Director Peter Jackson’s latest film has had difficulty escaping the legacy of his incredibly successful trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.” “The Return of the King” won Best Picture and cemented itself as possibly one of the most important fantasy films of all time. So “The Hobbit” has been faced with a difficult question: Where do you go from the top? One of the most difficult aspects of the position “The Hobbit” was in is that often when following success, anything less than an equal or greater performance is considered a failure. There are a few ways that Jackson’s latest was truly a weaker film than any of the trilogy. The story is plainly less compelling. Once the film and the companions depart from the Shire, the point of origin for both “The Hobbit” and the first of the trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” action sequences flow into one another with roughly the grace of Niagara Falls, and while the trilogy clearly created memorable characters out of every single member of the fellowship, “The Hobbit” cannot boast such lasting performances. Outside of Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, Andy Serkis’ digitally astonishing Gollum, and Lord of the Rings veteran Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, viewers will be hard-pressed to even identify which characters were on screen at any given point.
However, while in some areas “The Hobbit” clearly falls short of its predecessors, it succeeds in many others. Jackson and his compatriots are tasked with the incredibly difficult job of turning a fairly short novel into yet another trilogy, and yet they managed to incorporate story that is not present in the novel itself fairly well. In fact, they used the inclusion of a particularly peculiar wizard to comedic effect, suiting the lighter tone of the novel compared to that of the trilogy. Once again the visuals of the film are incredible, with spectacular scenery and special effects combining to sweep the viewers to Middle Earth with relative ease. Most importantly, the film isn’t trying to be the fourth film in the series. It has succeeded in being its own film, with a memorable lead in Freeman, a lighter tone and enough action to make viewers forget endless scenes of Frodo’s bare feet trudging through Mordor with a horrifically constipated look on his face. The film is downright fun, and that is all it tried and needed to be.