‘The Hobbit’ (1977) review


Apollo Ollmann, Staff Writer

The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the most beloved books of the past century. Its mix of fantasy, adventure, and comedy make it one of the most entertaining and interesting books I’ve ever read. Its sequel, Lord of the Rings, is one of the most important books ever written. This, of course, would cause people to want to create adaptations of these works. 

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most critically acclaimed film series, with the final film Return of the King being tied with two other films for most Oscar wins. The Hobbit film series, on the other hand, is not so critically acclaimed. That is not The Hobbit adaptation that I want to speak about though. In 1977, the animation studio Rankin Bass decided to adapt this book into a one hour and thirty minute animated film. With help from the Japanese animation studio TopCraft, Rankin Bass was able to create one of the most strange but entertaining adaptations of The Hobbit. 

The Hobbit starts with our main character Bilbo Baggins sitting in his front garden smoking a pipe. As soon as he starts smoking, Gandalf the Grey appears with the dwarven company of Thorin, son of Thrain, to ask Bilbo to accompany them on an adventure. Bilbo unwillingly allows them into his house to have a big feast and explanation of what the adventure is about. The dwarves explain that their kingdom in The Lonely Mountain has been taken by the great dragon Smaug, a fire-drake that has a severe greed for hoards of gold. Bilbo initially rejects the offer of the dwarves, but he finally accepts the agreement and goes on his way with the dwarves and Gandalf. 

Bilbo encounters many creatures, peoples, and places along his way to The Lonely Mountain. He fights trolls, meets Elrond in Rivendell, gets captured by goblins, takes the ring that belonged to Gollum. After all of this Bilbo and the dwarves get saved by the Eagles of Manwë and gets taken to the borders of the Mirkwood forest. Mirkwood Forest is a dank and hazy wood full of mystery and evil sorceries. Bilbo and the dwarves end up getting captured by the great spiders of Mirkwood, and then eventually Bilbo defeats them allowing the dwarves to escape. Unfortunately, the dwarves get captured by the woodland elves and Bilbo has to go free them from their bonds. Bilbo saves the dwarves by stuffing them into barrels and floating them down the river to get to Lake-town. The company meets the men of Lake-town and tells them about their journey to The Lonely Mountain. The men help the company and they make their way to the mountain. The company finds a secret entrance that allows them to get in without alerting the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is sent inside and has an encounter with the great dragon, and Bilbo has to escape before Smaug burns him to a crisp. Luckily, Bilbo has a ring that can turn him invisible so Smaug can’t see him. Smaug assumes Bilbo is with the Lake men so Smaug leaves the mountain to burn down Lake-town. Luckily Bard the Bowman has the Black Arrow which is the only arrow with the ability to take down Smaug from the skies. Smaug is defeated and the Lake men leave to get help from the dwarves. Thorin refuses to help the Lake men so Bard gathers all of his troops along with the woodland elves. They all get ready for battle when dwarves of the Iron Hills show up to help Thorin and company. Unfortunately, a massive group of orcs appear and an all out war between the allied forces of men, elves, and dwarves fight the orcs. With help from the Eagles they are able to defeat the orcs. At the end of the battle Thorin is revealed to be near death and he apologizes to Bilbo for how he treated him. Bilbo forgives Thorin and he passes away. With the adventure at its end, Bilbo takes the long journey all the way home to his home under the hill. 

This film is jam packed with events that have only an hour and thirty minutes to recreate. The film is pretty faithful to the original novel, only having excluded the scene where the company meets Beorn the Skinchanger and some specific scenes in Mirkwood. Although, it makes sense they got rid of these scenes because they don’t add anything important to the story. The film also has a whole bunch of songs in it. Bangers such as “Down, Down, To Goblin Town” and “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates” are great inclusions in the film. 

The way the movies portray different characters is also very odd. For instance, the dragon Smaug is very cat-like in the film. He has fur and his head is shaped like a cat. He also sits around like a cat. Another big change is the design of the Woodland Elves. Elves are supposed to be very fair and beautiful, but these elves are gray and bug-like. The spiders of Mirkwood even have horns. 

In general, I enjoy the film, but I don’t think it should have been made at that time. I feel if it was given more time it could have been more tightly written and the story would feel less rushed. I also feel that Gandalf should have been more fleshed out as a character in the film instead of just being a magic wizard that helps the company from time to time. If you ever want to watch the film, it can be found on HBO Max. With its downsides, I still give the film a 7.4/10.