I'm gonna try something new. This is an idea that I've playfully borrowed from the Nostalgia Critic...meh, I doubt he'll ever read this. And if I'm mistaken...I have no money. Don't sue me. Recently, we finally concluded the Hobbit "trilogy" and well...most of you likely know by now how I feel about that series...if you don't, the review is up. But this isn't the first time the story of the Hobbit has gone on screen. As some of you know, in 1977, Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. directed an animated version of Bilbo Baggin's journey to the Lonely Mountain. I was first introduced to this as a very small child, and it birthed my love of the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Now as an adult, of course, the animated movie has problems, but again, if you've read my review of the trilogy by Jackson, you'll know that there are many problems in those movies too. So with all that being said...which version tells the story of "The Hobbit" better? Well I'm gonna narrow it down to five factors. So sit back and relax and enjoy Old VS New: The Hobbit
The first factor I will be diving into will be the title character, Bilbo Baggins himself. Which version portrays Bilbo better? Now keep in mind that this doesn't include what he does in the movies per-say. This is based soley on his personality, and overall portrayal on screen. Does Martin Freeman make me feel like I am watching Bilbo Baggins? To be honest...yeah. Yeah he does. In fact, in my review, I actually gave Martin the credit he deserved for portraying a great Bilbo Baggins. That's not to say the animated doesn't do a good job either. Bilbo is a complete rookie in the art of adventure, and throughout the book, he is constantly thinking about the comforts of home, and how he very much misses it. In the animated movie, this is portrayed very well. But there are times however, that I believe a lot of the character is just lacking overall. Such as when the final battle of the five armies takes, place. Bilbo seems a bit too chill in the animated version. A line he says that is laughably cheesy, as the Dwarves charge the men and elves, is the line "Personally, I'd rather be back in Hobbiton." He says it like it's just another day at the store. In the Jackson movies, while there are times I feel Bilbo is out of character, Martin puts more emotion into the role. He not only misses his home, but shows concern for his companions, and at times, shows legit fear in certain situations. It's a well performed role for Martin, almost on the scale of Frodo or Sam in the LotR trilogy if you ask me. Martin took the role and became one with it. Perhaps it was the limitations, but the animated version just can't rival that. Point one goes to the trilogy.
The factor I'm going to look at is Gandalf. Gandalf has always been a staple character in the lore of Middle Earth, and one of the most iconic characters in the universe. And I gotta say that he's also well represented in both films. Even in the Rankin/Bass version of Return of the King, Gandalf is decently represented. But as the Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his own Old VS New of the animated LotR VS the Jackson LotR, Ian McKellen puts a phenomenal effort to the role of Gandalf. I dare say that he was the best cast member of the trilogy. So naturally, he'd be back for the Hobbit movies, and again, though there are times I feel he may be off (but I can't exactly blame him as he showed emotional difficulty in how Jackson shot these films), he still portrays the Gandalf I know and love. He speaks in riddles, proverbs, much like the Gandalf of the books. In the animated version, while the voice acting is absolutely great, he feels more like an adventurer who goes straight to the point. I guess that's a disadvantage of having less time to fully portray Gandalf as he should be depicted. Ian shows life in Gandalf, a passionate character, a concerned character, and the fondness of Bilbo really shows in both trilogies. In the animated version, the only character showing any real fondness of anyone is Bilbo of Gandalf. Gandalf barely pays any attention whatsoever. Now that isn't to say that there aren't times I feel like Gandalf is out of character, like the possible love interest with Galadriel...but he still outshines the animated version by a long shot, and easily gets the point for the trilogy.
Our third factor is one of my favorite factors of the story, which is the dragon, Smaug. Now...as far as appearance goes, the Jackson films easily take the cake. Smaug was a CGI marvel, almost rivaling that of Godzilla. Almost. He was incredibly built up in the first film, and looked great in the other films. But that is about all I can say about him. Why? Because...he just doesn't represent the Smaug I know and love. Now that isn't to say that the animated version is perfect, because Lord knows he isn't. He almost looks like a cat in appearance. But as far as personality, the animated version nearly nails it. It near perfectly portrays Smaug as the arrogant and boastful dragon he is. The Jackson films do a decent job at it...but they overdo it. There are times in the movies that Smaug is just laughable as a dragon. He never uses the fire when it would benefit him most, he doesn't act like the dragon I know to be a fearsome beast, and man...the best part about Smaug was just incredibly dull in the Jackson films...the boasts. The boasts in the animated version are phenomenal. In fact, the entire encounter with Smaug and Bilbo is very well done in the animated series, but you can go on YouTube, and look up the animated version of Smaug's boast, and it is just incredibly done. I also gotta say that the voice of Smaug is better in the animated. It's deeper, and much more intimidating. And Smaug acts much like the Dragon we are supposed to believe is threatening. He nearly incinerates Bilbo numerous times, and when he attacks Laketown, he doesn't do any boasting or stalling. He just goes to town and razes the town. He doesn't play games. He takes Laketown by surprise, and that is the Smaug I know. It's this ferocity and all around personality that takes this point. Jackson nailed the look, but that was all he nailed. The Animated version takes this point.
The fourth factor I will look are the minor characters of the story, which include the Dwarves, the Bowmen, and other characters. There's plenty to talk about. The Jackson movies I believe portrayed the...important dwarves at least rather well. But a downside that the Jackson movies do is the fact that they concern themselves with cameos and original characters that don't even appear in the book. It's an argument that's been done before, so I will keep it brief, but these characters do absolutely nothing to enhance the story. Tauriel is this elf who serves to be in this love triangle between Legolas who appears, and Kili. I was open to this, but it wasn't executed well enough for me to care enough. In fact, some of Tauriel's dialogue in the movie is absolutely laughable. In a bad way. It is some of the most clichéd dialogue I have heard since Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith batter between Anakin and Padmé. And THAT was pretty bad. Jackson also tries to fit in Galadriel and Saruman in ways that just don't fit if you ask me. If he'd bother trying to flesh out the other characters of the actual Hobbit story, I wouldn't have such a if deal, but even that is portrayed off if you ask me. There were multiple times that Thorin didn't seem like Thorin, and Bard had been downgraded from a nobleman of respect to this...laughing stock of a fisherman almost. In the animated version, while the Dwarves aren't focused on as much, the tension between Thorin and Bilbo only builds similar to that in the novel. Thorin rarely smiles or looks at Bilbo in favor because he holds doubt that Bilbo can benefit them at all. Much like the book. And because I love epic speeches, Bard in the animated version does in fact do the epic Black Arrow speech from the book...you know, instead of that over the top steadying the arrow on the son's shoulders nonsense of the Jackson movies. Little things the Animated version does that make me appreciate the minor characters more than the trilogy. Which gives the animated version the overall point.
The fifth and final factor I will look at is the overall story itself. Which version successfully portrays the story of the Hobbit? Both have their strengths and weaknesses in the story, but I'm going to point out the biggest deciding factor. When the Nostalgia Critic decided which was superior with the LotR movies, he immediately pointed out that the Jackson movies were told mutch stronger because unlike the animated version, each movie represented a book in the trilogy, where the animated tried cramming the first two into one, thus resulting in a weaker story. Here, ironically it's the exact opposite. The Hobbit doesn't have three books, it is one book. And while it's a long book, the trilogy was unnecessary. There are things not associated with the story that never should have been. And before you bring that aged argument in that Gandalf's sidequest is written in the Silmarillion, that doesn't justify its inclusion in the trilogy. It doesn't. It ironically makes Gandalf look really stupid in my opinion, especially when he, Saruman, and Galadriel talk about Sauron's return and the One Ring...you'd think Gandalf would at least inquire of Bilbo's magic ring that he knows he possesses. But that's beside the point. Forcing the Hobbit into a trilogy was a huge mistake, because while the Animated film may have a few problems of its own in story, it kept the focus on where it needed to be kept. Bilbo. The Hobbit isn't meant to be a love story, it's not meant to foreshadow the Rise of Sauron, it's not meant to be anything, but one Hobbit's adventure into a bigger world. And the animated version nailed that. Jackson may have nailed a lot of characters, but how can I appreciate Martin's performance when he is constantly shelved, while the spotlight shines on Elf and Dwarf romantic drama? Or something that won't even come into play until the actual next trilogy? The Animated film may not look as visually appealing in action, may have story inaccuracies of its own, but it knew the story it was telling from beginning to end, which is why I can easily call it the superior film. The Jackson films have enjoyable aspects, but all in all, they do not hold up to the original story they are supposed to be telling.
The final point goes to the Rankin and Bass Animated Version, the superior film.
Agree with what I've said? Feel free to share your thoughts down below, and as always, thanks for reading.