Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Theaters Now

Oh, wow, where to start? By the way, that wasn't a good "wow," I'm sorry to say. The Hobbit left me and my husband, overall, disappointed. There were some great parts, I'll admit, and I'll get to those in just a bit. But, first, the "bad and ugly."

Perhaps my main problem with the movie is that it feels like a copycat of the Lord of the Rings movies. In fact, switch out a few characters, settings, and plotlines and you have The Fellowship of the Ring. A mismatched group goes on a quest, gets chased by orcs, visits the elves, gets caught in a storm (of sorts) on a narrow mountain path, and gets chased beneath the mountain (which is ludicrous; they fall continuously, even hundreds of feet, some of them getting smashed by a huge, fat goblin king, and come out unscathed). Now, isn't that line-up of events exactly The Fellowship of the Ring? Granted, some of that is straight out of The Hobbit, but a lot of the details aren't, my husband informs me. (It's been too long since I read The Hobbit for me to compare. My husband just re-read it.) And then as the flames rise and all hope seems lost, the eagles swoop in and save the day. My husband says a form of this is actually in The Hobbit, too, but I remember it best from The Return of the King movie, where Frodo and Sam are waiting to die, hot lava all around, after destroying the ring. Not much about this newest movie stands out from its predecessors, but it could have. It's not that The Hobbit is badly written, not at all! So, it baffles that Peter Jackson and his crew felt the need to change it so much, to add pieces of history from other Tolkien manuscripts but not even follow those correctly.

Now, had I not seen the other three Lord of the Rings movies, I would have thought this movie was beautiful. I don't mind the CG effects as much as others, my husband included, who would prefer a more realistic art and backdrop. I love the settings of Middle Earth...but I've seen it all before. The first few times Lord of the Rings panned over a straight line of travelers traversing a mountain ridge with breathtaking majesty behind them, I thought that was awesome. This time, it's just old...and time-consuming.

This movie does not need to be as long as it is, and The Hobbit certainly doesn't need to be three movies. It's a rather short little book, and it's very singularly focused...on a hobbit. It's not The Hobbit: The Fellowship of the Arkenstone. It's not The Hobbit: Thorin is the New Aragorn. It's not The Hobbit: A Dwarf's Tale. It's The Hobbit[: no addendum].

But where the movie went right, I'll admit, it went oh-so-right. I absolutely loved Bilbo. Perhaps it was partly my familiarity with the actor as Watson on the Brits' TV show Sherlock, but I was thoroughly enamored with his portrayal of Bilbo. He salvages a tiny bit of the movie and endears himself to us as well as any previously portrayed hobbit ever has. Bravo, Martin Freeman!

One part my husband and I agree goes particularly well is the chaotic dwarf supper at Bilbo's house. It's wonderful fun and adds life to a cast of characters that are otherwise unremarkable and interchangeable. I also enjoyed the capture by and escape from the trolls and the riddle exchange with Gollum, both memorable parts of The Hobbit.

But even I noticed places where details didn't quite match up with the book, such as the manner in which Bilbo discovers the ring. That seemed so iconic in the book to me that I wondered how you could mess with it. After all, it's been ages since I read the book, and I still remember it. His fingers stumble upon it in the dark. In the movie, however, Bilbo sees the ring fall from Gollum. It bothered me at first, but my husband actually argued in favor of the change, and now I can see why they did it for the movie. It helps establish that the ring was Gollum's, that he lost it accidentally, and even that the ring was looking for a new master. You'd only know the last by being familiar with the story already, but I suppose the movie's take is a more cinematic representation than simply discovering it underhand.

Aside from enjoying the few good, straight-from-the-book events, my overall feeling during the movie was one of boredom. The scenery shots were too long. The extra characters weren't essential to the plot (at least, not the book's plot). The elves were nothing new. Radagast was interesting but nonessential.

Now, contrary to my husband's feelings and despite what I said above about The Hobbit needing to be about a hobbit, I did enjoy Thorin's back story. I only wish it were more true to Tolkien's work, but my husband can tell you all about that; it's not my area of expertise.

My husband could even tell you that Bilbo wasn't quite right, that they tried to make him a hero when he is not, more purposeful than he actually is. Well, I didn't notice that so much during the viewing, but I thought it was an interesting observation worth noting.

My husband and I are not a case of opposites attracting, at least not in the way we think. I must say this so you don't think I'm just being a parrot. I think the people you watch a movie with can influence your take on it, but in this case, I gave Nick my thoughts before he told me his. And I'm refraining from including most of his complaints.

So, star rating? Oh, that's hard...because honestly, I'll probably go see how the story progresses and ends. It's Middle Earth, after all, and who doesn't love the place? I like to see it any way I can. But was this movie The Hobbit? No. Was it an Unexpected Journey? You bet. And for me, that wasn't a good thing. I think I'm rather alone in my views, so if you loved the movie, great! It's just my take.


  1. I probably agree with most of your nitpicks, except I don't see the similarity with The Fellowship of the Ring being a bad thing, or even wholly unavoidable. The two books have a similar plot structure - at least in the beginning - and they're set in the same cinematic world. Creating a different look for Middle-Earth might have been fine if this was made by a completely different company, but it wasn't; audiences expected it to look like Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth. And despite my reservations about the movie, I did enjoy revisiting this version of Middle-Earth.

    Of course, if the movie had only stuck closer to the book, perhaps we'd have no reservations in the first place.

    1. I can't compare the books since it's been so long since I read either. It's true, there are similarities between the stories. I guess I wouldn't even have minded so much the similarities if Peter Jackson's Hobbit movie had remained closer to the book. But for me, at least, it was just needlessly long with nothing much new to offer. I know I'm just rehashing what I said above, sorry. You are right, the core problem seems to be the divergence from the book, something that has always been Jackson's problem but that rubbed me the wrong way this time more than his other films have.


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