[movies] The Hobbit (with spoilers under cut)

So I went and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyimbd&ndsp;] yesterday. Lisa Costello and [info]the_child took me over to Clackamas Town Center (the cinema at the mall where the recent shootings took place), where the usual suspects met up with us. I took off my sunshield face mask to walk into mall, figuring on not causing any more problems than needful. My face did not burst into flame from 3 minutes of UV exposure.

We saw the film in its traditional 2D presentation. It’s my hope to go back this coming week and see it in 48fps 3D, but that’s a junior film geek thing more than an “Ermahgerd, must see again nao lolz!” My basic expectation for the film was absolutely fulfilled: two and half hours of Jacksonverse Lord of the Rings fan service was what I was expecting, and it’s actually what I got.

The Hobbit is the world’s most expensive piece of fan fic ever.

As such, I loved it.

As a film, not so much. My critical brain never turned off, which is a bit of a pity. Given the lack of density of the source material (and I mean this specifically in contrast to Lord of the Rings I suspect the full Hobbitfilm trilogy would have been a pretty tight single 130 or 140 minute film. As it stands now, the amount of padding and divers alarums and excursions required to take a third of a small book and make it into a epic length trilogy really shows at the seas.

I wound up in the odd position of simultaneously loving the film and spending the last hour and change wondering when the hell it would be over. That would be my reader/fan brain in a pissing match with my writer/critic brain.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s gorgeous. The Hobbit absolutely lives up to the beauty and vastness and haunting glory of Lord of the Rings. Martin Freeman was born to play Bilbo. Gandalf is Gandalfy as ever. Jackson has even restored some measure of dignity to the dwarves, which was shameless stripped from Gimli in the first film series in the name of (apparently) comic relief. If you’re any kind of a fan of the Jacksonverse version of Tolkein’s work you will love this film. If you’re not, it will probably bore you.

Some incomplete spoiler notes:

The Hobbit was almost too much an homage to the predecessor films. A number of scenes were eerily familiar, to the point of being almost boring. It almost felt like a rip-off of itself.

Jackson has a thing about ledges. Alright already, we get that. Ditto the spiders, though admittedly they’re important to the source material in both books.

I was oddly disappointed to see clearly female dwarves in the Erebor scenes during the narrative prolog. It’s clearly established in both the source material and the Lord of the Rings film trilogy that most outsiders cannot tell male and female dwarves apart.

Thranduil’s choice of mounts took my breath away, it was so well presented.

This movie’s conclusion suffers from the same problem that the conclusion of The Two Towers suffers from — it begs the question of why Gandalf didn’t ask Gwanhir for help in the first place. Obviously what we’d wind up with is a sixteen minute short film about the wonders of aviation in Middle Earth, but the issue smacks of Idiot Plot.

The meeting of the Council of the Wise wherein Saruman makes a brief cameo was just silly. Gandalf must have been stoned out of his mind on Old Toby not to see through Saruman’s attempts to manipulate the situation.

Radogast the Brown is the Jar Jar Binks of the Lord of the Rings universe. Can we please throw him back? I’m guessing there’s a reason Tolkien didn’t write him into the novel.

I want the whole Misty Mountains song, sung by the dwarves, please.

15 thoughts on “[movies] The Hobbit (with spoilers under cut)

  1. David Ivory says:

    My favourite part was when the dwarves gave each other a headbutt upon meeting each other. That was so ‘special features’ referential that it is ridiculous.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1VZG7zYBbo

    Definitely over long – and like every Jackson movie there is a better shorter movie struggling to get out – but I still enjoyed it.

    The 48 FPS version in 3D IMAX was definitely the way to go though – never once got taken out of the movie – immersive in a way that other movies rarely achieve. Great stuff and your review is spot on with my experience.

  2. Can I just say: the two verses of the Dwarves’ Lament (Misty Mountains) that appear in the movie and soundtrack are just… insufficient to fulfill my needs for more Dwarves’ Lament.

    I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is More Lamenting!

  3. Interestingly I think the answer to both “why didn’t Gandalf just ask Gwanhir for help” and “why didn’t Gandalf see through Saruman’s attempts to manipulate the situation” are the same, and are the best parts of (my reading of) the film: the downpowered, vulnerable, out-of-his-depth version of Gandalf. This wasn’t just Gandalf being Gandalfy — it’s very much a Gandalf the Grey, far from the version of himself who faces the Balrog; capable of wowing dwarves and hobbits but essentially in over his head. We see it in the scene where Saruman and Elrond are calling him onto the carpet. It’s not that he doesn’t “see through” Saruman, it’s that there’s jackshit he can do about it other than silently, telepathically appeal to Galadriel, hoping she’ll get involved; Saruman outranks him and, frankly, Gandalf can’t even explain to himself what the hell he’s doing. Why he doesn’t call in the Eagles earlier is suggested by the whole hidden valley sequence — he has to trick the dwarves into accepting the grudging invitation of the elves, then defuse the standoff that ensues, then have the dwarves sneak off from their hosts while he stalls them. Given that track record of managing relationships, it’s entirely possible that Gwanhir isn’t Gandalf’s faithful deus ex machina sworn friend who would swoop in any time to help; rather, Gwanhir may well be pissed off and suspicious at whatever Gandalf pulled last time, and only a situation as extreme as the one where Gandalf does call him in — hanging off a tree about to get massacred by the White Orc — would convince him to come out. This isn’t Gandalf as wise leader of the Forces of Good of Middle Earth; it’s Gandalf as dogged meddler following his nose and pissing everyone else off (and almost getting them killed ) in the process — more Philip Marlowe than Obi-Wan. I think that characterization was the best part of the movie.

    1. Jay says:

      I *love* this analysis.

      1. Makes sense to me, too. I love the idea that Gandalf develops over the course of the various adventures.

    2. I’m with Jay–I think that’s a sophisticated and accurate assessment. That’s a little how I’ve always imagined it, actually, because even when I was a kid I noticed that he was more optimistic and almost…simple? in the Hobbit than he ever seemed in LotR. Thanks for explaining it to me: he hasn’t seen the bad shit go down yet.

    3. Spot on. That rings true, Ben. Thank you!

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