The Hobbit - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

THE HOBBIT was disappointing. It had all the spectacle you could possibly want. It had a quest, and evil, battles, a wizard, and a decent, ordinary man caught up in the middle.

It left us unmoved. It's a bad sign when you see a movie in the middle of the day and,  at six, you're thinking, "Boy, I'd really like to see a movie."

I feel that its tone does not match its story. The book is a light entertainment. It has lots of humor. There is never any really strong reason why Bilbo Baggins needs to go on an adventure, but he does, and many surprising and amusing things happen to him.

The tone Peter Jackson takes in THE HOBBIT is the epic tone of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But that worked for LOTR. That was about a decent man who, very much against his will, undertakes a terrifying journey, because the fate of the world hangs on it, and he is the only one who can do it. (All, right, and his handyman.)

Bilbo does not need to go on an adventure in THE HOBBIT, and the only thing that hangs in the balance is whether some amusing dwarves will get their mountain of gold back.

Jackson tries to inject meaning into the movie. Gandalf has an ulterior motive for wanting Smaug taken out. There are rumblings of a Dark Power. And, as the story progresses, Bilbo develops an affection for the dwarves and seems to reach some desire to man up for their sakes. But it never adds up -- it can never add up -- to THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

It does not help that Jackson is making multiple movies out of what is not a terribly dense book. Had he been willing to cut a bit of story, he could have made one really great entertainment out of the book; but he wanted to make two movies. So he finds himself adding events I can't remember in the book, such as a brief interlude starring Radagast the Brown.

Overall, the movie feels less like Peter Jackson needed to tell a story, and more like he wanted to hang out in Middle Earth some more.

I wonder what Guillermo del Toro would have done with it?

We actually saw the movie in IMAX 3D. Waste of money. The primary effect of the 3D was to remind me, whenever I cocked my head, that I had to keep my head absolutely vertical. I've never appreciated the need for 3D. Somehow the world feels less 3D in a 3D movie, because the 3D keeps drawing attention to itself. Whereas in a 2D movie, I have no trouble interpreting perspective, and focus, and the relative haziness of things in the distance. I

2 Comments:

Indeed, this adaptation of The Hobbit (with infusions of The Silmarillion and Jackson's own flavor) did have a number of disappointments... But I don't feel it left me unmoved any more or less than the Lord of the Rings did. Like Rings, it shares a number of departures from the narrative of the book, some to its benefit, others to its detriment.

Overall, I feel it does a good job of conveying the lighthearted humor of the original novel well, while attempting to aid it in meshing in to the larger Middle Earth mythos; a task which Tolkien himself struggled to reconcile, having written The Hobbit long before having fleshed out his world in full. It would have been far more jarring to parallel it with his work on The Rings if he hadn't infused some level of the epic tone we'd already developed a taste for in these movies.

So while radical additions such as Radagast The Brown's rabbit sled certainly deride from the faithfulness to the narrative, it serves the original lighthearted humor of the novel just fine. The inclusion of this Radagast addition also ties in the continuity of the spiders we will inevitably encounter in Mirkwood Forest in the next film - similar to how Jackson used the back-story of Thorin in the beginning to introduce Azog, who instead of being beheaded in the Battle of Azanulbizar, is portrayed as having survived a mere lost hand and later hunting Thorin and company. He will likely be leading in the Battle of Five Armies in the third film instead of his son Bolg who they could just as easily have kept and used instead, at cost of narrative drama. I could go on listing all of the departures from the tale and how they serve in this adaptation, but I think that my point is clear. Despite these disappointing and unnecessary heavy departures from the established lore, they make for stronger visual drama which is why they were made - it doesn't justify it, but it makes sense. That's how Hollywood butchers all book adaptations though - trading faithfulness for what they hope to be better visual drama to strengthen the work.

All that said, I am of the mind that the abuse of computer generated elements did greater harm to the film's tone, being more visibly "unreal" than the prosthetic costumes used for the majority of the goblins and orcs in the Lord of the Rings movies, delivering a sub-par visual in contrast to previous work. I have to append though that their work on the Rock Giant Battle was a superb addition and made for drastically improved visual narrative compared to the novel, in my opinion.

Personally, I enjoyed the film, and look forward to seeing what will be on the Extended Edition DVD, and eventually what the fans make of it when they inevitably recut it to be more faithful to the book, like they did with the Lord of the Rings movies.

By Blogger Jeffrey Justice Losey, at 3:47 PM  

The Hobbit was not disappointing.

By Blogger leoeris, at 9:14 PM  

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