Say it with me: This is not The Lord of the Rings. This is not The Lord of the Rings. This is NOT The Lord of the Rings.
Of course, I told myself that as much as possible before going to see the movie and it still took a while for me to adjust to this new story of Middle-earth. But Peter Jackson has created a really fantastic movie that, in my opinion, still manages to stay true to the spirit of Tolkien’s book.
It’s going to be easier for me to do this as a list of thoughts. And be warned, there will be spoilers. Lots of them. I intend to write this as if you’ve seen the movie already so if you haven’t, you’ll probably want to wait to read this. One last thing though- I’ve seen the movie twice now. The first time in regular 2D and the second time in the HFR 3D. If at all possible, go see the HFR 3D. It is fantastic. I’m not a particular fan of 3D in general and, since I already have to wear glasses while watching movies, the idea of having to wear another pair of glasses on top of that is unappealing, to say the least. But I did it and I can honestly say that there is no comparison. The HFR 3D is by far the best way to see this movie.
Ok, spoiler territory officially begins below.
Let me start by saying that I really like this movie. Granted, there wasn’t much chance of me not liking it, but I find that I’m liking it more and more on its own terms rather than because it’s another entry into Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth and therefore am obligated to like it as such.
But there were some things that could have been done better:
- Editing- I don’t mean here that the movie isn’t cut together well. It is actually a gorgeous movie. What I’m talking about is that this movie is almost 3 hours long and we have just barely gotten started on the journey. There were several bits that could have been shortened or cut altogether, such as the stone giants. It’s a cool scene and it adds a bit of danger to their journey but it wasn’t necessary.
- The dwarves- the only real complaint I have here is that we hardly saw some of them. A few of the dwarves got little screen time and fewer lines (Nori, Bombur, and Bifur come to mind) but hopefully we will get to see more of them in the next movies.
- Radagast- His role seemed a bit superfluous. The bird poop that was caked on the side of his head was pretty gross too.
- The camera work- This isn’t the right way to say what I’m thinking but there were parts of the movie that were so blurry and out of focus I couldn’t really see what was happening. I wondered if this might be because of the regular 2D format and I was right. All blurriness was gone in the HFR 3D version. A bit disappointing though because what is this going to look like on DVD?
Ok, now the good:
- Hellloooo New Zealand. Really though PJ, we get New Zealand is beautiful. Must you rub it in our faces?
- The music- Howard Shore is back as the composer. There’s a lot that’s familiar and that’s ok. There’s also a lot that’s new and that is great. The themes for the dwarves and Radagast are particularly beautiful. And I love the singing in Bag End (both bits) and the small bit of the goblin song.
- The dwarves- There are 13 of them. That’s a lot of dwarves. Yet they have managed to create individuals who, unlike poor Gimli so often was, are not just comic relief. These dwarves have histories and personalities. I only hope some of them get a bit more fleshed out as we go.
- Richard Armitage/Martin Freeman/Ian McKellan- Fantastic. All of them. Freeman as Bilbo is perfect, as is Armitage as Thorin (who is not just the grouchy old man he seems to be in the book). And Gandalf the Gray! How lovely to see him again. And excuse the fangirl moment here but Thorin? OMG. The man is perfection. Tall, dark, and bearded. I’m pretty sure I audibly gasped the first time we saw him.
- Riddles in the Dark- They’ve been working hard on Gollum. He never looked so good in LotR. And Serkis and Freeman together? You almost don’t want it to end.
- The prologue- I wasn’t really expecting this bit (I tried to stay spoiler free before the movie) so it was a surprise to me how much we got to see. I can not wait to see more of Lee Pace as Thranduil. And Smaug! What a tease. Here’s hoping he will be truly magnificent.
- Azog- He might not look the best (I’ve heard some complaints that he looked cartoonish- I didn’t think so) and his role has been enlarged from the book but this was a good change. One of the problems with The Hobbit is that it is very episodic. Azog provides a villain and a continuity to the dwarves’ journey and to Thorin in particular. I have a strong suspicion that Azog is going to come back in a big way for the Battle of the Five Armies and might even have a lot to do with Thorin’s (and Fili and Kili’s) ultimate fate.
And so the movie ends with the Lonely Mountain way off in the distance and then one last teasing glimpse of Smaug.
To conclude, this is NOT the Lord of the Rings. This is not the story of one small hobbit in a life and death struggle to save the world. The Hobbit is a lighter and much more fun adventure story with far less at stake. It can be hard to remember that sometimes, especially as there are so many reminders of the Middle-earth we fell in love with in LotR. But taking The Hobbit on its own terms will make for a much better experience.