With the release of the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final film in The Hobbit Trilogy, one question has been asked repeatedly by viewers, critics and J.R.R Tolkien fanatics alike: Where is Bilbo Baggins? In a film series that features the word “Hobbit,” you’d think the actual Hobbit might be featured in the film most of the time.
Just so you know, he’s around three-feet tall, likes to wear yellow and green, and is desperately in need of his misplaced handkerchief. You might have spotted him occasionally in Peter Jackson’s newest trilogy of films based off of a book that’s only 300-pages long. Just to put everything in perspective, Battle of the Five Armies will cover the last 58 pages of the book. You can make a three hour movie out of 58 pages, right? Right?
Looking at the most recent trailer for the final act of the film series, it’s obvious at this point that Bilbo has been relegated to a second player of sorts. He’s only spotted a handful of times in the trailer and is given a brief voice-over narration. Despite what one might think, the distinct lack of Bilbo isn’t a new phenomena. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was heavily criticized for its lack of focus on the title character and its desire to cover things that weren’t even featured in the book.
Yes, you had the more iconic scenes from Tolkien’s original work. Bilbo’s battle with the spiders and his conversation with the seemingly all-powerful dragon, Smaug, were present, but how many hours were in between those two scenes? The film follows Gandalf as he goes to investigate the Necromancer, Thorin as he’s slowly overcome by his own desires and greed, Bard the Bowman, and Legolas’ love-life. All of the plots and sub-plots aren’t necessary to tell a story about a single person. This is Bilbo’s story, not the story of Evangeline Lily trying to get with a dwarf.
The reason why Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings worked so well was because he knew he had to cut scenes and characters from the original source material. It was necessary in order to tell a more streamlined story. I don’t think anyone was crying over the loss of Tom Bombadil and his yellow boots. I certainly wasn’t.
With The Hobbit, Jackson is doing the complete opposite. Not only did he turn a relatively short book into three movies, but he purposely added things to pad out the running time. The length of The Hobbit films can be felt, unlike the previous running-time of The Lord of the Rings. By adding all these extra things like Gandalf’s investigation of the return of Sauron, and Thorin’s rivalry with the CGI orc, Azog, Bilbo’s role becomes smaller and smaller.
In Jackson’s efforts to forcefully connect The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings, he’s alienated the central character from the original novel. The Hobbit is Bilbo’s story from start to finish. It’s not about Thorin, Gandalf, Bard, or Legolas. The novel is about a person finding the bravery and selflessness that they didn’t know was inside them all along. Bilbo is learning to overcome his fear to become something much more, but Jackson and company are so busy trying to connect everything from the previous trilogy to these films that the point of Bilbo’s story is completely lost in the film adaptation.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. This last film might finally be able to give Bilbo his due, but with a three hour running time, forgive me for being skeptical.