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Reaction: "The Hobbit" (spoilers)
Posted By: Zatchmort, on host
Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2012, at 07:54:16

Hi folks,

I've been an admirer of the site for many years now, but I haven't really ever participated in the social bits. This time, though, I must must must de-lurk so we can talk about this.

specifically, how awesome (and also awful) the new Hobbit movie is.

First off, let me say that the movie was great. Watching John^H^H^H^HBilbo progress from a fussy bourgeois layabout to an epic hero was inspiring. The passage I was most nervous about, because it was all in the narration, was the moment when Bilbo decided not to kill Gollum - and though they altered the circumstances slightly, the scene was dramatic, effective, and retained The Point of the decision.

Let's see, other things I was impressed by? Imladris, as always, made me think "I WANT TO LIVE THERE. THERE, THERE IS WHERE I MUST LIVE." Or at the very least, I need to get myself a pair of statues to guard my door like that, and an outfit like Elrond's from the Council meeting; man did he look good.

I also surprised myself by not being mad at a lot of the additions they made - delving a little further into Bilbo and the Dwarves' mutual skepticism, for instance, or making Thorin a character with some attributes besides pomposity and greed. And I'll have to reread it to make doubly sure, but I'm fairly certain Bilbo's line about how he misses his home, and that's why he wants to help the Dwarves reclaim theirs, is an insertion - but one that makes a lot of sense, and actually helps the story. As I said to my friend on the way out, "Characters didn't need motivation for the things they did at that point in Tolkien's writing career." XD

The fight scenes were also pretty good - much expanded from the book, which is to be expected since it's hard to convey "they stabbed a few goblins and then ran like heck" in a visual setting without going into a little more detail. They also avoided the now-tragically-common pitfall of cuts so rapid you can't tell what's going on, which is supposed to impart a sense of chaos but ends up just making it boring since there's no tension if you can't follow what's happening.

Oh, and they did maybe a third of the songs, which was more than I was expecting. The look on Bilbo's face during "Blunt the Knives" was appropriately amusing.

This leads me, though, into my criticisms of the film - though the only one that really bothers me is as follows. Basically, the movie felt kind of disjointed - which was inevitable since the book was kind of disjointed to begin with, being a silly children's bedtime story that abruptly found itself retconned into the much more serious and fully-realized land of Middle-Earth (the point in writing the story where Tolkien switched settings comes around the Misty Mountains, if you care to look for it with a critical eye.) Given that they were exacerbating this gap by adding material from the super-serious Silmarillion, Appendices, etc., a firm hand on the directorial tiller was called for, to make sure that both the script and the editing contributed to a pacing that allowed for both the quaint/funny moments and the threads of the larger epic to be included.

Instead, what we got was a much more egregious example of one of the few things I didn't like about Peter Jackson's LOTR [as movies]: the "epic" knob was turned up so high all the time that the brief lighter moments felt like whiplash instead of a chance to take a deep breath. The filmmakers made this worse in The Hobbit by trying to outdo themselves with less material to work with; The Hobbit is fundamentally an adventure story, not an epic, and returning to this medium tone between the goofy scenes and the dark portents of the future would have made for a graceful sine wave of a film, rather than an awkward cardiogram.

I also fear they've painted themselves into a corner with the way the film ended, as far as Bilbo's characterization is concerned. While I concede that *something* had to happen in this film to make for a convincing stopping point until next year, Bilbo's already found his courage, and the dwarves already respect him, which takes most of the quest in the original. It also bugs me that the courage he found is the stabby-stabby kind; this is *not* the hobbit who sat out the Battle of Five Armies. Maybe he gets more character development later and... goes back to being a coward?? *shrug*

A final, minor note: I appreciate the need to make the Dwarves something more than goofy names and colorful hats, but they *are* supposed to come in sets. Balin and Dwalin, while spectacular individually, were pretty unconvincing as brothers.

...Okay, adding up those paragraphs makes it look like I found equal amounts of things to like and dislike about this film, but that's not true. While I took the time to articulate what bothered me (partly because I couldn't put my finger on it at first), I really can't find the words to convey the excitement I felt when listening to "Misty Mountains", or watching them travel across the incredible landscapes of Middle-Earth, or seeing Thorin earn his surname/epithet. The glimpses of Smaug were pretty effective, too.

In short, there's a lot to see here. As you might expect, The Hobbit is a lot like The Lord of the Rings, only more so; and while I would argue that it really should have been like LOTR but *less* so, it's still well worth the price of admission IMHO.

What did anyone else think??

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