Of course I went to see The Hobbit. Me and hubby went on a Friday afternoon peoples. Friday afternoon! And we have two kids under the age of five! Do you have any clue how difficult the babysitter situation is on a weekday afternoon? That tells you how much we wanted to see this movie.
Hubby is a long time fan who has read all the books and has discussed the intricacies of Middle Earth often with his D&D game. Me, I have not read any of the books, either LOTR or The Hobbit (I know, I need to be kicked out of any reputable Comic-Con!) However, I did see that old Bass-Rankin cartoon… Do yinz remember that, from the same people responsible for the old Rudolph and Frosty cartoons? It’s been so many years I don’t remember many details, except I thought the elves were scary and I was not very impressed with Smaug’s voice. But I digress. No, I haven’t read The Hobbit, but the Lord of the Rings trilogy is easily in my top ten movie slots and I never read those books either. And I’m a huge fan of fantasy in general.
So with great joy, mild trepidation, and a well-compensated babysitter at the house, hubby and I saw The Hobbit.
Mr. Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, a race that despises all adventure. In fact, when he first meets the wizard Gandalf and discovers Gandalf is looking for someone to be part of an adventuring party, Bilbo says, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
And yet Gandalf for some reason won’t take no for an answer. Later that night, Gandalf and a band of Dwarves make themselves at home in Bilbo’s dining room, causing mayhem and eating everything from the well-stocked pantry. And just when Bilbo looks to explode, in walks Thorin Oakenshield, the great deposed Dwarven king, and finally the details of this adventure are discussed. Thorin is setting out to reclaim the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug, and though the dwarves are determined to make this journey, all of them know the chances of succeeding are slim.
Thorin and the other dwarves are dismayed that Gandalf wants to bring Bilbo. Bilbo is rather dismayed as well. But Gandalf is insistent, and the next day Bilbo is indeed travelling with the dwarves. However the path is treacherous, and on their way they encounter trolls, orcs, and a creature called Gollum, who has a very interesting ring…
A little meta data here. It has already been announced that The Hobbit is going to be split up into three movies, so you knew going in there wasn’t going to be a resolution, more like the end of Act 1. First problem, because as soon as I heard this I got a twinge in my stomach, that “Really?” gut reaction to head-scratching news. See, while J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a vast and intricate place (and why LOTR genuinely needed three movies to work) The Hobbit is actually a fairly straight-forward adventure story with little of the reams of history and backstory that categorize LOTR and other Tolkien writings (The Hobbit really is a kid’s book, around that 10+ age where kids are in love with fantasy and adventure.) Does such a story really need three movies to work?
I can’t answer that completely without seeing what the next two movies offer, but at this point, I’m going with no. While I never actively looked at my watch waiting for a scene to be over, the movie could easily have lost a half-hour and it wouldn’t have changed the flavor one bit.
If you’re a Hobbit purist you will have problems with the story, because not only does Jackson take parts from other Tolkien writings and place them in the movie, he also creates an entirely new subplot and enemy for the dwarves to fight which was not in the book (this knowledge given to me compliments of hubby). That story arc is unresolved so I can’t tell yet if it will stand up to scrutiny overall. The parts I saw I enjoyed, though the creature did come across just a little too CGI in a couple of scenes.
I guess I can’t talk about purists without mentioning the appearance of the dwarves. Jackson went in a different direction than the usual, making the dwarves look… well… not dwarvish, with only a couple exceptions (Gloin being one of those, and any LOTR fan gets that name).
Let me admit here and now, Thorin Oakenshield is a hotty – and when is the last time you heard that about a dwarf? Thoughts on the dwarves looks is decidedly split. Personally, I loved it. It made following the storytelling much easier, the dwarves personalities came through in their looks, and really, why should elves get all the good press in the looks department? Bravo I say, bravo.
The scenery and the world is spectacular, just as you would expect from Jackson. It’s quite stunning to see onscreen. But it does suffer from a little bit of the “Been here, seen that” syndrome, because anyone who has watched LOTR has already oohed and ahhed over it. Same thing with the score from Howard Shore, which reminds you quite often, “Hey, this movie is connected to LOTR! Don’t forget!” Same with Gandalf, and Galadriel, and Gollum, and kind of everything. The panoramic views and the chase scenes and the fights – all of them are reminiscent of LOTR, and The Hobbit just can’t escape the comparisons. They are well done – don’t get me wrong – but there is none of the wonder that accompanied watching LOTR. It’s old hat now. For that sense of wonder to make an appearance again I’m counting on Smaug and expect Jackson to hit it out of the park (Smaug is not in this with the exception of a small teaser, a quick shot of his eye at the end of the movie.) Seeing a DRAGON?! And he’s voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch?! OMG!!!
But in all honesty none of the above bothered me too much (can’t say the same for hubby, but I’m the one writing this review.) I do see the flaws, but the magic of the movie made glossing them over easy to do. The scenery is beautiful, and the acting is top-notch. I enjoy these characters tremendously. But that’s not to say there wasn’t the One Big Problem for me, and that was this – Why did Bilbo join the dwarves to begin with? This was an incredibly dangerous journey, Bilbo loved his creature comforts, and he had no personal stake in the outcome. So why would he go? There were some Gandalf ramblings about how Bilbo used to be so brave and comes from a line that includes some of the bravest hobbits, but the speech felt forced. It was up to Martin Freeman to sell me on Bilbo going (of his own free will mind, no blackmail or magical inducement.) I hate to say it, especially since I’m currently enjoying watching Freeman in the series Sherlock, but he never did. That was the main sticking point for me enjoying the movie, because I never believed for one moment this character would leave his hobbit hole for this adventure. Now, maybe once I’ve seen the other films and the complete character arc for Bilbo I’ll be more comfortable with this decision and buy it, but that doesn’t help me now with only this movie under my belt.
Bottom line – It’s hard to give a bottom line for The Hobbit, because the list for both what worked AND what didn’t are quite decently sized. So I’ll end it with this. I enjoyed the movie a lot. I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out, watch it occasionally at home after the little girls are asleep, and rewind and rewatch a couple favorite scenes. But it’s not a go-to movie. It’s not a movie I’ll always be in the mood for. It’s a movie I’ll use the forwarding button on because really, that scene wasn’t needed. And it’s a movie that when talking to someone about Jackson’s take on Middle Earth, I’ll say, “That scene in Fellowship, wasn’t that awesome? And in the Two Towers, I still get chills seeing the March of the Ents. What? The Hobbit? Yeah, that was a pretty good movie too, glad Jackson was finally able to make it.”
My final Grade? B