You won't fall, Bilbo. No one ever does.
And in the rare event that they do...giant eagles.
I was not a huge fan of Peter Jackson's previous The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that is not to say I didn't enjoy it—I willingly sat down with my friends to marathon all three movies back-to-back when the extended editions first came out on video. Fantasy might not be my go-to genre when I want to be entertained, but I appreciate a well-told story and a visual spectacle. When they announced a Hobbit movie, I thought, "Oh, cool. That could be fun." When they announced it would be a trilogy, I stopped caring.
I read the book in middle school, and remember bits and pieces of it. I wouldn't have minded one last visit to Middle-Earth, but three last visits is pushing it, especially when the source material is so short. Embellish a little, throw in material from The Silmarillion and whatever didn't fit into The Lord of the Rings, and you've got enough length to warrant that much film...but at what cost?
I look at actors Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, and Christopher Lee—each about a decade older than the one before him—and wonder whether I'll see a news headline in the next few years that reads, "Thousands of Miles Away From Family, Beloved Older Actor Worked to Death Because One Movie Wasn't Good Enough." Is The Hobbit worth that kind of tragedy?
I realize that tragedy can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime. I also realize that turning 70 doesn't mean we immediately need to enclose you in a plastic bubble, hide the cutlery, sell the car, and do away with anything else that could possibly do you harm. My octogenarian grandfather is still driving tractors, chopping firewood, and building storage sheds by hand—but I'd still be wary of signing him up for an action movie trilogy that'll take something like five years to finish.
So that's part of my issue with The Hobbit. Especially having heard something about Ian McKellen being reluctant to do a trilogy, but not wanting to disappoint his fans. It seems in poor taste to drag actors into something they're sorta obligated to do, particularly when (as I understand it) the entire project started as a, "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to get back together for just one more movie?" kind of a thing.
The other part of my issue is that...well...it's not all that good of a movie. It's not awful—it's not even bad—and I recognize that the bar was set very high by The Lord of the Rings. It's the mundane script—the dialogue is functional, but it lacks personality; clever turns-of-phrase and conversations with people (as opposed to conversations at people) are few and far between in The Hobbit, and rarely did I hear anything that only that character could've said that way. The exception, of course, being Gollum, who I found not to be creepy and amusing, but rather grating and tiresome.
Which brings me to the characters. I've played enough RPGs to know that character development tends to suffer once the main cast has expanded beyond a dozen or so, and The Hobbit has a very large main cast. It's the dwarves in particular: while each of them is visually distinctive, that's about all they've got going for themselves. Bizarre speech patterns, bold body language, unique combat styles, even catch-phrases can help differentiate characters like these, but I saw and heard very little of that. It didn't help that there was always so much going on any time the group was together—the focus was always on the action, and rarely on the individuals responsible for it.
Oh yes. The action. One part--one part—made this movie worth watching: the stone giant battle. That was fantastic. It (a) was something I had never seen done before in a movie; and (b) instilled a sense of surprise and wonder at this fantasy universe. That's where the joy of The Hobbit should have been: in the surprise and wonder of this fantasy world. You know Bilbo and Gandalf are gonna make it, so stop dangling them off of cliffs like it's the height of drama. Give me things that take my breath away, like more of the majestic interior of the Lonely Mountain. Surprise me with the heroes' solutions for extricating themselves from their predicament du jour—"Backed into a corner...and Gandalf saves the day!!" only works so many times. Instead of surprise and wonder, we spent half the movie staring at ugly things—Gollum, trolls, goblins, orcs, wargs—and ugly things we'd already seen pretty extensively in Fellowship, Two Towers, and Return of the King.
The Hobbit is an okay movie in its own right, with high production values masking many of the shortcomings in storytelling, but its ambition to be the next Lord of the Rings gets in the way of its great potential to be something other than Lord of the Rings. I think it's interesting that this latest Hobbit currently scores a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, just one percent lower than the deliberately simplified and kid-friendly 1978 animated adaptation of the book. Makes me wonder how much better the movie would've been if it had tried harder to be like...well...The Hobbit.