Why did Peter Jackson's LOTR movies succeed & The Hobbit fail?

I don’t mean financially. Money-wise the Hobbit movies are fine.
As a long-time Tolkien fan/fanatic I was leery of the Jackson Lord of the Rings films, but came to greatly appreciate them. I saw them many times in the theatre, bought multiple copies, and have rewatched at home. The first two Hobbit movies - I saw in the theatre, enjoyed, but have no desire to ever watch again. I will follow the same pattern with number 3, most likely. (I always preferred LOTR to The Hobbit as books, also).
Now everyone’s mileage varies, but I bet we can get a consensus that Jackson LOTR films are better than The Hobbit films. What I’d like to know is your opinions on HOW they are better and WHY.
My short answer: Hobbit(s) too long, too many orcs. Less emotional involvement. Glow of $ signs overcame love of source material. Replaying good elements from LOTR films rather than coming up with new approaches (wizard fight; falling bridge; more examples too depressing). also - Repitition - why do something once when you can drag the scene on and on (barrel escape in river)?

caveat - Not saying everything’s bad (More Gandalf the Grey! Bard the Bowman. Cool song about Misty Mountains. Evangeline Lily surprisingly good).

Better source material.

Some of it is understandable and simple miscalculation about adapting book to movie:

  • In the book, for instance, there’s a brief mention of the past battle with the goblins. In a movie, it would be boring to TALK about a battle, so we have to see it. But the overall impression is too many battles.

  • The book has the battle of goblin town, then Riddles in the Dark, then the battle in the trees. The movie puts Riddles in the Dark first, so that we go almost directly from goblin town battle to battle in the trees. The overall result is one very very lonnnng battle.

  • There’s no real character to identify with. The LotR movies start with the hobbits; audiences identify with hobbits (rather than elves or dwarves.) We’re pulled into the movie with Frodo and Bilbo. But, mysteriously, there’s very little of Bilbo in the hobbit. We don’t get his internal dialog, we get almost nothing of Bilbo. There’s no character to identify with or care about.

  • By being three movies, there’s lots of filler. Scenes go on too long: the barrel run, the fight with the dragon, the battles. Way too long. He needed to edit down.

I’ve had fun watching the Hobbit films, so I don’t think they really failed, but I’ll agree they aren’t as good as LOTR.

I think part of the problem is that they really should’ve found a new director. I love Jackson’s LOTR, but we’ve already spent 13 hours there, and The Hobbit just seems like kind of a rehash (it doesn’t help that Tolkien repeated a lot of the settings and plot elements). We’ve seen Jackson’s Shire and Gandalf and trolls and Rivendall and Wargs and Eagles and underground Orc kingdoms and giant spiders and elves and such.

Plus, while a lot of the Hobbit has similar plot elements, the themes and writing are a lot more in the style of a childrens fairly tale. Jackson tries to do this, but he’s also trying to keep it as a prequel to his later, more serious movies, so he ends up basically just throwing in a bunch of cartoonish action sequences to keep things light and childish. I think del Toro or another director would’ve felt more free to change the feel of the film from that of LOTR to something more faithful to the Hobbit book.

A. Not enough source material for three movies. Two, at most, if you stretch it. So there’s a bunch of filler. The people writing the filler aren’t as good as Tolkien.

B. Ninja elves.

C. The same disease that afflicted Star Wars I-III. Once you have a popular character, you have to have them show up in the movie, even if it’s a prequel. So you have to shoe-horn in subplots with those characters even if they aren’t essential to the plot and even if they take a steaming dump on whatever it was you liked about the character in the original.

D. Too many action scenes that just don’t work because they’re trying to hard to be, I dunno, Pirates of the Caribbean. How long did the dragon chase them through the mountain without deep frying anyone? How long did the Orcs chase them back and forth through the wilderness in the first movie? Did I mention the ninja elves and the stupid barrels?

E. Love interests. Yuck.

I agree with what everyone else is saying, but there is something more to it than that - and it us this: the Hobbit (the book) was written as a children’s adventure book, very different in tone to Lord of the Rings.

This difference in tone makes it very difficult to create a coherent set of movies, even without the ninja elves, too-lengthy battles, etc.

I’m not seeing this one. Legolas was presumably in the book of The Hobbit, too, just not mentioned by name. But it would be silly to visit the court of the King of the Wood-Elves, see the royalty of the court, and not run into the one guy who we know was a member of that royal court. Yeah, we probably see more of him than we should, but he shouldn’t be absent entirely.

And the only other recurring characters I can think of are Galadriel and Saruman. Their place isn’t quite as firm as Legolas’, but the White Council attacking Dol Guldur was part of Tolkien’s conception, too, and they would have been key figures in that. Plus, Galadriel’s scenes in the movie were great.

The character who was most shoehorned in was Radagast, and he didn’t show up in the Lord of the Rings movie at all (not even mentioned, like he was in the book). So you can’t blame that on his character’s previous popularity.

Right. In a way, PJ painted himself into a corner by releasing the LOTR movies first. If he’d made a Hobbit movie that was closer to the tone of the book, it would have seemed at odds with the tone of the LOTR trilogy.

Still, I question the wisdom of stretching a book that’s shorter than any one of the LOTR books into three movies. I like some of the embellishments (especially the way they’ve fleshed out Bard, and I do think the dwarves’ plan in the movies–retrieve the Arkenstone to unite the dwarf kingdoms–makes a little more sense than the book’s vague “burglary”), but overall it seems a bit too blatant an attempt to re-capture lightning in a bottle.

Yea, if anything, they sort of passed on doing this as much of this as they could. No Arwen or Stryder at Rivendall for example. (they did shoehorn Frodo in the start of the movie, but he only had like twenty seconds of screen time).

Eh, he could have been on a 10 year vacation. Aragorn didn’t meet Arwen until he was in his twenties, even though he had been living in her house the whole time, because she was visiting Granny Galadriel for a few decades. So it’s completely possible Legolas was out of town when Thorin & Co. arrived. Especially when the multi-week imprisonment of the dwarves was compressed down to a day or two in the movie.

And there was maybe a 5 second mention in the LOTR trilogy that Legolas was from Mirkwood. Anyone knowledgeable enough to know he’s Thranduil’s son would also know he wasn’t mentioned at all in “The Hobbit”.

Having never read any of the books (I’m sorry!) it was a matter of “been there, saw that, don’t need to see it again” Even if the reviews were great, I probably wouldn’t spend my money.

For me, and I suspect for many casual viewers, the same thing happened with Harry Potter. I saw the first few but then just got bored with them. So if you define success and box-office numbers, it may just be viewer fatigue.


I dispute the OP’s initial premise. There’s been no failure except in our expectations.

Look, we had a fantastic, almost life changing trilogy. No matter what anyone does after that, it simply can’t measure up to our hopes and memories.

Even taking out much of the pandering to kids of SW 1-3, they never could have succeeded for the True Fan . SW 4-6 also had quite a bit of pandering to kids. Ewoks.

I am also very glad they are showing us the “back story” what with the White Council and all.

I doubt anyone would have given him a big budget for The Hobbit if the LOTR movies hadn’t been huge hits first. I think the biggest problem is that the source material is just less exciting, and it probably doesn’t help that people have already spent, what, 11 hours in Middle Earth over the course of the first three movies?

I haven’t seen the second movie, but I thought The Hobbit relied too heavily on CGI. The LOTR films had a good deal of it, but it didn’t distract from plot and character development. In some instances the CGI in LOTR even looked better, despite being made 11 years prior.

I think this is pretty much it. The visualization of Middle-Earth is as remarkable as the earlier movies, but soooo muuuuch fillllllerrrrrrrrrr…

I actually don’t mind Radagast’s rabbits, the Great Goblin, and the stone giants – remember, this isn’t a sober history of the Great War, this is Bilbo telling tall tales to the kiddies.

For me, this is a big part of it.

I didn’t mind the idea of adding in scenes / subplots that were hinted at in the book, or mentioned in the appendix of RotK (the White Council, Gandalf’s excursion to combat the Necromancer), or even things that seem to be logical inclusions (Legolas’s presence in Mirkwood).

What did bother me, even more so in the second movie, was the number of things that were (a) created out of whole cloth, and (b) fundamentally changed the canon of the story. A few examples (spoilered for those who might not have actually seen the second movie yet):

[spoiler]- Beorn, in bear form, menacing the Company, and chasing them into his house

  • Splitting up the dwarves at Lake-Town
  • Smaug being able, through sheer force of will, to make Bilbo remove the Ring
  • The remaining dwarves attacking Smaug
  • Additional, long combats and action scenes, seemingly largely created to add more action in a segment of the story that doesn’t have a lot of it
  • Multiple orcs and other servants of Sauron mouthing off about “darkness is coming, you’re all going to die” – foreshadowing the War of the Ring, which is still over 60 years away! [/spoiler]

I’ve actually thought most of the filler was decent. It’s at least no more flawed then the stuff taken from the book, and at least some of it feels like it was kind of needed to make the book filmable (e.g. showing Beorn actually turn into a bear, just saying he’s a shapeshifter and not having him change shape till the end works ok in the book, but would feel kind of silly in a movie).

I don’t mind the variations from the book: most of them are reasonable choices when dealing with film rather than text. Among the things that kenobi dislikes, for instance: [spoiler]- Beorn chasing them as a bear is more fun and exciting than what would be a long, dull sequence of the dwarves arriving one at a time. That would be tedious to watch.

  • Splitting up the dwarves at Lake Town - we don’t know yet the impact, but it certainly means fewer character to deal with in the cave. Easier visually. Again, in the book, they don’t have to mention each dwarf by name in every paragraph (borrrrrring), but the movie would have to show too many people, and that would confuse an audience’s attention. This seemed to me to be a reasonable decision for a movie to deal with six or seven rather than 14.
  • Smaug and the ring being somehow connected was interesting, didn’t bother me at all
  • I agree with your other points, however. [/spoiler]
    I agree that trying to give THE HOBBIT a more serious tone sort of undermines the humor and fun of the book, but that doesn’t bother me as much as not having Bilbo as main character.

I think it is two factors -
[ul][li]The Hobbit suffers by comparison. Even if it were a good movie, everyone is going to expect a great movie, like the trilogy.[/li][li]The studio expected to make at least as much from The Hobbit as they did from the LOTR trilogy. So they made another trilogy, and therefore had to include characters from the first one, as well as make a lot of filler. Their adaptation of the book will suffer accordingly, with the added drawback that fans of the book will object to the filler. [/ul][/li]It was a good movie, but I got the same feeling I did when I watched the second Star Wars movie, or the second Rocky movie. They weren’t making a movie for its own sake. They wanted to create that most valuable of film types, a franchise. Everybody knows that after they get done with The Hobbit trilogy, and it makes as much money as the execs hope, The Silmarillion is next. In five parts.


I watched The Hobbit and was curiously unmoved. I love Martin Freeman as Bilbo, but the tone of the first movie was…I dunno, it was all over. Was it supposed to be a comedy? Bits went on and on, like the washing dishes, and I thought: this is stupid! And those dwarves! There were so many of them, and then you had a couple of hot human looking dwarves, and the rest were bizarre characters wearing rubber Halloween masks, makeup and costumes. I just thought it was dumb. It was nice to look at, but uninvolving, too long, and nothing to get excited about. IMO.