Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hobbit: the good, the bad, and the awesome

Or, a long awaited review ;)

As you may have guessed (by, for one thing, my blog name), I am a big fan of Tolkien's The Hobbit (and LotR). So I was very excited to see Peter Jackson's first installment of The Hobbit last week. And very annoyed when the flu postponed that viewing. But, after an excruciating day and a half, I got to the theater. I chose 2D because I still had a headache and couldn't bear the thought of 3D glasses (which give me a headache even when I'm not sick). Yes, I was in pretty humble condition; but this was The Hobbit we're talking about. (And if you're afraid that such a level of devotion will find its way into my review/thoughts, you are probably right. But I will strive very hard to keep it as objective as possible.) So here's what I thought – late, I know, but better late than never.

The good

Screen adaptation – In general, this was very well done, especially considering that The Hobbit was written as a children's book, so it has some moments that would be very hard to represent on the screen without seeming excessively silly. There was a slew of variances from the text that the nerdy side of me took umbrage with (why, Jackson, why did the meeting at Rivendell have to be unpleasant, when it was so very pleasant in the book?!), but that, objectively, weren't bad and furthered the story well (although I still say the Rivendell meeting could have been more like it was written, without changing the story...but I digress). Jackson worked hard to give a bit of character to each dwarf, with mixed effect. On the one hand, many of them have distinct personalities (an improvement to the missing personalities for many characters in the book, heresy though it is to admit), which I like; on the other, Peter Jackson seems to have a very cheesy and somewhat juvenile sense of humor. We got glimpses of it in LotR, but it is exercised with much greater liberty here. This also true of his flare for the absurd (more on that later). All in all, however, the story is well told, and moves along quickly – once you get past the lumbering beginning (more on that as well).

Bilbo/Martin Freeman – Martin Freeman plays the lead role in this as Bilbo, and I thought he did a very good job. I have to admit, this Bilbo is not how I imagined Bilbo when reading. I saw him as more of a stuffy fellow, a county bigwig who is very self-important. Which isn't to say there isn't some of that; there is, and it is very well done. I cannot think this role was easy – to play a proud, somewhat cowardly yet surprisingly brave person. Excuse me, hobbit. Freeman did a very good job (he was particularly good against Smeagol, but more on that in a bit), and I look forward to his continuation of the saga.

Gandalf/Sir Ian McKellan – this, for any fan of LotR, practically goes without saying, but Ian McKellan was, as always, excellent. The only reason I have not put him in the “awesome” category was because I thought the character at times not very consistent, particularly when weighed against the Gandalf portrayed in LotR. Like, for instance, when he grimaces at the sight of Saruman – when, 60 years later, he will speak with deference and the utmost respect.

The bad

Flare for the Absurd – The dwarves' costumes are one example of this, but there is a much better one.

Radagast the Brown – ...which brings me to Radagast the Brown. What Peter Jackson was thinking with this, I will never know...but a wizard with bird poop running down his face? Really?! And I'm not even going to get into the bunny-drawn sleigh...

The Goblin King – This is another continuation of the above. But the rotund king of the goblins, complete with his foot of swaying chin fat, hardly brings to mind the ferocious goblin Tolkien wrote about, or anything ferocious. Maybe I'm being picky, but I thought he was just too...absurd.

Time – the movie, particularly the beginning, stretches on for too long. I'm not saying I didn't like seeing the first chapters adapted for the screen. But, objectively, it just drags on too long, and doesn't do much to further the story.

Characters that added nothing – Galadriel and Saruman, anyone? For all the awesomeness of seeing them again, they added nothing to the story, and ended up seeming like a tacky way to include beloved characters from LotR despite the fact that they are irrelevant to the movie.

The awesome

Thorin Oakenshield/Richard Armitage – anyone familiar with Armitage's work (North and South, Robin Hood, etc.) will know what caliber acting to expect. And this is no exception. Armitage brings life into the proud dwarf, Thorin, and you can understand both Bilbo's respect and his trepidation of him.

Smeagol/Gollum/Andy Serkis – Again, this is no surprise to any fan of LotR. But Smeagol is as good – dare I say, better? – this time around. And, as Andy Serkis remarked, 60 years younger, so that much sexier. ;) He is not onscreen for a long time, but he will manage to scare the daylights out of you, and move you to compassion in the next minute.

All in all, I liked the movie. I didn't love it, but I did love portions of it. I will certainly see it again.

4/5 “stars”

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