Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Having waited for the crowds to die down, we went to see "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," on December 30th. We enjoyed it, but our pleasure was not unmixed.

"Too many battles" is a criticism I seen elsewhere and we would agree. Jackson and company follow the movie-makers guideline to show, rather than tell, to a fault. The film opens with a lengthy sequence depicting Smaug's destruction of Dale and occupation of Erebor (while coyly only showing us bits of the dragon in the process). It's hard to argue with that as a scene-setter, but we also get a flashback to Thorin's father's failed attempt to take back Moria when he is telling the history of the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain to Bilbo, although fortunately not the whole battle. The Dwarves also fight the Trolls attempting to rescue Bilbo; there is a near-skirmish with warg-riding Orcs on the borders of Rivendell; and we are shown the whole running battle of Gandalf and the Dwarves escaping from the Goblins of the Misty Mountains, which, in the book was only briefly referred to in the past tense, since Bilbo, the viewpoint character, was not a witness to it. I'm also sorry to say that Jackson, et al., have succumbed to the temptation to add shots just for 3-D; the improbably vertiginous depths of the goblin caves and the swinging and collapsing bridges and catwalks are pretty much only there for the visual effects. By the time the movie was over, we had significant "battle fatigue."

There's a LOT that's very good, though. Martin Freeman is splendid as Bilbo: his expressive face and ironic line delivery are excellent for the job. Sir Ian McKellen IS Gandalf, and Richard Armitage as Thorin is good enough, as are the other dwarves.

Some of the additions I did not object to: it was nice to see Galadriel and Saurman again, as they help to foreshadow events of "The Lord of the Rings." After all, Tolkien himself revised portions of "The Hobbit" to reconcile it with the later story. On the other hand, I'm not pleased by the introduction of Azog "the Defiler" (sic), bane of Thrain, and supposedly still around and out to get revenge on Thorin. The evident purpose here is to give Thorin (and hence the party) an ongoing opponent, and, I'm guessing, a probable grudge match at the Battle of Five Armies, but this is hackneyed action-movie plotting and needless. I'm still not sure about Radagast. It's fun to see him, and he's one of the few bits of comic relief in the movie, but I really feel it unlikely that a being of the same origins as Gandalf would ever turn into the fussy and foolish-seeming character we are given. (The unexpected posh accent of the Great Goblin and the rather Monty-Pythonesque manner of his death is one of the other funny bits. When a dwarf says "Well, that could have been worse!"--you just know something worse will be right along.)

The animation of Gollum just gets better every time we see him. By now, we can see muscles move beneath the skin, and his interaction with Bilbo seems natural in every way. The depiction of Gollum's rage and depair at the loss of the Ring is a good as you would get from any live actor, and frankly, better than most. Andy Serkis' voice and actions are perfect.

Scenery, costumes, and equipment are up to past standards (i.e., gorgeous) and expanded views of both Bag End and Rivendell gave us a hard choice as to where we would prefer to live.

There are some quibbles with effects. When the company first encounters the Goblins of the Misty Mountains, we are shown that Thorin's sword, Orcrist, glows as in the book. Later on, when it is unsheathed in the presence of hundreds of goblins, it does not. Probably a decision was made to cut down on the number of "process" shots needed to add the glow, or someone decided it would be too distracting to have it glowing all the time, but the omission is a bit annoying.

Overall--well, I wish I could see the rest of it tomorrow.

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Tags: fantasy, movies, tolkien
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