100%!!! I just watched the Hobbit today and loved it! The acting was a whole lot better than lotr, it wasn’t cheesy like it was in spots for lotr. I don’t understand why it’s being rated so poorly. I loved and thought it was an excellent movie. I cannot wait for the next.

  • Lorelei

    Peter Jackson should never have taken a 300 page book to make into three films. The story just isn’t long enough to pad out this way. Lord of the Rings was a trilogy and well suited to making into three films whereas The Hobbit isn’t. As a New Zealander I naturally enjoyed the scenery (filmed here) but found the film lacking. I loved the acting from Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and James Nesbit but thats where it ends.

  • weirdo

    its just so weird how so many white people like the hobbit. It’s so disproportionate with the other races, like myself. Overall, its just a bunch of midgets running around the backwoods, with lots of plot holes and subpar acting. I noticed that all my white friends love it, even the ones who do not play video games or read books. Hell, even one hardcore white guy that I know, who is a professional bodybuilding trainer, and gets into bar fights all the time, loves the hobbit. Yet he hates midgets, fishing, camping, deer hunting, sappy movies, and especially hates reading anything.

    • Critical Thinker

      This is a strawman argument if ever I have heard one, anyone reading the above should think carefully about what this person is saying and not be instantly taken in with their rhetoric. If you have a valid comment to make about the quality and impact of this movie then make it with evidence and not be intentionally deceptive with such vitriol. Just because I disliked this movie does not give me the right to insinuate such fowl motives from others whom did enjoy it without some considerable proof to back up such a claim, even then your stance must be clear.

  • http://twitter.com/GreatMysteryP GreatMysteryPublish

    The Critics job, as their “job” title suggests, is to criticize. Many are loathe to heap praise. Years ago, when “Blade Runner” was released, all the critics HATED it! Now “Blade Runner” is a sci-fi cult classic. Everyone I have talked to (not critics) who has seen “The Hobbit” have loved it, I think the lesson here, is that critics do not necessarily have good taste. Can’t wait for the next installment of The Hobbit!

  • chickenhead

    Because they like all of Hellywood Hate anything written by Christians. They can’t help themselves, there is just to much Christaphobia in their blood.

  • KC

    The main problem in my mind is…LOTR…3 big books=3 big movies.
    The Hobbit….1 short book= 3 big movies. Just seems stretched out for greed.

  • larry2012

    Ego before content: this is the first of Jackson’s myriad sins. Depending on CGI tricks, however clever, instead of story is the next transgression. Re-writing the storyline in every episode of Tolkien’s phenomenal epic is the third and final insult to a masterful work that reputedly took nearly 40 years to create. The books still stand as the best possible tribute to Tolkien’s literary genius. The movies are all bells and whistles. Peter Jackson should limit his efforts to writing TV sitcoms and stay out of MIddle Earth.

  • PeterJackson is mediocrity

    The Hobbit series are simply a bad series. Christopher Tolkien refuses to meet with P Jackson because of the treatment of his father’s books.