Brevity: the soul of wit, and longtime arch-nemesis of director Peter Jackson.
Really Jackson is the ideal director to handle the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work; it would be difficult to find another director with the same attention to detail and general disregard for streamlined storytelling as Tolkien himself. This isn’t a slight against the author, I’ve read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many, many times. But would be dishonest to say that the prose isn’t often cumbersome, and occasionally downright unwieldy. This works in novel form though, where one is free to take in the information at their desired pace. However, it’s the sort of thing that takes its toll on a theatrical audience. Tolkien was also wise enough to cut the exposition off at a certain point, and he confined many of the peripheral stories and character lineages to a set of very thorough appendices and a handful of other books pieced together for those who wish to delve deeper after the fact. Similarly, much of what was shot for the three Lord of the Rings movies was left out of the versions intended for general consumption, and later made available on DVD for the benefit of that smaller audience who were left wanting more. So what happened here? How did The Hobbit, more or less a children’s story and shorter than any one of the three books that follow, end up as an entire trilogy all its own with a very similar runtime? Since this isn’t a traditional film with a beginning, middle, and end, it’s hard to judge it on traditional criteria, so instead I’m just going to do my best to break the whole thing down and have a look at how it’s constructed.