Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Impressions

I'm actually preparing to go right now.  I will edit the post after the movie, but I wanted to get some of my expectations out before I saw it, you know, cause I don't want to convince myself they were something that they weren't.  Not that I'm in the habit of doing that, just that...  ok, nevermind.

My best friend introduced me to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a number of years ago when I worked overnight shift at a customer service call center, back when customer service wasn't outsourced to people that had little to no concept of the product they were hired to support.  I got angry at customers who called me at 3am as I read the adventures of the little furry-footed people: how dare they interrupt my reading for their silly cell phone billing issues!  Tolkein's world building was superb and very in-depth something that you don't see too often nowadays in literature or movies.

I, like many people, had asked for the books for Christmas after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring.  I ended up with two copies of them.  But receiving the books and reading them after I had seen the first movie made me do something completely out of character.  I went to the movie again.  Alone.

Look, you don't understand.  I NEVER see movies more than once in the theater unless it's to go with two different groups of friends.  I have seen a total of 4 movies in the theater twice.  Fellowship of the Ring is the only movie, to date, that I wanted to see again while it was in the theater.  I loved all of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the fact that the same concept artists in the books' illustrations was the set concept artists made the feeling of Middle Earth coming to life all the more real.

Ever since The Return of the King, there has been talk, be it rumors or otherwise, of Peter Jackson making The Hobbit.  I waited for a long time for a confirmation to this, and when the news got out that not only is it true, but Andy Serkis had already been signed as Golum, well, let's just say squee broke a few windows in my house.

Then comes a few moths ago when I found out that The Hobbit was a trilogy.  Not only were Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, and Hugo Weaving reprising their roles, but so were characters that never showed up in The Hobbit, like Cate Blanchet as Galadriel, and even Elijah Wood as Frodo.  I'm not sure how to feel about this.  The only explanation I could come up with is some sort of flashback or story-telling device to inexorably tie this telling of Bilbo's story to the existing movies, even though Ian Holm was not playing Bilbo - or at least not young Bilbo (you know, like he did in the flashback scene of finding the Ring).  If that's the case, then it's totally not necessary.  Add to that the seemingly current movie trend of breaking up a movie unnecessarily just to make a few extra bucks in the box office (looking at you, Breaking Dawn) makes it disappointing that the filmmakers behind The Hobbit would stoop to that level.  All I can say is that these additions better be worth it to inform story or character and not just a gratuitous money making move... that I'm sure cost them millions to begin with.  It made sense to break up The Lord of the Rings into three parts - it had already been done for the book by the author and publisher.  The Hobbit is only one book, and about as long as any one part of The Lord of the Rings.  What other purpose could there be to break up The Hobbit?


I'm back.  Ok I was back a while ago, but I am so not used to being out until 2am anymore what with teaching and all.  So, what did I think of the movie?

Well, I was right about Elijah Wood (as well as Ian Holm) being in the movie only for flashback/story vehicle purposes that were kind of unnecessary.  The opening scene on was the same day that The Lord of the Rings started, only earlier in the day, and Bilbo was writing the memoir that is featured in the The Lord of the Rings movie.  Not bad, even understandable, but not really necessary.  The scene wasn't bad, it just didn't need to be there.  Anyway when the story proper starts and the "Good Morning" scene ensues, it kind of irked me slightly that Gandalf did not let Bilbo know that he would be there the next day.  Granted in the book, Bilbo forgot anyway, but Gandalf at least had the courtesy to let Bilbo know to expect company.  I suppose for time's sake I can forgive the arrival time of the dwarves being clumped into one group with the exception of Balin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili.  And the dinner scene was wonderfully recreated and enjoyable.

There are two big things that I did not like about the movie too much.  One was the inserted scenes with Elrond, Galadriel, Sauman, and Gandalf talking about the impending doom that seems to be approaching.  This not only slows the pacing of the film but also changes the mood of the story.  The Hobbit is a lot more lighthearted than The Lord of the Rings (even if there is danger and death in it), and having these sort of boring talks between the ancient ones about what we as a movie audience knew was coming but what in the context of The Hobbit is almost nonexistent seems to only serve as padding to make the movie stretch out to the $$ three movies.

The other thing that actually had me whispering "Ok, get on with it!" was the prevalence and length of action scenes.  There were not that many action scenes in the book, at least not in this part of it, and the fact that every other scene was an action scene that added little to the plot or story or characters did nothing to make me enjoy the movie more.  Scenes that were implied in the book became literal in the movie, which further served to stretch the movie.  The goblin (orcs in the movie, but from what I understand the two terms are interchangeable) fight scene was good and rather well done, and although not completely faithful to source material the troll scene was humorous enough, but the warg scene where the dwarves and Bilbo and Gandalf are up in the trees lasted way too long.  Add to that the rock giants literally causing storms and avalanches (where in the book it was figurative) and the $$ padding starts to become dull.

Other than those relatively minor things, though, the movie was pretty good.  It had the sweeping shots of Hobbiton and the mountains as the dwarf party crossed them, the Riddles in the Dark scene was superb, and the orchestrations as magnificent as one would expect from the Middle Earth as brought to you by Peter Jackson franchise.  One last nitpick, though.  There were many shots that seemed to be deliberate parallels to  The Lord of the Rings.  The aforementioned sweeping shots of running across mountains, for instance.  And the shot where the ring lands on Bilbo's finger after it somehow gets flung up into the air.  Yeah, that happened in neither The Hobbit, nor The Lord of the Rings and yet it's in both movies.

Overall a good movie, but because it seemed to drag in places and took a little too much from the Lord of the Rings movies, I have to say I like it less than it's predecessor movies... that have a story that was written after it...  and take place 60 years later... See it in theaters if you like The Lord of the Rings, but don't expect it to be as breathtaking as them.