The Hobbit vs. The Goblins

We saw The Hobbit on New Year’s Day, and overall, I enjoyed it. It did feel occasionally bloated, but there were other additions I appreciated and enjoyed. “Riddles in the Dark” was, as many have said already, one of the best parts of the film. While I don’t think it was as strong as Lord of the Rings, that would be a pretty high bar to reach.

That said, the movie did have some problems. I have no taste for fat jokes, which felt like pretty much all they did with the character of Bombur. The stone giants seemed completely random and unnecessary to the story. But my biggest complaint, which will probably come as no surprise, was the way the story treated the goblins.

In Lord of the Rings, our heroes slaughtered an awful lot of orcs. Orcs were the stormtroopers of Middle Earth, generic villains who could be killed with little to no remorse, because they’re all Evil. On the other hand, Lord of the Rings took place in a time of war. The orcs we saw were generally soldiers sent out to hunt and kill humans and other races. The Uruk-hai were specifically created to be evil killing machines.

But then we get to The Hobbit. The dwarves take shelter in a cave, and find themselves tumbling into the goblin kingdom under the mountain. They’re taken prisoner and brought to the goblin king, and oversized and grotesque creature. The dwarves, with Gandalf’s help, eventually break free and fight their way out. In the process, they pretty much Kill All The Goblins.

This scene drags on and on. Goblins are smashed with rocks, stabbed with swords, chopped with axes, knocked into the abyss, and generally massacred left and right.

As a mental exercise, how do you think a party of goblins would have been treated had they stumbled into a dwarf kingdom? They’d have been taken prisoner, hauled in front of the authorities, and probably sentenced to death for the crime of being goblins. How is what the goblins did any different? Yet we’re supposed to sympathize and cheer as the heroes kill every goblin they come across?

Exercise the second: remember toward the beginning of the movie, when they’re talking about how most of these dwarves aren’t really warriors? Yet they killed all of those goblins without a single casualty. What does that tell you about the goblins they were fighting? Those goblins weren’t trained or experienced fighters. They couldn’t have been. Most of them were probably just minding their own business and got caught up in the chaos.

Yeah, I have a soft spot for goblins, but this was just thoughtless storytelling. It felt almost pornographic in a way. Instead of Debbie Does Dallas, we get Gandalf Guts Goblins.

I can appreciate a good fight scene. This wasn’t one. This was empty hack and slash, and I want better.