The first installment of Peter Jackson’s trilogy of adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” has received fairly decent initial reviews; a 75% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a B+ average on Criticwire. But you know how this goes; nothing less that complete and total positive consensus will please hardcore fans anticipating a film, and as expected many Tolkien and Jackson acolytes have taken to message boards, online forums, and comments sections to make their dissenting (though largely uninformed) opinions heard, and to verbally abuse critics there and back again.
If you go wandering through these online spaces, you’ll find plenty of the usual schtick — threats, insults, complaints — along with a few that go beyond your garden variety angry comments. One Rotten Tomatoes user explained why he was totally qualified to judge “The Hobbit” even though he hadn’t seen it:
“Can I judge a film before it’s release?
Yes, I can in fact. I looked at it’s production history, I’ve read and heard the interviews, and having knowledge of the Unfinished Tales and Appendices can deduce what PJ and company find relevant and put into the film.
And I know that a subplot of Dol Guldor, that has an actual connection to the quest and Smaug, is far more relevant than a remake that outstretches the original twice as long with so many pointless scenes that somehow those critics give it a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card because… he just did LOTR and they they must tolerate a genius’s overlong film this once, even if it was not the moment to?”
Other fans took different approaches. Instead of judging the movie sight unseen, one RT commenter argued that it “doesn’t make sense” to judge the movie at all — at least with regard to how it breaks up Tolkien’s original novel — until all three “Hobbit”s were made and could be appreciated collectively:
“It will be more prudent to criticize the division into 3 films when all the movies are released. Peter Jackson added a lot of stuffs, so we don’t know if it was a good or a bad idea. I’m pretty sure the other instalments will justify the length of the first one.”
One reader of The Telegraph argued that because “The Hobbit” must be brilliant, critic Robbie Collin must have plagiarized his review:
“‘The Hobbit’ is a fantastic storyline and what you say Collins does not ring true. I am not sure how Jackson could have messed it up, it is virtually impossible.
Did you actually watch the film or copy the review of the Guardian or Rotten Tomatoes?
Or are you trying to be controverial here or a film critic snob?
Watch it fully twice and then come back and give it a review.”
Back at Rotten Tomatoes, another user had this unusual explanation for the negative reviews:
“The format’s really throwing the critics off lately, mainly because they don’t feel like writing anything positive because it’s so much easier to pick out the bad things instead of the good. Nahhh good reviews are too much work! lol whatevs it’s probably a fantastic film no matter what. i, too, will judge for myself once i see it.”
That same user put forth another theory for unhappy critics in a different Rotten Tomatoes thread:
“The critics have changed. Some like their films less bloated these days because they all have ADD but they can sit around and glorify Avatar (2009, 160-something-odd minutes) and Dark Knight Rises (which was understandable, because we won’t be seeing batman again on screen for a long time, and its length is justified by good story and characters). The other problem with the critics though is the pacing, and also its tone. But I will see the film, and I will judge for myself.”
You might assume from the tenor and volume of these comments that “The Hobbit” was the worst reviewed movie of the year — not one that had been given positive marks from three out of every four critics who’ve seen it so far.
These fans’ excessive outrage is brilliantly satirized in a post for Pajiba by Eric D. Snider, another film critic as morbidly obsessed with angry Internet commenters as I am. His piece, “Don’t Listen to the Movie Critics Who Say Negative Things About ‘The Hobbit!'” is written from the perspective of one of those commenters, and winkingly savages reviewers who had the temerity to watch the movie and then accurately describe the experience:
“‘A bit of a slog’?? Are you serious? Did Todd McCarthy even see the same movie that I haven’t seen yet?
It’s absurd to suggest that ‘The Hobbit’ is anything less than a great movie. I don’t have to watch it to know that. Did you not notice that it’s directed by Peter Jackson, who made the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, aka the finest artistic achievement in the history of mankind? Have you not seen the trailers, which make it abundantly clear that ‘The Hobbit’ looks and sounds exactly like ‘Lord of the Rings?’ It even has a lot of the same cast members!
To get even more directly to the point: It’s ‘The Hobbit.’ Obviously it’s a great movie. Why? Because it’s ‘The Hobbit!’ What part of this is not clear?”
Snider then posted his piece to the Rotten Tomatoes board that helped inspire it. Some got the joke, others did not.
I know this plea will mostly fall on deaf ears but remember, men, women, and dwarves: no amount of bad reviews is going to affect your enjoyment of “The Hobbit.” Warner Brothers is not going to cancel this film’s release because Todd McCarthy didn’t care for it. It will still open. It will still play. You will have the chance to enjoy it or not enjoy it on your own terms. Critics don’t deserve exile to the darkest depths of Mordor for voicing their opinions.