Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Concerning Hobbits

My love of The Lord of The Rings is well known in these parts, but really my love goes beyond that trilogy to all things set in Tolkien's Middle Earth.  I may have mentioned this before, but I cried a ridiculous amount when I first finished reading Return of The King, but that is nothing compared to how much I cried when I finished read the appendices to that book – it was like a close family member had died, and I couldn't be consoled.  After that, I only wanted more and so I braved The Silmarillion.

I mention this because sometimes I feel like I'm not the right person to recommend things to people.  I don't like things; I FUCKING LOVE THINGS. For example, I recommend show "Elementary" to some people, but as I'm already a huge fan of anything Sherlock Holmes, plus a sucker for procedural dramas, and I love both Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller, was there any way I wasn't going to at least like it?  And since I am the perfect audience, I'm not sure if other people will enjoy it like I do.  It's much the same with The Hobbit. I love the universe so much, it would have been very hard to make something that I didn't enjoy.  And I have always trusted Peter Jackson's decisions with these adaptations, so please keep that in mind when reading...

As anyone who has read both The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings knows, much of what happens "off screen" in The Hobbit is retconed during the "The Counsel of Elrond" chapter (which is like a million pages long in Fellowship) and in the appendices of The Lord of The Rings – Ganalf explains where he was for a quarter of the book, Thorin's back story and name are explained, nameless characters and places get proper names, etc.  So, that's what Peter Jackson has done – he's taking the information we find out later and filled in the blanks.  And if anyone was wondering, like I was when I first heard, how this could be 3 movies, well there's your answer.

A final thought before I cut for spoilers:  I initially wanted to see The Hobbit in standard, old school 2D.  Fiancé was skeptical of the HFR, I don't like 3D, and last time we saw a 3D IMAX film (Promethus), I had to run out of the theater violently ill with a migraine.  However, we accidentally bought tickets to the 3D IMAX version (or "IMAX" since it wasn't on a larger screen).  Unlike other 3D movies I've seen, I did not get sick, or even get a headache.  I felt immersed, not hit over the head with in-your-face gags.  Most reviews I've read so far are complaining about the frame rate, NOT the film itself.  And that's a bummer because I think those things should be looked at independently...

Alright, now on to the spoilery review, in list format because it really is just a jumble of thoughts...

+ Martin Freeman is the most perfect Bilbo.  Even bringing his own mannerisms (notably the Tim Canterbury wide-eyed head tilt) worked perfectly with the character.  Giving him some additional heroics and chances to prove himself worked very well with the slight changes to the story line.

+ I had no idea that the film was going to be set up as a flashback that Bilbo is having on the day of the Long Expected Party – the same party that sets the events of Fellowship into motion.  I nearly burst into tears when I realized how perfect this was and how well it was done. 

+ I also loved how they were able to explain the back story of the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor (The Lonely Mountain) through Bilbo's Red Book.  The visuals of Dale and Erebor were amazing, and I especially loved the brief glimpses we see of female Dwarfs.

+ Speaking of story telling devices, having Balin tell the story of how Thorin earned the name Oakenshield, was perfection, but since Fili and Kili are meant to be his nephews, shouldn't they know this story already?

+ I never thought I would ever write this sentence, but damn Kili is one hot Dwarf.

+ Adding additional information about Dol Guldur, the Elf kingdom of Gonolin, and the fall of The Witch-king of Angmar (one of the Nazgûl that we met in The Lord of The Rings), was so well done.  And the fact that it included a counsel of Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman – who got to be delightfully snarky – was a bonus, too.

+ Aside from the story, I was absolutely blown away by the music.  Howard Shore's variations of his own themes from the first 3 films are brilliant, and the new ones for the Dwarf company, and for Thorin are incredible.

+ And I was very pleased with the inclusion of Dwarf songs, even if they are somewhat abridged. "The Misty Mountains" song that they sing gave me chills when I first heard it in the trailers, and even more so in the film itself.

+ Speaking of goosebumps, and even tears, when Bilbo is holding Sting to Gollum's neck and the music changes.  It's the very same music that is playing in Fellowship when Frodo and Gandalf are discussing the fact that Bilbo pities Gollum and decides not to kill him.  I can't even tell you how moving that was.

+ The Riddles in the Dark scene was amazing.  The interactions between Gollum and Bilbo was brilliantly done (and I heard that was the first scene Martin Freeman shot), and adding in Gollum's split personality made the scene simultaneously more humorous and more frightening

+ Making Thorin's dislike of the Elves very plain is a nice touch, and I am especially looking forward to seeing interactions between Gloin and Thranduil, since their sons later become BFFs... that ride on one horse... together.

+ Let's also take a moment to appreciate the Elvishness of Bret McKenzie, who has a proper name now instead of just Figwit.

+ I can't help but think about Gandalf and his journey in this compared to Fellowship.  Like, 60 years later he's still bumping his head on the lighting in Bag End.  And I can't help but think that at that moment on the bridge of Khazad-dûm, Gandalf is going "are you kidding me? I did this 60 years ago in a different mountain."

+ The "I am Gandalf and Gandalf means Me!" line was terrifying in Rankin/Bass cartoon, which as a whole scared the crap out of me (but I strangely loved their version of The Wind in the Willows which is no less horrifying, so there really is no accounting for taste). The way Ian McKellen delivers this line is so wonderful.  And, really, that whole opening exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo was pitch perfect.

+ People have been complaining about the length of the film, and I will say that once we met Gollum, I was starting to wonder where they were going to end things, but I could have happily sat through the rest of the story.  I am so pleased with closing them on the Carrock, which now seems like the obvious place to end.

+ The one thing I could have cut down on was Radagast the Brown.  I actually like the inclusion of him as a whole, and it worked as a device to get information to Gandalf, but I did feel like if anything could have been cut, it was from these scenes.  I almost feel like Radagast was included as an apology for excluding Tom Bombadil from Fellowship.

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