Sunday, December 23, 2012

Movie Musings - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey



Hmm, I'm not quite sure what to say about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (but since when has that ever stopped me?). It was good, but not great, IMO. Keep in mind that I have never actually read any Tolkien at all (despite repeated attempts, I never seem to get very far; I just don't like his writing style). However, from talking to my friends who have read it, that did not seem to affect how good (or not) they thought the film was. In fact, as is often the case for readers of the book that a film is based on, they were probably more frustrated with some of the aspects than I was. The story is a very wide ranging adventure, and I am enjoying the expansion of the scope of Middle Earth. Learning a bit more about the various races and how some of the animosity between dwarves and elves came to be is great (I'm a sucker for backstory!). All of the information being provided is quite interesting. But I do think the tone and pacing of the film is very uneven. A friend (whose favorite book ever is The Hobbit) believes that it is the parts of the film that are NOT from the book that cause the clash. Scenes actually from The Hobbit are generally much more lighthearted (relatively speaking) than those that use additional material (either from other Tolkien books or that were completely made up) which is more in keeping with the Lord of the Rings films, thus they clash tonally. With that thought in mind, I could probably tell you exactly what was in the book and what wasn't, without having actually read it. The parts that (I suspect) were from the book flowed quite well.

I do feel I should mention that it is rated PG-13 for a reason. I had originally hoped it would be rated PG and that we might be able to take Luke, but the PG-13 rating killed that. Given that this is supposedly based on a children's novel, I thought that perhaps it was more of a "soft" PG-13, but no. I think my friend Leah described it best: the level of violence is more in keeping with Two Towers or Return of the King than Fellowship. In terms of whether or not to take my son, Gollum made that an automatic no for me, but even without any Gollum scenes, the violence is still a no go for him at age 8.

I don't think the humor was handled as deftly as it was in Lord of the Rings. There were several lines and moments that you could tell were supposed to be funny but just sort of fell flat. I don't know if it was the delivery or simply the placement of the jokes (i.e. how it was edited). Some worked, but most did not. I do quite like the dwarves, though I also find them a bit uneven. Some seem to be mere cartoons or caricatures in both action and appearance, while others seem almost human. There are 13 of them, though I can really only uniquely identify 6 or 7, and even then, I don't know the names of all 6-7, which is sad after spending nearly 3 hours with them. I do find the leader (Thorin; see, I know his name!) quite compelling; his presence on screen is amazing. Watching the dwarves fight together is wonderful. It is approaching Cirque du Soleil in its artistry and choreography, definitely a well oiled machine. It makes me wish there was perhaps another dwarf or two in Lord of the Rings; I think that would have made things interesting. I am a bit confused with the timing of the "original" (I suppose) battle at Moria vs what happens later in Fellowship. Supposedly only 60 years have elapsed between the beginning of The Hobbit and the beginning of Fellowship, but I can't quite make it all work. Again, according to friends who have read the book, the timeline is quite compressed, so maybe that's part of the problem. (I'm thinking about it too hard! LOL)

My biggest complaint about the film is that it is far too long. I should not be looking at my "watch" every 30-45 minutes, which equates to 5-6 times during a film of this length. Fellowship of the Ring is equally long, and that movie just flies by, to me. (It is far and away my favorite LOTR film.) But here is the even scarier part: I know a little of the story of The Hobbit. I did see the animated version eons and ages ago. In this three hour film, they've hit all of the bits that I remember, except for the final showdown. I mean, logically based on where this film ended (after the eagles, and they can see the peak far off in the distance), they have to actually *get* to the mountain, which I imagine is the majority of film 2. They've also set a few pieces in motion, but they are not bits of the story that I remember (though I admit my memory is likely quite faulty in that respect). I'm just not quite sure what's left for them to do in two more films and another 5-6 hours before we get to the dragon, and I'm really not sure I want to sit through it. I will, of course, because I'm curious and a fan, but I also foresee it being a somewhat tedious journey. Smaug looks absolutely breathtaking in the teensy snippets I've seen, though, so I am truly looking forward to that. So, pack your lambas bread, and let's go! I hope the end of the journey is worth it.
Currently feeling: ready for second breakfast

2 comments:

Fiona said...

Very interesting Erin! My son is a complete Tolkien nutcase (DH first read The Hobbit to him when he was 3!) and having seen the film in Thailand as soon as it came out he started by saying that Peter Jackson should be strung up for what he has done...and it went downhill from there! Personally I don't think I'll bother to watch - I much prefer books to films and although I've read Tolkien I don't re-read him (like you I have difficulty with him) and having seen the LOTR films once I haVve no desire to see them again. Oh, such heresy ;)

geeky Heather said...

I'm the complete opposite...I experienced the familiar (since Fellowship) feeling of "OH NO, the movie's about to end!") My eyes bugged out of my head when they showed Erebor, and that's the main reason I wanted to see it in IMAX later (we saw it in 2D; I'm not a huge 3D fan). They did change some things that bugged me (but tiny things). FYI, this movie is only the first 5 chapters of the book! And don't even mention that animated version in front of Michael, LOL!

The *weird* thing I thought they changed was Elrond being opposed to the quest. They are at Rivendell for two weeks in the book, and there's no objection to them going, and no meeting with Galadriel and Saruman. But they are bringing in elements from the Appendices (at the end of Return of the King), so I think that was the tie-in there.

And just as an aside, we are NEVEREVEREVER going to the Mall of Georgia IMAX again! Like, never.