7 Hobbit Takes

— 1 —

I’ve been nervous about seeing The Hobbit since I saw this passage in Anthony Lane’s review:

Instead, before Bilbo stumbles upon the ring, we see it slip from Gollum’s safekeeping, tumble in refulgent slow motion, and, on impact, give a resounding clang. (If Jackson ever films “Othello,” wait for Desdemona’s handkerchief to hit the ground like a sheet of tin.)

When you adapt a classic, it’s tempting to engage in fanservice (“Hey, look!  It’s this moment!  The one you love!”).  There’s a similar problem on Broadway when a really famous actress has a meaty part, and everyone just stops the show to applaud her first entrance.  I hate this.  That moment may be exciting for you, but it’s not momentous for the character, so spotlighting it just distances you from the people that you ostensibly love.   This was one of the unfortunately many problems I had with The Hobbit.

 

— 2 —

But, first, let me just say that Martin Freeman is excellent as Bilbo.  He’s wonderful in just the same way he’s marvelous as Watson in Sherlock (which you should really really watch).  His face is so expressive; his reactions are small but deeply felt.  Every time he’s in a shot, you’re immediately emotionally engaged (unlike the repeated shots of Thorin gazing out past us mournfully while his hair billows).

— 3 —

The problem starts right at the beginning, when it’s over a half hour before we get to see Hobbit-aged Bilbo.  LotR-aged Bilbo first narrates the story of Smaug’s attack on the Lonely Mountain, the fall of the dwarves, and their exile, with a number of digressions.  (And then, for some reason, we watch him and Frodo set up for the party that kicks off LotR.  Again, fanservice, not what the characters care about most if they were narrating this to us).

Spending so much time on not-our-protagonist is weird.  If Jackson really thought it was necessary to frontload all this exposition (and I think it would have been fine if the dwarves had just told Bilbo at the dinner party, without visuals of people hiding from dragon fire), I would have preferred that there be a different film style here.  Something more stylized like the story of the three brothers in the Deathly Hallows film (which was still plenty evocative).

YouTube Preview Image

That makes it clear that this is history-verging-on-lore, but isn’t equivalent to our now-story.  In The Hobbit, these battle scenes look the same as later ones involving our new protags, which mutes the importance of the battles we’re seeing unfold in the present.

— 4 —

Listen up, Jackson

Oh, and another annoying thing about the overlong introduction?  It featured a lot of anvils about Thror’s gold-sicknesss.  I recently reread the book, and I don’t remember this theme being hit this heavily, this early there.  Plus, the warnings are really hamhanded (people looking down disapprovingly as Thror gazes rapturously at the gold, running back into danger to just be near it, etc).

One thing that’s great about the book is that this problem doesn’t become as pronounced until the quest is over, or at least the part we thought of as the main quest.  It’s in the moment of relaxation and triumph that things start to get warped.  Think of it as the scouring of the Shire moment, where even though we’re heroes now, we still have to return to the grubby work of rooting out evil at home.

And we’ve spent the whole book with the noble Thorin, so his gold-sickness creeps up on us, and makes us wonder whether he’s actually being unreasonable and how much this really counts as a fault.  It’s a perversion of the things we’ve admired about him: his pride, loyalty, and determination.  It reminds me a lot of the vignettes in The Great Divorce, where loving some good thing can distract you from loving the Good.  But we’re losing the way sin sneaks up on you, with the cartoonish greed of Thror setting the tone.

— 5 —

Also, if the plot was so stretched out over three movies that Jackson felt the need to invent a new antagonist (an Orc who apparently has a yen to wipe out Thorin’s line), maybe you should have just stuck with the actual antagonists and cut the movie shorter!  Spoiler alert: this extraneous villain isn’t even killed in this movie, so presumably we’ll keep having him pop up until the Battle of Five Armies.  Oy.

And, it wasn’t just the existence of the character that teed me off.  Jackson kept cutting to him and his compatriots so we could see that they were still tracking the dwarves and still intended to kill them when they caught up.  I believe you that he’s still coming!  I don’t need to keep cutting away to check!

The Hobbit is mostly third person limited.  We don’t witness things that Bilbo doesn’t see, and I would understand if the movie wanted to expand the limited point of view to include the entire company, so there’s not so much recapping whenever Bilbo is separated or concussed.  But that still wouldn’t justify including useless scenes like these.

It takes us away from the characters to tell them about a danger they’re not aware of.  Why do we need to know this?  Why can’t we find out with the characters we’re travelling with?  I suspect it’s because Jackson threw in enough random encounters (why are there stone giants in the mountains throwing stones for the dwarves to dodge?), that we wouldn’t be able to tell this fight is significant without signposting.  But that’s a weakness, not a justification.

 

— 6 —

On the plus side, someone in the theatre greeted me by saying, “Galadriel to meet you!”

Oh, and while I’m complaining about inapproptiate shifts away from the main storyline…

As pretty much every reviewer has said, the riddling confrontation between Bilbo and Gollum is the best scene.  It’s small, intimate, and tense.  So why on earth do we cut away at it’s conclusion to a lengthy scene of the dwarves fighting the goblins?

The contrast is not a good one.  In the Bilbo/Gollum scene, the stakes are clear: miss a question, get eaten, but in the long sequence of dwarves bowling over goblins, there’s not a single moment where the company’s safety is in doubt.  The slaughter starts to feel as boring and time consuming as vaccuming.  The Bilbo/Gollum scene has emotional beats and the audience is aware of the strategies of both players.  The goblins-dwarves fight is more like a Rube Goldberg machine, where the wooden platforms careen and collapse, but neither side makes very much tactical use of the ground on which they’re fighting.

Without this cutaway, as the story unfolds in the book, the tension doesn’t dissipate after Bilbo wins the riddle game.  Instead, he’s stealthily, invisibly tracking Gollum through the tunnels, hoping he’ll find a way out.  Now, he doesn’t even have the luxury of a direct confrontation, with defined rules, he’s trying to make sense of his new circumstances on the fly.

— 7 —

And I’ve saved the most frustrating thing for last.  In the books, the dwarves are skeptical of Bilbo, but they grow to trust him as he stalwartly sticks by them and turns out to be clever and stealthy.  But, in the movie, the big turning point for them is when Bilbo grabs his sword and fights off a warg that is menacing an unconscious Thorin.  (Note, the fact that Bilbo is capable of holding off a warg pretty much makes them unscary for the rest of the trilogy).

Auuuugggghhhh.

The exciting thing is that the dwarves learn that there are other kinds of strength than that of a warrior, and, in the first movie, they don’t learn that lesson.  Bilbo matches what they see as virtue, instead of expanding their idea of what courage looks like.  That also means that Bilbo is changing to fit a new model, instead of being all the best parts of himself, amplified.

Grump grump grump.

At least I got to take out my frustration on our Necromancer.

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • jose

    Thanks for the comments. I think they knowingly bloated the film with lengthy, boring scenes so they have enough minutes to sell you 3 movie tickets and 3 DVDs and 3 special editions and 3 3D versions of the DVDs and 3 everything instead of only 1.

    • http://www.nature.com Agnikan

      How very Trinitarian.

      • Kristen inDallas

        He could have still sold us 3 x 100-minute films rather than 3 x 160-minute films. And if Jackson really was the sell-out everyone is trying to paint him as, he would have done just that. (because those extra 60 minutes cost money). I can understand why some people are disappointed with the length and with the added material, and I won’t claim it’s the best decision in film-making history. But lets not invent all sorts of nefarious motives when we don’t need to. Jackson has always, since his very first movie ever, loved gore. whether it’s setting world records for most buckets of blood or most detailed sets or number of increasingly hideous zombies…. it’s just his “thing.” Sure, a strict interpretation of the book would have made a good movie also. But a creative director is going to put his creative stamp on it. The same guy who inserts more orc battles than necesary is the same guy that inserts more panoramic scene-shots than most directors think is necesary, and I happen to love that stuff.

  • Boz

    The Hobbit is Jackson’s triune cash cow, tight story telling be damned.

  • http://Geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    All these takes confirm that I’m entirely correct in refusing to see it. (And, incidentally, my husband for refusing to take me to see it – something which occurred before I had settled decidedly against it.)
    But your dress is just lovely. I love the lining of your sleeves.

  • http://bensix.wordpress.com BenSix

    Directors seem to hit an age at which they find it impossible to create popular, artistically proficient movies. I call it being Lucastrated.

  • http://www.sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    Perhaps the gold sickness that Thorin falls into is more correctly viewed through the decisions of Peter Jackson in creating this film. Sadness that he didn’t understand the nature of the Hobbit any better than the Dwarves did Bilbo before the end of the battle of the five armies.

    • grok87

      +1

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      Based on his treatment of the trilogy, I would argue that he never understood those either. “Sam go home” spoiled Jackson, I’m going to show my four-year-old the cartoon version.

  • Sweet Tea

    Technically, Azog was certainly a major antagonist, as king of Moria, and definitely had a thing for killing the line of Durin; I actually thought they made Azog a much smaller antagonist than he truly was insofar as he appeared in person. Besides, Azog is a major leader in the Battle of the Five Armies, and it doesn’t make sense for him to appear fighting with only 20 mediocre orcs personally.

    • Adrian Ratnapala

      Not sure, orcs are like Tolkein’s beloved germanic tribesmen, they need time to gather the clans together. When they finally do get together, tens of thousands might follow one dude in search of plunder, even if he started out as just a small-time gang leader. Azog, is not exactly a small-timer, but there is no reason to think he always commands armies.

    • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

      1. Azog was slain by Dain Ironfoot in the battle before the gate of Moria almost 150 years before Thorin & Co. visited Bilbo in The Hobbit. Transplanting him to the movie makes no sense at all.

      2. Agog certainly did claim to be king in Moria and rule there, and had plenty of armies. But those armies were pretty decimated in the war between the seven dwarf clans and the orcs in which Azog was slain.

      3. I’m rather certain Tolkien would be flabbergasted by the assertion that the orcs were like his “beloved Germanic tribesmen”. Why on earth would he model a major category of his villains on a society he admired?

      • deiseach

        If they made it that this Orc was sent out by Bolg, son of Azog, who was sending out a hit team after the Dwarves to avenge his father Azog’s death (since Dain Ironfoot is pretty securely fortified in the Iron Hills, so it’s probably easier for an assassin to take out Thorin while he’s wandering in the wilds), then that would make sense – Bolg ruled for (at least) 150 years after Azog was killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar, so he would be old himself at this time, possibly too old to go after Thorin and Dain himself, and wanting to gain vengeance before his death.

        But the above is the kind of plot-holing that fans do, and that’s why all the padding to the story is a bad idea; the ordinary public who just go along because they saw LOTR trilogy (or because the movies ares part of pop-culture by now) won’t know this kind of in-depth background and won’t particularly care.

        The only reason I can see the necessity of having the Orc vengeance plot is to try and ramp up the urgency (the Dwarves have to get to Erebor by a set time because there are hunters on their trail who will get them unless they get to fortified shelter, and it echoes the Hobbits being pursued by the Black Riders on their way to Rivendell) because, I suppose, just setting out on a journey with the ordinary difficulties of weather, hunger, and sheer physical travail on its own isn’t exciting enough (well, fair enough: it works in a book where you can describe things, but visually I suppose a group trudging along in the wilds and the wastes isn’t that gripping).

        Okay, I’m grousing about the films before even having seen the first one, which is excessive even for a fan – and I have to give PJ credit for this, I was delighted he cast Martin Freeman as Bilbo because he is perfectly suited to the character. So I’ll shut up and watch the movies and then complain that they’re not as good as the book.

        :-)

        • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

          I’m not strictly against the idea that changing parts of a book is necessary to convert it to the screen. That’s a real problem media translation has. But I am opposed to doing it sloppily, and Jackson has a tendency to be sloppy.

          So! I can understand needing to introduce antagonists earlier in the movie, and Bolg presents a problem there. But the easy way to do it, IMO, would be to turn him into the son of the Great Goblin… Or even the Great Goblin into Azog. Either of these would have introduced the antagonist early in the story and provided a motive. But just plucking Azog out of the past and dropping him into the story whole is senseless. As is having him hunt the dwarves. Why not have parallel shots of him gathering the armies of goblins and wolves, similar to the shots of Saruman growing his army in LotR.

          The whole business sounds unbearably sloppy… and that makes it irresistible to point out that Azog was slain 150 years before this whole story started anyway.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    The movie had its problems (“That’ll do it” — REALLY, Peter Jackson?? Stop channeling George Lucas!) but overall I really enjoyed it. I actually liked the opening scenes – they seemed to be a good segue from the LOTR trilogy.

    • Maiki

      I agree — I had a few gripes here and there, but I liked the movie quite a bit. I’m starting to feel alone in that opinion.

  • grok87

    I agree with everything you wrote Leah.

    There were just so many things wrong with this movie. My other big gripe is the treatment of Gandalf. There is such a big difference between how he is portrayed in this movie and the LOTR it seems hard to reconcile. In the Hobbit he comes off as weak, he has to be reassured by Galadriel/Elrond because he is “afraid”? It just is wrong, very very wrong…

    And Radagast- what is up with that.?Ok he’s supposed to be an less exalted wizard, but he’s really played for a fool in this movie(Plus he’s not even IN the book, get’s a 1 line indirect reference I think perhaps).

    The other big contrast to the LOTR is the dialogue. In the LOTR the dialogue is either word for word from the book or feels like it was. The dialogue in this movie has two problems- 1) there is way to much of it and 2) much of it is very weak and lame

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      I dunno. The part where Frodo tells Sam to go home didn’t really ring true to the books.

      • grok87

        agree, that bothered me as well. but to me that was more the exception than the rule (or the exception that proves the rule.)

        Incidentally, today I hesitantly just saw it for a second time (long story, someone really wanted me to see it with them) and surprisingly enjoyed it more. I don’t often see movies twice in theater, and especially not on two consecutive days so perhaps this is a typical reaction when one does this. And the movie was so overwhelming in length and detail that I think it bears seeing twice (if you are really into Tolkien i guess). Some other thoughts:

        1) The first time i saw it in “regular” and the second time in 3-D. The 3-D is much better- the visuals are amazing.
        2) the first time i saw it in the evening and the second time in the afternoon. The afternoon is better i think, one is more alert.

        I still think it should have been made much much shorter. I timed the “dwarf dinner at bag end” scene. It was 25 minutes! Absolutely ridiculously drawn out…

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          If the 3D version is noticeably better than the “regular” version – with no change in content other than the visual presentation – doesn’t that argue for an over-reliance on spectacle over plot or character? This is, I think, the primary problem with Jackson’s films, esp. his Tolksploitation films. The emotion he’s after is “wow” rather than genuine sympathy for the characters or care for the plot.

          Tolkien has no problem with “wow”, but he recognizes it as a rare delight which serves as the gateway to deeper understanding of world and character, rather than as something primary to be sought for its own sake. Also, Tolkien trusted that the world was full of wonder enough on its own that simply telling the story would evoke plenty of “wow” without having to force or construct it.

  • paul

    Leah! thought you might like this. The Hobbit and theology : http://youtu.be/UnyYkPpiNO4

    • grok87

      @paul,
      thanks- that was excellent.

  • Faramir

    I agree with it taking forever before we actually start the story. Another thing that bugged me was that the riddle scene, while very good, was way too bright! Gollum’s down in the very roots of the mountain – it should have been pitch black, with just a glow from Gollum’s eyes staring at Bilbo in the dark and the sound of the water echoing around him. (But then we wouldn’t get to see much of Andy Serkis’s performance, I guess). Then after that, the escape from Goblin-town felt like one of those scenes that was designed specifically so it can be a level in the video game tie-in.

    But Martin Freeman was excellent. The Hobbit basically fulfilled my expectations for it, which was: good, but not as good as LOTR.

  • deiseach

    Your costume is gorgeous!

    Now, on to the film, which has only had its premiere here in Ireland last night, so I haven’t yet seen it. I agree that I was very worried when I heard that Peter Jackson was going to spin it out to three films – I wonder if Warner Brothers/New Line/MGM put a bit of pressure on to repeat the money-spinning success of the LOTR films? – so we’ll have to see how they turn out.

    The Orc who wants to wipe out Thorin’s line sounds like a combination of Azog, goblin ruler of Moria, and his son Bolg. Speaking of which, I wonder if Dain Ironfoot is going to appear? Also, how will Thranduil and the Mirkwood elves be treated?

    Well, it all hinges on whether or not Smaug is appropriately magnificent and terrifying – if they get him right, they won’t go badly wrong, and if they mess him up, it will ruin the films.

  • KT

    Great to read your comments on The Hobbit. I saw it tonight and my reaction was mixed, especially regarding the team of Peter Jackson/Fran Walsh/Philippa Boyens. I’m surprised Fran in particular didn’t reign Peter in here and focus the movie and his direction…at times it was really all over the place, scenes not making sense, way too much exposition, and yes the score was overbearing. For me, the Azog character just didn’t work. I know the filmmakers intended to recreate Lurtz from Fellowship but it was nowhere near as effective and breaks from Middle Earth continuity. The final shot was way too cartoony (a big problem you don’t mention that the higher film rate 48 fps and 3-D do not capture the magic filmic quality of the trilogy) AND predictable, leading to the close-up on Smaug’s eye. It reminded me of Avatar. The 3-D in Life Of Pi was far more successful.

    If you want another film to look forward to, look out for Zero Dark Thirty. What a phenomenal film…and a perfect example of a visionary director at the peak of her powers, who recreates the intensity and immediacy of the hunt for Bin Laden and makes every scene count building to a glorious final moment. A truly landmark fusion of film and journalism.

  • The precious

    I’m disappointed because your review confirms all the things I secretly feared when they announced the movie was going to be made. The riddle scene is one of my favorites from any book and I’m fond of the ‘guile hero’ as a character type. Bilbo is so not meant to be a warg-killing warrior.

    I wonder if they’ll change the Smaug vs Bilbo scene so that he stabs the dragon in the eye and steals his gold instead?

    Still, I’m probably going to go see it anyway. I can’t resist.

    You look lovely in your costume, btw.

  • Adrian Ratnapala

    Hmm, it seems that most (but not all) of the complaints are about adding LotR stuff into the Hobbit. But that stuff doesn’t worry me:

    (1) If JRRT had written the LotR first, he would have put much more of that stuff in to the Hobbit anyway.

    (2) The TH trailer signals that the film will flesh out stuff about the White Council, Dol Guldur etc. That’s good, since it aught to be interesting story in itself.

    (3) Fanservice is a good in it’s own right. I am no great Star Wars fan, but I actually enjoyed the buzz during the Prequels when all the true-believers in the cinema went gaga every time Yoda so much as picked his nose.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      One of the reasons I read and watch stories is to forget about myself for a couple hours, and to enter into another world. Most fanservice tends to interrupt the story, and thus remind me that I’m me out here watching a movie, rather than drawing me deeper into the story. So, while scenes that evoke a profound “That was just awesome!” are welcome, deliberate attempts to remind me how much I like some aspect of the story are most unwelcome and detrimental to the work as a whole.

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      Something I find important to reading Tolkien is the importance of voice: exactly who is our narrator, how does he get the information, and why does he include it? Tolkien was a bit reluctant to include the appendicular material, and created a frame narrative that it was likely added to the fact by one of the first human scribes to copy the books at the request of King Aragorn.

      In making the shift from Bilbo’s unreliable storytelling about himself to a nearly omniscient multi-perspective view, I think we loose something about Bilbo. Tolkien certainly had dozens of additional stories about Middle Earth in ink when he published The Hobbit. But the art of writing is, in part, the art of editing, and choices about what isn’t included is important to understanding the work in question.

      Bilbo, at that point in time, wasn’t writing about the history of Middle Earth. Bilbo was writing about Bilbo, and that includes his ignorance of what else was going on in the larger fictional universe at the time.

  • http://ayearoflivingadventurously.wordpress.com Emily

    And this just confirms my decision NOT to see this movie. Sigh. At least my extended version of Fellowship is arriving soon so I can indulge in lots of LOTR-ness.

  • deiseach

    Okay, if I may; a couple of quotes from “The Hobbit”, the sly humour of which I did not appreciate when I first read it at the age of twelve, but which made me laugh when I was older:

    ‘We are met to discuss our plans, our ways, means, policy and devices. We shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us (except our friend and counsellor, the ingenious wizard Gandalf) may never return. It is a solemn moment. Our object is, I take it, well known to us all. To the estimable Mr Baggins, and perhaps to one or two of the younger dwarves (I think I should be right in naming Kili and Fili, for instance), the exact situation at the moment may require a little brief explanation – ‘

    This was Thorin’s style. He was an important dwarf. If he had been allowed, he would probably have gone on like this until he was out of breath, without telling anyone there anything that was not known already.”

    (Bilbo, when he’s decided to take the job): ‘Also I should like to know about risks, out-of-pocket expenses, time required and renumeration, and so forth’ – by which he meant: ‘What am I going to get out of it? and am I going to come back alive?’

    “Then Mr Baggins turned the handle and went in. The Took side had won. He suddenly felt he would go without bed and breakfast to be thought fierce. As for little fellow bobbing on the mat it almost made him really fierce. Many a time afterwards the Baggins part regretted what he did now, and he said to himself: “Bilbo, you were a fool; you walked right in and put your foot in it.”

    “Pardon me,” he said, “if I have overheard words that you were saying. I don’t pretend to understand what you are talking about, or your reference to burglars, but I think I am right in believing” (this is what he called being on his dignity) “that you think I am no good. I will show you. I have no signs on my door – it was painted a week ago – and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house. As soon as I saw your funny faces on the door-step, I had my doubts. But treat it as the right one. Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert. I had a great-great-grand-uncle once, Bullroarer Took, and – “

    “Yes, yes, but that was long ago,” said Gloin. “I was talking about you. And I assure you there is a mark on this door – the usual one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of Excitement and reasonable Reward, that’s how it is usually read. You can say Expert Treasure-hunter instead of Burglar if you like. Some of them do. It’s all the same to us.”

    That last – with the job re-branding as ‘expert treasure hunter’ instead of ‘burglar’ – is even more pointed in its humour to me now, in these days when you’re not a call-centre worker, you’re a ‘valued associate’ (but the job, terms and pay are all the same, and you’re still the employee and they’re still the bosses, but it sounds as if you’re an outside consultant contracting out your labour on terms of equality).

    • grok87

      @deiseach,
      great quotes. Personally I would like to learn more about the wild were-worms in the last desert and how one fights them. Given the wild craziness of the stuff Jackson threw into the first movie perhaps they will feature in Hobbit 2 or Hobbit 3.
      Those wild-were worms have a suspicious resemblance to Dune. Perhaps Frank Herbert read the Hobbit as a child…

      • deiseach

        That hit me too! Frank Herbert, your Leto II who became a hybrid with a sandworm has forerunners!”

        Was Tolkien responsible for every Fantasy/SF trope of the 70s?
        ;-)

  • Rachel K

    Leah, your seventh point made me realize something that bugged the heck out of me in the movie that I couldn’t really put into words until I read your comment. Another wonderful thing about the novel is that part of what made the dwarves respect Bilbo was his use of the Ring, which made him a far more competent and effective burglar–but he didn’t tell them that he had a magic ring. He simply let them believe that he was an amazingly skilled burglar who had chosen to hide his talents until their quest was well underway. I absolutely loved that. Even though the Ring wasn’t nearly what it would be in LotR, even though “The Hobbit” is a far lighter book with few hints of the darkness to come, we still see the Ring corrupting Bilbo almost immediately–but in a very subtle and kid-friendly way that perfectly fits the novel’s tone. In the movie, since Thorin already respects Bilbo for saving his life, I don’t know if the temptation to lie about the Ring will be there, and we’ll lose that lovely bit of foreshadowing.

  • Richard

    arwen you going to bother with seeing the other two movies?

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I loved the costumes. I always wished I could have gotten into things like that. As for the movies, the best review I ever read (it was dealing with the morphing of the first series from Fellowship to Return of the King), reminded us that Jackson is stuck making films for a generation of movie goers who think The Empire Strikes Back was dull and boring and that Phantom Menace was the greatest Star Wars ever! Remember that, and there’s little that will surprise us when it comes to his take on Tolkien’s works.

  • Scott Hebert

    As someone who is a rabid Tolkien fan, I would like to present my own view.

    The Hobbit had some issues, but it was for me better in a true-to-Tolkien sense than LotR. I will try to explain.

    Characterization – The characters are much closer to the book than the LotR characters, IMO.
    1) The DWARVES – Thank God they weren’t all like Gimli. No offense to the actor, but Gimli was pure comic relief / buttmonkey in LotR, and deliberately done that way. These dwarves are much better. Perhaps this is because they make the majority of the cast, but they _were_ better. You have the one-dimensional ones, but Thorin, Balin, Fili and Kili (hello, blood relation should have been mentioned!), and (strangely) Bofur were all good. A lot of the lines given to Bofur to work with Bilbo (particularly in the cave in the Goblin-Gate) should have been with Dori, since he was supposed to ‘mind’ him. But that’s relatively minor.

    2) Oh, and Thorin was well done. He’s supposed to be brooding, obsessed with clan… but honorable, and a king in truth.

    Saruman – One of the biggest issues with Saruman in the LotR is that he more or less explicitly acknowledges that he’s Sauron’s lackey, and that doesn’t really occur in the books. He _always_ thinks that he’s taking the pragmatic approach and fighting power with power. (Making his own Ring?)

    However, in the Hobbit, he’s perfect. Clearly the head of the Council, but you can tell by his overly rational ‘god we have to go through all the reasons why Gandalf’s scheme #7162 isn’t really wise’ grilling is the exact tone. By the lore, IIRC, he’s already getting corrupted by Sauron, but he still thinks that he knows best from a ‘clean’ perspective.

    The White Council – I will certainly agree that the Riddling scene, _rightly_, is the best scene in the movie… of the scenes that were in the book. For me, though, the scene I wanted to see most, and was most anxious about (because of the above), was the Council scene. The tableau was perfect. Saruman being the wise slightly overpaternal ‘this is why this doesn’t work’ overall lead, Gandalf acting in apparently typical ‘well, great, dad’s here, another lecture from the ‘rents’ fashion, Elrond looking on–he was a little too attentive to Saruman, I think, for his age, but it is still perfectly fine–, and Galadriel circling the group, speaking little (aloud) but effectively.

    Absolute pitch perfect characters.

    Now, time compression? Bleah! The Watchful Peace has been going on for, at least as much as they care, over 1000 years, not 400.

    Radagast – I loved the portrayal. The ‘hey I’m crazy!’ facade. I’m not going to say it was the most accurate, but it was certainly believable enough.

    Now, what I didn’t like:

    Intro stuff – I didn’t mind the intro. I assume that Thror’s gold sickness was put there to foreshadow future events, and the Arkenstone is introduced. Won’t say much more without spoilers.

    I _did_ mind, though, the complete lack of regard to the handling of the artifacts.

    First, no mention of the Dwarven Ring. Thror had it, gave it to Thrain, and then died in Moria (IIRC). One of the big reasons Thror HAD the ‘gold/dragon-sickness’ was due to the Ring, as that was Sauron’s only real way of manipulating the Dwarves through their Rings. That’s small potatoes, though.

    The key and the map – I really need to go back and check this, but as I recall, Thrain had key, map, AND RING when he was captured _by the Necromancer and held in Dol Guldur_. The Necromancer naturally took the Ring. However, Gandalf got them from Thrain _while penetrating Dol Guldur to find the truth about the Necromancer_. This has shifted radically in the movie, to the point that the map and key now have no real history and anchoring. Given that the entire Dol Guldur issue is being shown in the movies, why did they change this?

    Azog/Bolg – This is my bad. I didn’t have any issue with this at first (beyond the belaboring as Leah points out), but that’s because I thought that Azog was the son of Bolg, not vice versa. Now when it’s the reverse, I’m a little more peeved.

    The Dinner Party – This was excellent, IMO. It introduces all of the dwarves, and a lot of their individual quirks, the songs are right out of the book, and Thorin’s unquestioned primacy is underscored time and again. Now, I don’t like the ‘morning after’, since the events in the movie are really nothing like the book, but whatever.

    Trolls – Well. For those who like Guile heroes, having Bilbo string out the trolls rather than Gandalf is a good thing, but this makes the later ‘action Bilbo’ even more jarring.

    Troll characterization awesome.

    Rivendell: The only thing I didn’t like was that Time Compression makes Elrond seem really moody. He is ALL smiles and open facial expressions in The Hobbit, particularly compared to LotR, where you think he’s been chain-gobbling lemons. Now, yes, the situation has gotten far worse in the intervening years, but… really?

    Goblin-town: Minor differences, but otherwise okay.

    Gollum: Not sure how I feel about schizo Gollum in The Riddle Game, as it seems like a jarringly contemporary psychological depiction in an otherwise ethically centered story. (Felt the same way about him in LotR.)

    Great Goblin: Disappointing. Old and cunning is good, but… yeah, dunno. As my sister whispered to me in the theater, “GG, The Balrog you are NOT.”

    Fifteen Birds: WHERE’S THE SONG?!? SONG IMPORTANT!!

    And yes, while it’s a cool scene, Bilbo’s action time is not yet! Now, it is characteristically appropriate. When he does take a level in Badass later, it’s because everyone is counting on him. Same reaction here. Really… just thought of this, but the parallels to the handling of Theoden’s death in Return of the King are striking, from a cinematography perspective.

    However, in-character or not, I fully agree with Leah: Bilbo gains acceptance from the Dwarves for _being resourceful and being a good Burglar_, not for being a 14th Dwarf. Also, I am not sure if I think Thorin would have EVER embraced Bilbo that way, for reasons of decorum if nothing else.

    This does, however, play to a later event, and so it may be long-term dramatic tension.

    Oh, yeah, Eagles were cool, but why can’t they do more?

    I don’t know. I saw it twice in theaters. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Oh, yeah, and Thranduil was also awesome, and played exactly as I picture him.

  • ReadsTooMuch

    I intend to take this movie trilogy, much more than the LOTR trilogy, as something like Adventures in Middle Earth, or Stories of Middle Earth. Whatever Jackson and Co. want to add, so long as they more or less take it from the corpus, I don’t mind. Once the decision to make it more than one movie was made, it seems to me that a direct translation of the actual story was out of the question — there just isn’t that much movie-action story in The Hobbit, assuming that this is a blockbuster movie and not an art film in which the sorts of everyday details of adventures, captured so well in the book, could legitimately be emphasized. This allows me to ask: Was this a good (and relatively lighthearted) story? IMHO: Yes, yes it was. I did miss the Fifteen Birds song, and the escape from the goblin-city was way too long (hence tension-free and video-game like), as others have pointed out, but on the other hand there were rabbits that could outrun wargs! And, for the record, I’m pretty sure the stone giants’ rock-throwing was in the book, even if obviously played up for the film.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X