Movies

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review post!

My household, along with , just got back from seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey!

I’ve posted before about I’ve still got the original copy of The Hobbit that I read in sixth grade–complete with my name written in pencil on the unicorn nameplate sticker on the inside cover. The eleven-year-old me who read that book is absolutely delighted by the movie we just saw. 43-year-old me is somewhat more reserved in her reaction; there are parts of the film that I absolutely loved, and there are other parts that I feel could have benefited a lot from tighter editing.

And make no mistake–this is very much Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth in play here. If you like Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. If you’re not a fan of the previous movies, you probably won’t.

Me? I am a longstanding devotee of the books. But I’m also a devotee of the movies. And while I saw some flaws in this one… yeah, I enjoyed myself immensely. And I’ll be going back for more. In no small part because we saw the 24fps, non-3D version tonight–on the grounds that we very specifically wanted to see that version first, in case the 48fps wound up interfering with the viewing of the actual movie. (I’ve had prior movies released in 3D be actively distracting to me in that format–I’m looking at you, Thor–and have enjoyed them much more upon viewing them in 2D.

But I AM totally curious about the 48fps version and I DO want to see it. Now that I’ve gotten the viewing of the standard version out of the way and am able to react to the plot and characterization first, that’ll free me up to better react to the technology later!

And with that, let’s get down to spoilery goodness behind the fold. 😀


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Things that didn’t work for me as well–let me get this said right out of the gate. Elijah Wood and Ian Holm, it was totally charming to see you guys on screen again… for about three seconds. I missed you guys, I really did, and I do see what Jackson’s doing with the framing story being very clearly intended to lead right into the birthday party at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring.

But honestly, I could have done without the framing story. I’m also ambivalent about Thorin’s backstory, setting up his family history as well as the fall of Erebor. The original book is so emblazoned into my brain that it was really kind of strange to get all this context for what’s going on, right out of the gate–rather than be smacked in the face as Bilbo is, with a horde of strange dwarves showing up on his doorstep for no apparent reason whatsoever. I’m a little sorry that we didn’t get that here!

And I feel guilty as a Doctor Who fangirl for saying this, but I’m not entirely sure that Radagast worked for me either. But that may just because I went ‘eeeew’ at the bird lime in his hair. *^_^*;; On the other hand, yeah, I could have done with a little bit less Healing the Hedgehog on-screen.

Um, I think I could have done without the Great Goblin’s big dangly wattle. All I can think of is that “Chickenfoot” episode of Invader Zim with the character Turkeyneck babbling about how the children are always after his juicy neck meats!

Azog and his minions on the wargs hunting down the party just before they get into Rivendell didn’t play well for me–possibly because the terrain they were on, coupled with it being a warg attack, was almost too strong a callback to the warg battle in Two Towers. Plus, not sure about the wargs themselves. They seemed even more CGI-ish this time around and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

Things I’m still pondering and am undecided about… the emphasis on Azog as an actual recurring villain, hunting down the dwarves as they go on their quest. I get the whole dramatic reason for setting up Thorin with a bad guy to go Grr at, sure. But I’m still mulling whether it worked for me.

The movie’s making a bigger point of having Bilbo be more ready to do heroic things. This stands out for me particularly since I’m actively, if slowly, reading the book right now–and I’ve noticed how over and over and over and over again, Bilbo’s whining about wishing he was home, even if he eventually learns to keep his whining to himself. I have NOT, however, gotten to the parts of the book where Bilbo starts becoming more of a fighter. He’s ramping up to that faster on screen, and part of me thinks that does work in the context of his travelling with a younger, hardier, ass-kicking-er band of dwarves than book!Bilbo. But the rest of me is not entirely sure yet.

And now, the things I adored:

The musical score. Especially the callbacks to the themes established in the previous movies. The Shire/Hobbit theme, oh god, so lovely to hear that again. And the Ring theme!

The segue from old!Bilbo smoking on his porch to young!Bilbo smoking on his porch WAS pretty bitchin’.

And the dwarves arriving! YAY! Watching Martin Freeman’s Bilbo flip out at the invasion of his home by this pack of strangers… oh, beautiful. And oh. My. God. They actually did work in the “THAT’S WHAT BILBO BAGGINS HATES!” song in a way that didn’t suck. 😀 Which, my children, is one of the things I do so love about these movies and about Howard Shore as a composer–finding ways to reference Tolkien’s own propensity for having his characters sing, and using the words that Tolkien himself had them singing, in ways that are beautifully natural to the action.

There’s been a thing going around all over the Net about buttons saying I <3 Hot Dwarves. I, um, yeah, might have to get one of those. Because I am fangirling the hell out of Kili. CUTEST. DWARF. EVER. And okay, yeah, now that I’ve seen him in action, I’m developing a healthy respect for Mr. Armitage as Thorin, too. ;D

The fight with the trolls was pretty awesome, though I lament that we didn’t get Gandalf’s tricking the trolls by inserting himself into their argument. On the other hand, I DO like that Bilbo had the more active role of stalling for time, that he actively spotted Gandalf lurking nearby, and how Thorin immediately clued in to what he was doing and got the others to clue in as well. Bonus points for the whole sequence starting with Kili and Fili’s looks of “oh shit, we’ve lost some ponies, Thorin is going to KILL US” looks.

The visit to Rivendell worked a bit too hard on the whole “Thorin hates elves” character thread. On the other hand, holy crap, this Rivendell was actually populated! And Elrond is positively chipper. Apparently all you have to do is get him out fighting goblins to get him into an amiable mood. I did quite like the dwarves’ confused reaction to an elvish vegetarian meal, and YAY THE ELVES HAD A FLUTE PLAYER!

And of all the bits of non-book scenes that Jackson put into this, having Galadriel and Saruman show up at Rivendell for the council scene was possibly the best done of the lot. It was pretty cool seeing Saruman before he turned to Sauron’s support, and even cooler seeing Galadriel be a more active force in the world. Also REALLY neat touch with how she just vanished at the conclusion of her conversation with Gandalf. Jackson’s Galadriel is supposed to be a powerful sorceress, after all. Nice how she slipped in several mental comments to Gandalf, too!

The ENTIRE Riddles in the Dark scene. O. M. G. Beautiful.

While I’m a little sorry we didn’t get talking Eagles in this movie, it was nonetheless very stirring to see them swoop in to save the party from the burning trees. And especially carrying Thorin unconscious, after he’d dropped his oaken shield. (Which: nice way of having him live up to his name, that prop!)

Overall, I think the movie was overlong and dragged in places. I could have done with a bit less fighty-fighty-fighty, too. But that said… I did indeed quite enjoy myself. And shivered appropriately on that final glimpse of Smaug’s eye opening among the pile of gold!

ETA: Further thoughts I had to stick in!

Dara and I both agreed that it was cool to see the movie bring out more of a portrayal of the Dwarves of Middle-Earth as a people in their own right. The previous trilogy of movies pretty much had one on-camera dwarf, i.e., Gimli. But even though I’m ambivalent about the front-loaded backstory, seeing Erebor with a dwarf population, and seeing them having to react to the coming of Smaug, was pretty awesome.

Ian McKellen looks like he’s totally enjoying the hell out of being Gandalf again. Much love for Sir Ian, who is the very embodiment of Gandalf!

And the same for Mr. Freeman–because everybody else is saying this, and I’ll have to say it too–dear gods, he’s an amazing Bilbo. The Riddles in the Dark sequence remains my favorite, but close behind it is the arrival of the dwarves, where Bilbo just positively shines. But I also loved him summoning his courage to try to sneak up on the trolls. And I loved him having his moment of pity when he realized he couldn’t just kill Gollum, either.

I can’t wait to hear him say “I shall give you a name, and I shall call you Sting!”

OMG OMG OMG Gollum in the Riddle sequence. I loved the additional nuances of “Smeagol” and “Gollum” both reacting to the riddles, and watching Gollum’s expressions change accordingly. I wanted to hug the poor little guy when he went into Smeagol mode and was all “oo! Oo! I know this one!” And then as SOON as he whipped back around into Gollum mode, I had to go AAAH! and mentally rear back. Brilliantly played, Mr. Serkis!

I don’t have a good sense for all the individual dwarves yet as characters–but Balin was pretty awesome, and I did like him telling the story of the fight between Thorin and Azog, and the death of Thorin’s grandfather. It’s sad to think that Balin’s doomed to die in Moria, along with Ori and Oin. Sniff. I’d forgotten about this until I looked it up just now.

I need to pay more attention on my second viewing, but I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse of Bombur being a goddamn lion in the middle of the battle in the goblin caves. If so, I approve. Bombur needs to be more than just the fattest of the dwarves (even though the rest of the company does seem inclined to give him good-natured shit about that, and he seems happy to let them).

I do have to giggle in general at the dwarves coming across as short Klingons with Scottish accents, though. That said? I totally love these guys. And I did as soon as they all broke into the “Blunt the Knives” song. Which is on the soundtrack! YAY!

ETA #2: OH YES, and I had to add that I did grin quite a bit at Gandalf’s throwaway line about forgetting the names of the Blue Wizards. I’m almost dead certain that was entirely deliberate, on the grounds that Alatar and Pallando (because HI YES I’m enough of a Tolkien nerd that I do actually know the names of the other two wizards) aren’t referenced anywhere by name except in the Unfinished Tales. And Jackson does not have rights to those to use them for the films!