You might have heard about the little film that was released this week. The first in a trilogy and nearly three hours long, it’s not an experience for the faint of heart (or weak of bladder) so, naturally, that’s exactly where I was on Friday morning at 12:01am.
Now, I’ve never read The Hobbit. With The Lord of the Rings I chose to read the source material after watching the screen version, fearing that having the book too fresh in my mind might ruin the experience of the movies (and I did immensely enjoy both the books and the movies, just from slightly different perspectives). But with my friends who are fans of the book all raving about how much they loved the film, I downloaded it to my Kindle yesterday and am already about a quarter of the way through. Even now, with the book in my brain, I’m ready to see the movie again.
It is, in a word, FANTASTIC.
With Peter Jackson back at the helm this movie is both visually and tonally consistent with the other films, and having suffered through other series that – for better or worse – varied wildly in style, the sense of cohesion is truly a gift. These stories occur in the same universe and with many of the same cast of characters, and knowing that there will eventually be six films that join (as the books did) together into one epic saga definitely lends an added satisfaction to the experience.
Of course, unlike The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is one book spread out over three films, and a relatively short book at that. It’s unlikely that there will be whole sections of the narrative chopped off to preserve (relative) brevity, and this is where a lot of the criticism seems to be coming from:
The Hobbit has officially joined the ranks of franchises like Star Wars that are so eagerly anticipated that they suffocate under the weight of audience expectations. So far, critical responses to The Hobbit have been terrible, and I think at least fifty percent of the hate is coming from people’s outrage that this movie isn’t roasting them with lightning bolts of awe the way the Lord of the Rings trilogy did. But nothing is ever going to be quite like Lord of the Rings again, so it should really be no surprise to anybody that The Hobbit isn’t either. Get over it. – io9, The Hobbit is a lot better once you realize it’s a war movie
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking to expect that a movie be enjoyed (and critiqued) for what it is, rather than lambasted in comparison to what it is not, but if you can lay aside expectations for “Lord the Rings 2.0” there is whole lot of movie here ripe for the enjoyment.
With so very little of the book needing to be cut, the film brings a great sense of depth and texture to story. We may already know Gandalf but we’ve never really seen this younger Bilbo, and if Martin Freeman isn’t the perfect embodiment of a young Bilbo Baggins, I don’t know who is. Plus, with twelve other very similar characters sharing time on the main screen, you’ll appreciate the efforts taken to distinguish each from their phonetically-similar brethren (though it’s unlikely that you’ll be telling them all apart, even by the end of the film. Visual aids help.)
For the record: any doubts I might have had about a 6’3″ Richard Armitage being believable
as a dwarf were quickly quashed. His Thorin Oakenshield absolutely owns the screen.
And don’t get the wrong idea here: there is action in this movie. Quite a lot of it, in fact, and some of it very intense (I might admit to several moments of tense hand wringing/squeezing the life out of Amanda’s hand as we witnessed several of the more heart-stopping moments of peril). It might even be a bit more intense than Lord of the Rings. The wargs, at the very least, are several times more terrifying.
The film is long, yes, but it never feels bloated. Rather it takes the time to unfold the characters and the story in a way that makes you feel both informed and invested, without the sense that you’re rushing over plot points or missing key details. Peter Jackson has done a great job of tying this film into the larger hexology [totally a word], as well as weaving in characters and plots that will be much more significant in the following films.
Including a tease for us Lee Pace fans.
And yes, I dressed up. This being Austin, of course, nobody knew that I was dressed up until I put on my hobbit feet, but still I dressed up and went to the theater to join my fellow caped, pointed-eared, and sword-wielding fans to immerse myself in three wonderful hours of Middle Earth.
It meant driving home at 5am, going to work in hobbit clothes, and spending roughly 36 hours coasting only on caffeine and the remnants of midnight show excitement. And it was completely and totally WORTH IT.
Have I mentioned that I want to go see it again? I think I’m gonna go see it again…