Dee Discusses: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Posted: January 3, 2013 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m a huge Tolkien fan, let’s just get that out of the way. We’ll get to it one day when I talk about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I do own on DVD and will be in my Bookcase eventually. I’m going to straight out say that I prefer the book Hobbit to the trilogy. This is all because of nostalgia. I was about seven years old when I read it all of his books, and since I was young, that is the book which stuck in my head a lot more. As I got older, the themes of LotR did become more serious and important, but it never stopped me from feeling that warm glow when I thought about Bilbo Baggins and his adventures. I’ve re-read the Hobbit many more times. It’s lighter, it’s faster, it makes me smile a lot, and I like the characters in it a lot more than the trilogy. I love all of them, don’t get me wrong, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the Hobbit. So I’ve been psyched and following the news about this movie obsessively. I’ll admit I was skeptical when they said it was being turned into another three films. I still am a little iffy on that, although after seeing it, I get it more. I do think they probably could’ve gone with two movies. But I’ll never argue against more of it. I love the world and the characters and the stakes and my little fangirl wants to dance in the Shire of my imagination.

I was a little surprised and confused when the reviews came in as lukewarm. Too long, a little slow, and I guess … too light hearted? I get it. The stakes aren’t high in this one. This is an adventure, not an end of the world scenario. Anyone who thinks this is too long and slow though must have forgotten the first hour or so of the Fellowship of the Ring. I liked the pacing in the Hobbit. It’s fast paced when it needs to be, and slower and quieter when they give a little more development to the main characters. I’m doing this review all wrong and jumping everywhere, but this is a stream of thought, sorry. Needless to say, I enjoyed this movie, I’m very excited for the next one, and I’m a little baffled at the flack it’s getting. Is it a question of wanting to be down on a popular series? Or that the first series burned people out on the land so it’s less new and shiny this time? Or that a simple light hearted adventure just isn’t as engrossing as the serious mood of the originals. All things I’m not surprised about, honestly, but I think reviewers are being unnecessarily hard on this. It is what it’s supposed to be. I wish I could see the 48 fps version because I’ve heard so many polarizing opinions on it. But I saw this in IMAX 3-D. Twice. So here we go!

I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!

The movie jumps back to sixty years before the Fellowship of the Ring begins. Bilbo Baggins is a young, mild mannered Hobbit who is a bit of a shut in. He prefers the warmth and comfort of his own home, and he has no interest in adventures or risking his life outside of the Shire. One night a band of dwarfs show up at his house and take it over, claiming they’re there for a meeting and he’s supposed to be a part of their crew. Gandalf claimed he’s a burglar, since hobbits are small and easy to sneak around, but once he realizes how dangerous the mission is he refuses to go. Eventually he changes his mind and joins the party. The idea is that years ago, a dragon attacked the prosperous mountain of the dwarf king and his people.  He’d started to get too greedy, and the dragon Smaug was attracted to his vast wealth and gold. He was killed by a terrible albino orc when the orcs came to the mountain after Smaug ravaged it, and his son went mad with grief. His grandson Thorin is the current heir apparent, and he got his people to safer places around the world. They no longer have a home, however. They’re on the road constantly, picking up work where they can, and Thorin is devoted to the idea he wants to get back their mountain and build a brighter future for his people. They have a map and a key, but they can’t read the map or know where to use the key to sneak into the back area of the mountains for their quest. They head off on a verrrrrrry long walk toward the mountain.

Bilbo is certainly out of place, being no warrior and generally a mensch. Still he shows common sense and unusual bravery at times, like when their horses get stolen by three trolls and he sneaks into the camp to save them. He also manages to talk to the trolls and distract them long enough for the sun to turn them to stone. He is excited to see the elves, where they stop briefly for refuge even though Thorin hates them for abandoning his people when Smaug attacked. The elven king Elrond can read the map, but he calls a council of Saruman the White (not evil!), Galandriel, himself, and Gandalf. They try to dissuade him from his journey, but the others are already escaping while he distracts the others. He also presents the Witch-King’s sword, which shouldn’t be in the world at this time, since one of the only other wizards Radagast found it and talks of a mysterious necromancer. These are all foreshadowing for the later movies, which is fun or annoying depending on the viewer. The group get into many other battles and run a lot, with Bilbo struggling to keep up and his spirit waning from not doing well with the others, and from Thorin’s general disdain for him. Can a little hobbit really make a difference in something so much larger than him? We all know the answer is yesssssss!

This story was written for a younger audience and it shows. There are battles and death and drama, but the tone is noticeably lighter, especially in the beginning. It’s more about personal baggage than the end of the world. Bilbo and Thorin in particular are two characters who have a lot of struggle, both against each other and in their own nature. No it’s not the sweeping epic that LotR is, but it’s not supposed to be. I guess if people were looking for that, they might be disappointed. I personally was not. I loved it. Were there a few scenes that could be cut? Yes, I think it dragged in a few places. I’m still not overly happy about the three parts, although I’m willing to reserve judgment until I see what they put into the next two. What is interesting is seeing it knowing what’s coming ahead, and that adds a lot of weight to what is happening on screen. I don’t want to give any big future spoilers here, but let’s just say this story isn’t as light as everyone expects. It does get darker by the end, and there’s sadness and betrayal and angst. Not to LotR’s level by any means, but in some ways it’s more personal. It hurt me more to read about. I’ll just leave that there. I loved the actors in the movie, although yes, the dwarfs can be interchangeable. Only a few of them stand out, and it’s a shame since the characters in LotR were very distinct from each other. On the other hand, they each represented their people, it’s a little easier to remember only one elf and one dwarf for most of the epic. The standouts are Gandalf, Bilbo, and Thorin, but all three of them were well presented and acted. Martin Freeman, ugh, you are perfect for this role. Bilbo is close to my heart and has been since I was a child. He represented him well.

The graphics are as always magnificent, most of the action sequences were lively and fun, and while there were plenty of mistakes, in general it was a blast. I am looking forward to a lot of things. Since I do want to talk about a few future things in the series, I’m going to do a quick picture cut here and talk about spoilers for later in the story. SPOILERS BELOW DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED.

What I’m looking forward to most is Smaug. The reason for this is because I don’t think most non-fans understand Smaug is an intelligent creature with a real personality. So far what I’ve heard is they expect him to be the typical idea of a dragon, an animal/monster. Not the well spoken one he turns out to be. I’d assume since a lot of people know Benedict Cumberbatch is doing the voice that they think he can talk, but maybe they think he only did the screen capture. We’ll see. That’s one of my favorite moments in all the books, and I love how flawed and interesting Smaug is as a character. Next movie is likely to be in Mirkwood with the spiders and wood-elves. I figure we might see Smaug in that, but it’s hard to say if he’ll die by the end of it or in the third movie. I am most interested in the downfall of Thorin and the deterioration of his relationship with Bilbo. This was always an emotional point for me when I read, and I think it was foreshadowed well in this film. Gandalf warned him that his stubbornness and unwillingness to forgive will be the death of him. Thorin has reasons for being xenophobic, especially against elves, but it is his greed and lack of compromise that causes so much trouble at the end. Since they went to great lengths to finally have Thorin and Bilbo really bond and become close by this movie, it’s going to be painful to watch that bond break. No, it’s not the end of the world the way the trilogy is, but there’s a lot of personal stakes in this book. It still means a lot to me after all this time. I enjoyed the Hobbit and I will definitely see it again and buy the DVD when it comes out!

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