Scattered Thoughts on ‘The Hobbit’ movie

“It is the everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.”

I’ve been trying and failing for a really long time now to come up with something coherent to say about this movie. I’ve been looking forward to it for a very long time, and with my high expectations in mind, it was almost certain to disappoint them. And in some ways it did- I adore this book, and was definitely disappointed by some of the changes The Hobbitthat were made. But on the other hand, there was a lot- a whole lot- that completely exceeded my expectations and was honestly delightful. I’m muddled because though I do have criticisms, I also took a lot of joy in watching this movie, and was so happy with so much of it that it’s hard to balance the two conflicting feelings out; I feel like a robot trying to process two completely contradictory commands. Or a someone trying to force the same poles of two magnets together. Or something like that.

I think overall the biggest thing to keep in mind was aptly described by Cleolinda Jones over at her LiveJournal:

“Peter Jackson no longer has a working relationship with subtlety”

Once I, as an LOTR purist, had accepted that, I could enjoy whatΒ The Hobbit got right and accept what was wrong.

What’s right, first and foremost, is the cast. Everyone is perfect. Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage was stunning as Thorin (my favorite character, always has been) and Sir Ian McKellen, was as awesome as ever in his playing of Gandalf.Β  Cate Blanchett is in this as Galadriel, and I will be forever bewildered that they managed to capture her personality more accurately in this movie, since she doesn’t even technically appear in the storyline of the original, than in the film in which Galadriel was actually a major character. But regardless, her presence was actually quite nice and I liked seeing her there in her capacity as White Council Moderator.

Plot and pacing have some issues, and this is due at least in part to the fact that the tone in which Tolkien wrote The Hobbit is vastly different from the tone in which he refers to these same events in the Appendices of LOTR and other writings. So I actually have somewhat less impatience with changes and additions here, since there was already a bit of dissonance in the original source material. I do think that the story could have been much smoother, and there was a really unnecessary subplot in relation to Thorin’s history with the orcs, but since it got us all more of Richard Armitage being heroic, unbelievably attractive, and smoldering, I won’t complain too vocally.

I think the biggest problem that I had with the movie was that it seemed afraid to allow Bilbo to be as clueless and helpless as he is in the beginning of the story. Which was a huge cause of my dissonant reactions. Bilbo’s total confusion and bewilderment is a major part of the books because it highlights just how unlike any other hero he is, and cutting that aspect of him will come back to haunt his later character development if the other two films aren’t careful. And since I even have to use the words ‘other two films’ in relation to a book that isn’t even as long as The Fellowship of the Ring, I don’t have very high hopes for how well that will go

But on the other hand, seeing Bilbo come into his own, albeit far too early and capably, was so glorious that I couldn’t hate it. Even though the purist side of me wanted to be all sour about the rushing through his development, I was smiling so much that I didn’t care. Even that ending- much as I wanted to roll my eyes at it- I couldn’t because I was grinning too much. I was fully aware of the shameless manipulation, and yet couldn’t do anything about it because, damn it- it worked.

So overall I would say that this movie is definitely worth seeing. And if you adore each and every aspect of the book- there are multiple exact quotes and the setting is lovely as always. The actors are spectacular. The music is beautiful. Overall, there is a lot to like in this movie- I think more than there is to dislike. Just remember: Peter Jackson no longer has a working relationship with subtlety.

To quote someone else who had extreme dissonance between subtlety and over-the-top antics: “Once you accept that in your heart- you will know peace” and be able to enjoy the movie.

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13 thoughts on “Scattered Thoughts on ‘The Hobbit’ movie

  1. I’ve not read any of the books, so I found all the anguish by the hardcore LotR fans rather amusing (when I say hardcore, I mean people who take it way too seriously. You enjoy it, whilst they’re obsessed with it).

    Does having thingy from the UK version of The Office as Bilbo really work? It’s just hard to imagine him as anything else, really. Mind you, Hugh Laurie managed the switch from camp buffoon to sociopath well enough…

    You used dissonance three times here. I like that, if you do another video review I insist that you use that word again.

    • First sorry about how late I am in responding- my computer is out for repairs. And I admit that I do get why some long-term fans might be anguished, but I think for this one there’s more to enjoy than otherwise. I do get anguished about the LOTR movies though…

      I think Martin Freeman works really well, but I never saw him in The Office– just in Sherlock and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So for me it wasn’t a big stretch to imagine him as Bilbo, and I thought he did a really good job.

      I’m pretty sure the ‘dissonance’ use was association from reading the livejournal link. But it is a great word. If I ever get hold of a functioning video camera for a review I will make sure to use it.

  2. I agree with you mostly. I was somewhat confused by the pacing in places, but having watched it again, I enjoyed it much more the second time. I have to say that I had a few major problems with the script. The Radagast in my mind was completely ruined in this movie by virtue of his “crazy little man with bird poop in his hair” appearance and antics, and yet I was simultaneously inexplicably entertained by his character. I must say though that it almost Disney-fied the movie too much for my taste. Also, moments of pure silliness in the dialogue (Goblin King of the “That would do it!” death speech, I’m looking at you!) really were different from the original LOTR films in an unsatisfying way for me. I couldn’t help but feel that the story seemed less epic and mature than LOTR, but then again the Hobbit book has a similar difference in tone compared to LOTR. Additionally, the scenes were so beautifully shot, Gollum was spectacular again, each and every dwarf was excellent, and Martin Freeman is stronger as Bilbo than Elijah Wood ever was as Frodo. Therefore I am inclined to like it, and be cautiously optimistic about the next two films.

    • I enjoyed it a lot more the second time too- for some reason a lot of the things that had grated on me just didn’t bother me as much. Radagast was definitely one of them. I still think they got him wrong but at the same time I found him really entertaining. Go figure.

      I didn’t mind the silliness in that vein though- the original had enough lines and moments like that (ie the songs of the goblins and the troll’s talking purse) that I was okay with it. Lightheartedness works for this movie in a way that it won’t for the LOTR films.

      And agreed so much on the differences between Elijah Wood and Martin Freeman. Elijah Wood was completely miscast as Frodo- Martin Freeman is pretty much exactly what I thought Bilbo would be like. It really makes a difference in terms of quality.

  3. Ha ha I don’t blame you on the coherency, I was having trouble too, but I think you’ve done a pretty great job. πŸ˜€ Love the Live Journal link as well, she also sums up how I felt pretty well.

    I agree with you about the cast, I thought it was top notch, especially the dwarves they were exactly how I pictured them! Possibly with the exception of being a little kinder to Bilbo than they were in the book, but I think that was a good change! The only portrayal I had an issue with was actually a CGI one, the Goblin King. He seemed a little overly ridiculous for my taste, I didn’t really see why they needed to make him so over the top, it grated on me a little because it felt a bit out of place in the film. Did you find that?

    I didn’t actually have a problem with the plot pacing, although I know several other people have. But I am going to go and see it again so it will be interesting to see if it sits the same a second time. πŸ™‚

    I get what you are saying about Bilbo as well, although I wouldn’t worry too much, I still feel like there’s more they can do with him, because although he swooped in to save Thorin, he was only partially successful.

    Great review! I’m glad you liked it and that you were able to look past the drastic changes as a Tolkien fan. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! And I love that particular LiveJournal, she can really nail things in her reviews.

      I thought the dwarves-Bilbo interactions were really well done by having Thorin take the brunt of the dislike. If you check out the link to Tolkien’s later writings, the way Thorin is written in that is very similar to the way the movie cast his role- and he was pretty unhappy about Bilbo in those later writings, but Gandalf wouldn’t let him back out of bringing him (Bilbo).
      I do hear you on the Goblin King, but after a second viewing it doesn’t really bother me. It’s over-the-top and ridiculous… But still fun.

      The movie definitely improved for me on a second viewing, so I’d love to know what your reactions were the second time around.

      Martin Freeman’s performance was really what saved Bilbo for me. Even when he was doing stuff that was technically out of character, he looked so terrified and bewildered doing those things that it worked; I could still see Bilbo.

      Thanks! πŸ˜€ and I’m glad I could; I think there’s a lot to like in this movie even for the most extreme Tolkien fan.

      • No problem. πŸ™‚

        Haha ohh really? In that case hopefully it will bother me less on the second showing too!

        Haha yeah I totally agree that Martin was great, he just wasn’t as much how I pictured Bilbo in my head, but that is just personal preference.

        Also couldn’t help noticing the Elijah Wood hate above. 😦 *extreme sad face* I thought he was perfect as Bilbo and his portrayal was fantastic. I really couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Frodo. Ohh well….each to their own. :/

          • My dream actor for Frodo? Hm… the main reason I think Elijah was wrong was that he’s way too young. Frodo is supposed to be fifty and the wise one among the hobbits- not someone who’s just coming of age. Honestly I think the biggest problem was that the writers didn’t really seem to get how strong Frodo actually is as a character, which would make it difficult for whoever was playing him. I did see a stage actor some years ago, whose name I’ve completely forgotten, in a couple different plays that really impressed me with his ability. If he were to age up, he could do it- I think this particular actor could have captured both Frodo’s strength and how massively unprepared he was for the whole thing. I really wish I could remember who he was…

  4. I have yet to write any sort of review on this movie, but I thought I would add my two cents to yours, which I agree with the for the most, especially about the difficulty of writing a review πŸ™‚
    I actually despair at the lack of subtlety which is so prominent this time around. Jackson was touch and go with it in LOTR, but here you are given no chance at all to think for yourself. Everything is spelled out plain, and often in UPPERCASE. I think most of the trouble I have comes from this choice of direction. One notable exception is the song at Bag End. It really set the tone of the first trailer, but the film undermines that tone from there on out.

    I knew I had to expect that the director who gave us the smack down wizard fight in FOTR, and Saruman being impaled at Orthanc, would take some shudder- inducing liberties, but Radagast and his annoying rabbit sled was one of things I least enjoyed.

    I agree on the nature of Bilbo being too heroic too soon, and not showing enough of what makes him a fish out of water. It is that contrast that is interesting, but he didn’t really get enough time to show us that he was still a homebody (show, don’t just tell at the end). As we see him here, he fits in surprisingly well. I won’t even talk about the killing an orc moment.

    I might be the only one who wasn’t fond of the scene where he spares Gollum, mostly because Smeagol was overacting to the max. I mean how can you kill something with massive puppy dog eyes like that? But that’s just it, it isn’t a challenge to Bilbo’s morals if Gollum is so obviously pathetic.

    But all of this is ultimately immaterial to me since I was in it for Thorin, and in that I was not disappointed. He was perfect. And the flashbacks to Erebor were more than I expected. The plot involving the Arkenstone being a divine symbol of Thror’s right to rule over everybody is weird, but interesting. Thranduil is pulled into the story in an unexpected way, which will impact the way Thorin and his dwarves are treated in Mirkwood (there is no way Thorin won’t be recognized for what he is this time). The rest of the dwarves had little time to shine as far as individuals with a few exceptions. There is rumor that will be addressed in the next film.

    So far the Azog plot comes off less epic than the original history in the Appendices, which was not improved by overuse of slow-mo fight scenes. Even when the slow-mo is there to show us Thorin being badass in the last scene (and getting defeated and nearly killed, but being badass about it) it is still overdone to the point where my eyebrows had time to permanently kink into a “Really?” shape.

    But I am always critical about the things I love. Maybe it’s because I find disgruntlement to be a more engaging state of mind than enjoyment. And much of what I criticize many people praise in contrast.

    Overall I could have done with another 45 minutes of film, but we will be getting only 25 minutes in the EEs.

    • Half the movie might as well have had subtitles with “THIS IS EPIC AND MOVING, HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW EPIC AND MOVING WE ARE?” and “LOL DWARVES/HOBBITS/TROLLS, LOOK HOW FUNNY IT IS.” It wasn’t exactly a film that wanted you to think for yourself about the situations.

      In re the rabbit sled: Ugh, me too. And yet the second time around I was actually sort of grinning at Radagast, while my reason and Tolkien-devotee capacities were collectively facepalming. I feel like I should summon more vitriol but I can’t- it was just way too silly.

      Martin Freeman was generally the saving grace, both for Bilbo and the scene of Bilbo sparing Gollum. The look on Martin’s face really sold me on that moment, even if Gollum looked way too cuddly at the time. I thought he (Martin) really got the mindset of what Bilbo was going through, and conveyed it well. And since he was the main focus, I was paying more attention to his reaction than Gollum.

      Thorin was lovely, both in terms of acting and, um, aesthetic THOSE ARMS THE HAIR. Anyway, I loved so much that they made him very kingly and have dignity and a sense of lineage. And even the other dwarves, despite their lack of individuality, had more personality than they’d ever gotten in the book, which I was more than happy with. I got so sad when I saw Ori jump and do his little defiant speech in Bag End and remembered that in Fellowship, he’s the one writing “They are coming” in the record book in Moria.

      The Azog plot is ridiculous. I don’t even know what to say about it other than that if PJ insists on cramming it down my throat I may as well get as much appreciation for Richard Armitage’s looks as possible. It’s really annoying that that’s the only good thing to come out of that subplot- since anyone with their eyes open in the beginning already knows that Armitage is easy on the eyes. I’d prefer that the time have been spent fleshing out the dwarves and maybe developing the Council a bit more (and making Radagast a bit less random).

      And all that said- I still had fun watching it. It’s one of those things where I get that it’s got so many problems and yet still find all of its shamelessness working on me in a way that the LOTR films just didn’t.

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