Watson and I Hobbited today. This is not a euphemism.
It was my day off (working tomorrow—come on in a ask me where the Tolkien books are) and we’d made plans to see Peter Jackson’s latest third of a story at the 2D matinée showing for all kinds of reasons having to do with children, money, crowds, lack of stereoptic vision, and so on.
There’s a lot that has already been said, but that’s certainly never stopped me before. Spoilers might, but seriously, if I can spoil this movie for you, then you really do need to ask the nearest librarian for a copy of the book before the second installment. So if you’re really worried, bookmark this for later, though I’ll try not to be too specific.
I can be specific in this: I enjoyed it. A lot.
Here are some random opinions I have about An Unexpected Journey:
The Hobbit movie as a whole is staged as a LOTR prequel—Bilbo is writing his memoirs (by hand with a quill) between the time Frodo takes off to meet Gandalf in the beginning of Lord of the Rings and the time they arrive at Bag End*—which isn’t how the book is written. The book was originally a story for Tolkien’s kids, and when it was done, he blinked a couple times and said, “Huh. What if . . .?” and started in on Bilbo’s birthday party. This isn’t a problem for me at all, but it is a difference.
The Dwarf Dinner Party is amazing. The by-play, the dwarves, Bilbo reactions, the songs, the washing-up, Bilbo’s conflicting emotions, the bloody-minded arguments, Gandalf being manipulative as unapologetic hell . . . it’s perfect.
Whoever designed the eyes of the Orcs and Goblins was a genius—they all have an unearthly beauty that remove them from the less magical characters (I include Gollum in this—his eyes, to me, are the exaggerated CGI version of Elijah Woods, in blue, though he has been touched by magic). They’re closer to the Elf end of the spectrum in shape and color, which is as it should be—I also noticed that the Pale Orc looks like Lady Galadriel’s twin brother,** if Sauron had stared at him a bit through a with that Eye of his like a malevolent child with a white crayon and a magnifying glass on a sunny afternoon.
There are a lot of pony problems in the Hobbit, book and movie—it appears to be the fantasy plot-helper equivalent of flat tires and/or wonky cell-phone service in modern settings.
Watson’s go-to dwarf is Thorin, because he’s the Character-Arc Dwarf, and I can’t say Richard Armitage doesn’t work it hard—and gorgeously so—but of those few who were allowed to have personalities rather than single defining qualities, I preferred Bofur and Dwalin—though I admit this could be cheating, as I might have already developed small crushes on James Nesbitt and Graham McTavish*** before they were even cast in these movies.
Not to say that Fili and Kili aren’t gorgeous Pin-Up Dwarves, because they are.^ Particularly Kili, who is played by Adrian Turner—he’s not my type in Real Life™, but I can’t deny that the craftsmanship is exquisite and the camera clearly wants to have his babies. I kept thinking that Fili looked familiar, especially the way he strode around—I was relieved to find out that I did know him: Dean O’Gorman played the Young Aeolus in the Adventures of Hercules/Young Hercules franchises. Anyone? Are those crickets? Fine. Moving on.
Radagast the Brown is far better here than Tom Bombadil would ever have been in LOTR, but that’s not saying a lot. His scenes were terrific, and I loved the rabbits so, so much, and the hedgehog and the hinky mushroom references, but this is a place where Mr. Jackson was explaining LOTR instead of making the Hobbit and while again, I do understand, I wanted to get back to Bilbo a bit sooner, please.
On the other hand, watching Saruman try to pooh-pooh the danger signs that both Radagast and Gandalf are reporting is fun. But the byplay between Galadriel and Gandalf is odd—can someone tell me if this is Silmarillion compliant? Because if it is, I might give it another go.
The Rock Monsters were entirely gratuitous. Characters have slipped off narrow ledges and dodged rockfalls in full-out rainstorms without any of that Made-for-3D nonsense. I don’t care if there are two sentences about it somewhere in the source material(s)—and don’t tell me that Thorin needed another reason to be irritated with Bilbo, because it was already established that he’s handsome, noble, uberstressed, and a bit of an arrogant jerk.
Similarly (not Silmarillionly, which would be. . . meh, never mind), the escape from the goblins went on about five minutes too long in my subjective opinion. I don’t know if it seemed shorter in the other theater, where all the rocks and timbers and goblin-pieces were bouncing into the audience, and I fully admit that car chases also bore me.
But I adored the Goblin King. He was erudite, clever, ruled a sort of Bronzepunk kingdom, and had a lovely voice, pretty eyes, and a completely disgusting wattle that was difficult to ignore.
The Riddle Scene. I won’t spoil it, but this is the Hobbit I know and love.
And I adored Bilbo. Martin Freeman has great talent both as an actor and in choosing roles that allow him to use his essential Martin Freemanness to best advantage. Bilbo’s arc isn’t quite the same as in the book—his experiences are slightly different from the get-go and so are his motivations—but it works.
And, finally, Smaug is going to rock.
Anyone else want to chime in?
*As if some of us don’t feel inadequate enough about our daily word count. Sheesh.
**I’m not saying she did, though I only made it through the Silmarillion once, a few decades ago, so anything’s possible.
***Who should always play roles that require him to wear Braveheart-type clothing and loft double-bladed weaponry and/or claymores, because hmmm.
^Louis Peitzman of BuzzFeed went so far as to arrange the dwarves from least to most attractive. It’s all very subjective—there’s someone for everyone in this weird world and I personally think Balin deserves better–but fun.