Romantic Geek Girl

Danielle Monsch takes you through the softer side of geek

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Movie Review – The Hobbit

Hobbit-Bilbo 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




Movie Review – Snow White & the Huntsman

Too much and yet not enough.

That about sums up my feelings on the movie, but to leave it there would be a pretty pitiful review. Before I go any deeper, though, I give you this:

Now seriously, isn’t that a frickin gorgeous poster? If you are a fan of darker fantasy – especially when it comes to reimagined fairy tales – is there any possible way you wouldn’t go see that movie?

Of course not, and people flocked in droves. SW&TH made over $55 million opening weekend. Not bad work for a pale princess.

Now forward we go with the review. Oh, and be warned, I am a spoilerific type person. No spoilers in your world? Then no reading any further.

We open in standard Snow White fashion – the kind Queen wandering a Snowy landscape where she comes across a rose blooming in the midle of all that white. Picking it, she pricks her finger and spills three drops of blood. She proceeds to wish for her baby. Hair as black as night, skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, but in his movie they added one additional requirement. The Queen wishes the child to be as strong and defiant as this rose which blooms in the middle of winter.

Forward about seven years, and Snow White is now a little girl. Our Narrarator (voice of The Huntsman) says that Snow White is beloved by the people as much for her inner strength as for her beautiful face.

(And as an aside – Chris Hemsworth’s voice? Swoon!)

The Queen dies, and shortly afterwards a mysterious Army attacts the heartsick King. He rides out to meet the invaders, but finds they are a magical Army, nothing more than living quartz that crumble when hit by the sword. The King and his men have no idea what is going on, but there is a prison transport. Opening the transport, the King sees the beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron). He instantly falls in love and marries her the next day.

Bad idea. The wedding night is not exactly what the king hoped for, as Ravenna kills him and lets into the castle the real army. While many of the nobles escape the castle that night – including Snow White’s best friend, the Duke’s son William – Snow White herself is captured.

Fifteen years later, Snow White is Kristen Stewart. I will skip many a detail here, suffice to say Snow White escapes and runs into the Dark Forest. Ravenna’s magic is useless in the Dark Forest, so she hires the Hunstman (Chris Hemsworth) to find and bring back Snow White. If he succeeds, Ravenna will bring back his wife from the dead. And so the story begins…

I’m a little unsure how to talk about this movie because I’m so conflicted about it. I enjoyed it, but there was so many things wrong with it, but it was so gorgeous, but the story just did not hold together, but the Evil Queen was so cool at the beginning and the end, but the Evil Queen was kinda pathetic in the middle…

See, it’s like a little tennis match in my head.

Let us start by saying the movie was gorgeous, a gothic landscape careening from the bareness of Ravenna’s lands to the nightmarish landscape of the Dark Forest to the lush greenery of the Fairy grove. Visual appeal in every nook and cranny. While I was watching I detected a strong hint of a Japanese aesthetic, but I kind of pooh-poohed that thought, telling myself I was probably seeing things I wanted to see. Then came a scene where I went, “Wait a second, did someone just switch movies and put Princess Mononoke on?” which tells me, no, I’m right about the Japanese influence.

So, gorgeous, but that is also part of the problem. This film could easily have lost 20-30 minutes if the director spent a little less time examing in minute detail every…little…effect. So you don’t get just one fairy, you get ten! You don’t just get one creepy Dark Forest scene, you get five! It really slowed down the pacing of the story.

Ah yes, the story. In most movies (or books) the writers beat you over the head with information. This is one of the rare instances of the opposite problem, where you get too few answers and too much ambiguity, leaving you in a haze of confusion and constantly asking, “Why?” “What?” “Huh?”

To begin, why didn’t Ravenna kill Snow White in the very beginning and instead kept her prisoner? What happened to the other kingdoms Ravenna conquered?

Another problem was the script kept contradicting itself. Was Snow White the fairest in the land because of physical beauty or because of her kindness, innocence, and strength of character? There was no internal logic to the world, the answer on magic was whatever that scene needed the answer to be.

Finally, the film was disjointed. Instead of “A Movie” it felt more like several beautiful scenes which were stuck together, with no flow between the scenes previous and following. For example, there’s a scene where Snow White and the Huntsman are walking along to get the the Duke’s castle, when out of the blue and no warning given, the Huntsman turns to Snow White, hands her a knife, and proceeds to show her a move to kill her enemy and protect herself. As soon as he shows her he turns away and starts walking again. It was, “Dude, you couldn’t be more obvious that this is the way Snow White is going to kill Ravenna if you tried!”

As for the love story aspect – it’s The Triangle That Never Was. I don’t know why the filmmakers were so timid in this aspect, fairy tales have always been grounded in emotion and passion – not always nice and kind, especially the early original ones, but it was always there.

There are hints that the Huntsman comes to view Snow White as more than a damsel in distress, but I’ll be honest, you really have to squint to make it work. An older William eventually catches up to Snow White in her journey and seems more into her, but you are not sure if it’s because he’s always loved her since they were kids or if it’s because of the guilt that he fled to safety and left her behind in Ravenna’s clutches.

And Snow White? Well, she actively kisses William (actually, the Evil Queen disguised as William) but after the apple, it’s the Huntsman’s kiss that breaks the spell, not William’s.

I wasn’t feeling Kristen Stewart as Snow White (and no, I don’t have Kristen Stewart hate – the only other time I’ve ever seen her was when I watched the Rifftrax of Twilight.) She is a pretty girl, but she’s pretty in a tomboy-type way. While that is well and good and run with it, there is a disconnect with that type look when talking ‘The Fairest of Them All’. Beyond that, she never exuded all the traits that this Snow White was said to possess, this gentle and fair spirit combined with a valiant heart and a fiery determination.

Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman was spot on – and no, I do not say that because he bared his chest for one scene – a soldier laid low by grief who finds himself coming back to life because of his admiration for this girl.

Charlize Theron was great in the parts of the story where the Evil Queen is strong and believes absolutely that she’s the type queen this world deserves, which is the beginning and end of the movie. Coincidentally, these are also the parts where it’s awesome watching the Evil Queen be her evil self and be the villian every fairy tale needs. In the middle the character falls apart and is laid low by *tragic back story*. These parts suck. You want to shake your fist at the screen and go, “Bring me back the true Evil Queen and get rid of Weepy Wendy here!”

Oh! I can’t forget the Dwarfs! Best parts of the movie, hands down. They manage to be the comic relief without being bumbling fools or breaking the dark charm of the movie. I need to look up how the ‘dwarfed’ the actors though. It didn’t look like the same type of tricks that were used in Lord of the Rings.

Bottom line – When it worked, it really worked. Unfortunately, in the end, you were left with the thought that the filmmakers almost had something great, but for whatever reason they just couldn’t break through. So while the movie IS good, there is a heavy sense of lost possibilities.

My final Grade? B-

Two final things before I go. One:

Two – I went with my friend and fellow writer Anna Alexander. At the end of the movie she turned to me and said, “There’s going to be a sequel.”

“What?” I replied. “Why do you think that?”

To which Anna replied, “The ending was too abrupt.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but it was a rather slim story.”

“Trust me, sequel.”

The lesson from all this is never doubt Anna Alexander. I learned today that a sequel is indeed in the works.

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