Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Hobbit Hobbles: An Unexpected Journey Reviewed

When I was about ten years old on several cold, blustery evenings before a crackling fire, my Dad read me The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved the story. I was intent on my Dad's every word and urged him to read it every night until he finished the tale of Bilbo's adventures. 

Needless to say, I was excited to see the first movie in what is to be a trilogy based on the book. I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy and was hoping for something that would match that standard of tale-weaving onscreen. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. 

My disappointment had nothing to do with the much talked about 48 frames per second issue. I watched the movie in 2D. No, for me, the problems in this movie are much more basic. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had all of the exterior trappings of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, (gorgeous sets, sweeping landscapes, excellent costume design, and good acting), but without the same plot pacing and character development. 

Simply said, the movie dragged. I would say that I have a pretty good attention span, but I was looking at my watch after just an hour and fifteen minutes. I never looked at my watch during the Lord of the Rings movies.

The first part of the movie, in which the dwarves invade Bilbo's home, goes on for what seems like an interminable amount of time, (it turns out it was around forty minutes). I quickly tired of watching the dwarves endlessly cavort around Bilbo's house, and sing two musical numbers. (Yes, two!)

Why Peter Jackson chose to spend this much time on what is only the first chapter of a nineteen chapter book is really baffling to me. But actually, it is not surprising when one realizes that The Hobbit is only a three hundred page book, being made into three movies. The Lord of the Rings movies were three books made into three movies. 

I could write a long-winded analysis of what failed in this movie but I think it boils down to one thing: The Hobbit merited one movie, perhaps two, but three movies at three hours a pop is just asking for tedium and toe tapping in the theaters, (people were literally squirming in their seats in the theater I was in).

So, why did this happen? Did movie execs simply see dollar signs? Did Peter Jackson become too obsessed with the material and lose touch with the base of his audience - people who have never read Tolkien and are hoping for something more along the lines of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: a movie that entrances and entertains, with themes that transcend?

Is there a possibility that after these three movies come out, Peter Jackson can release a trimmed down version for the normal folks out there who do not want to see a whole book played out paragraph by paragraph, (or appendices by appendices)?

Hey, a girl can dream. In the meantime, I am saving my pocket money and plan to watch the next two movies on DVD.

Some other reviews of the movie from various perspectives:

Sr. Rose Pacatte's Review: "The story is complicated but smooth, and not so complex that I felt lost. There is quite a bit of humor, some of the adolescent male dwarf variety, so the peril, though intense, is not heavy and dark."

Sr. Helena Burn's Review: "There are many, many action scenes and battles and one perilous predicament after another. However, the scenes are so carefully planned out, easy-to-follow, and truly interesting that our attention is held."

The Artful Critic: "Stories/movies usually have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is all beginning with climaxes galore."

The Rolling Stone:  "Part One of director Peter Jackson's planned film trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit forces audiences to run an obstacle course before the fun kicks in."

Sr. Rebecca's Reflection on the Spiritual Themes of the Movie: "In the LOR, so many are chosen to carry out tasks that they would have preferred not to have been chosen for. They feel too weak, too insignificant... but they choose to say yes."

I would love to hear what my readers thought of the movie, I have talked to a lot of people about it and there are many differing opinions.

Peace & Merry Christmas to all!


13 comments:

Unknown said...

I ama great fan of the LOTR, and have been since High School, which was nearly 40 years ago. As a young adult, I visited the archives of the Marquette University library where the original scripts of Tolkien's works are kept. In short, I know my stuff.

I was disappointed with the movie because The Hobbit is not the prequel to the LOTR, but it was played out as such in the movie. While sharing common characters and some common themes and settings, The Hobbit was a book for children, one that would be read to them before bedtime. After they were in bed, the grown ups would then read the LOTR. The movie was, in my estimation, LOTR part one.

What was most bothersome to me was the sense of dark foreboding which lay upon the film like a dense fog. The Hobbit had no such sense. It was not telling us that there was great evil in the world, Sauron, wielding a weapon of unimageinable power, the ring, whose purpose was to cast into slavery the entire population of Middle Earth or detroy those who opposed him.

Rather, The Hobbit was a story about dwarves, a wizard, a dragon and a hobbit. Creating a great morality tale was simply not part of Tolkien's purpose in creating the delightful story.

Jackson took the film in a direction that was bothersome to me as a Tolkienphile, not because of the songs (because there was lots of singing in the book), or because of the mention of orcs (there were only goblins in the book), or the invention of Thorin's rage against an orc leader that was created by Jackson. No, for me the movie had a chance to be light and true to the original intent of Tolkien. Instead, it went dark and left me with a feeling of doom and gloom.

I read The Hobbit to my children when they were small. I would not take them to the movie at that same age.

Unknown said...

I am a great fan of the LOTR, and have been since High School, which was nearly 40 years ago. As a young adult, I visited the archives of the Marquette University library where the original scripts of Tolkien's works are kept. In short, I know my stuff.

I was disappointed with the movie because The Hobbit is not the prequel to the LOTR, but it was played out as such in the movie. While sharing common characters and some common themes and settings, The Hobbit was a book for children, one that would be read to them before bedtime. After they were in bed, the grown ups would then read the LOTR. The movie was, in my estimation, LOTR part one.

What was most bothersome to me was the sense of dark foreboding which lay upon the film like a dense fog. The Hobbit had no such sense. It was not telling us that there was great evil in the world, Sauron, wielding a weapon of unimaginable power, the ring, whose purpose was to cast into slavery the entire population of Middle Earth or destroy those who opposed him.

Rather, The Hobbit was a story about dwarves, a wizard, a dragon and a hobbit. Creating a great morality tale was simply not part of Tolkien's purpose in creating the delightful story.

Jackson took the film in a direction that was bothersome to me as a Tolkienphile, not because of the songs (because there was lots of singing in the book), or because of the mention of orcs (there were only goblins in the book), or the invention of Thorin's rage against an orc leader that was created by Jackson. No, for me the movie had a chance to be light and true to the original intent of Tolkien. Instead, it went dark and left me with a feeling of doom and gloom.

I read The Hobbit to my children when they were small. I would not take them to the movie at that same age.

Scaevola said...

@Unknown is it not acceptable to you that Jackson took information from Tolkien's later work to flesh out the story of the Hobbit? After all, the reason that the Hobbit lacked the foreboding of LOTR is due in great part to the fact that LOTR had not been written. I was happy that Jackson pulled from the appendices for background and deeper storytelling, much like he did for the LOTR movies.

There is supposed to be continuity between the works--they take place in the same world. The Hobbit is indeed a prequel to LOTR--or rather, LOTR is a sequel to the Hobbit. I doubt Tolkien (who, after all, pulled a George Lucas on the Hobbit after the publishing of LOTR to make it fit better with LOTR's developments) would have a problem with most of Jackson's directorial choices.

Michael said...

I saw the Hobbit film with my sisters (we are all adults) on the 23rd. Going into it, we all understood that Peter Jackson has enhanced the Hobbit story with elements from the LOTR appendices, etc.

We enjoyed the film and the story arc, even with the elements that did not appear in the Hobbit book. All of us are very familiar with the story. I, for one, read the Hobbit and LOTR at least once each year.

Our criticisms of the film, which we saw in 3D, are that the film (being 48 frames per second) became too busy for the eye in this format and that fact became a significant distraction while watching the film. Secondarily, that the film is darker than the book with too many extended scenes of violence.

Given this, I probably will see the film again, at least when it becomes available on DVD and I do look forward to the next two films. I am sure that Peter Jackson could have completed his task in two rather than three films though. We shall have to wait and see if that proves true in the end.

philokalos said...

I took my family (wife, son, 6; daughter, 2) thinking we could cover their eyes for the bad parts. We made it about an hour before we left.

I actually just wrote about this.

Unknown said...

@Scaevola, I go by the motto that there is no accounting for taste. I didn't like the movie for the reasons I stated. I understand Jackson's artistic license but I disagree with the overall feeling of the movie, that of impending doom somewhere off in the unforeseeable future. Had I made the movie, hardly an option, I should say, I would have kept it lighter. There was great mirth and merriment among the dwarves, and while Jackson did portray some of this, much was not that way.

When one considers that the background didn't exist at the time of the Hobbits writing, it seems a bit odd that Jackson would write into the story events that hadn't even been imagined by the author as background for the "lay" people, if you will.

My children are 29 and 25 years-old now, and I saw it with the younger. Nonetheless, I would not take them if they were 10. I could see this as the stuff for nightmares for a long time.

Howard said...

I am sorry to hear this. I actually prefer The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings -- the books, I mean -- because it was, simply, a better story. It was strange and exciting without taking itself too seriously. Sorry, but some passages in LOTR are much, much, much too pretentious; for example, the celebration of Sam and Frodo when the Quest was finished, or Gimli's ridiculous infatuation with Galadriel. These rough spots had been polished off in The Hobbit, were met with occasionally in LOTR, and are a thick, fetid swamp in The Silmarillion and some of Tolkien's posthumous publications.

Tolkien had a great imagination, but it is unhealthy for anyone to spend too much time in his own imagination; the song "Pure Imagination is a decent description of Hell.

Bruno Gasparin said...

The movie is good. While some of the critics complain about the beginnings of the film which they found boring, some complain that it was to dark. Well, in all of Tolkien's books that I read, it is clear that the author prefers always the merry places and songs than the dark moments. Someone once pointed out that he spends more than 40 pages on Tom Bombadill, not to mention the party. Everytime that I reread his books I come to agree more with him in this. I feel that Mr. Jackson deserves a great deal of credit for his work on the LotR trilogy, and that he did his best to adapt a bedtime story for children into a film capable of attracting a more mature audience (and generating revenue). And what is more: he did that in the spirit of Tolkien, who clearly wrote the LotR as a sequel to the Hobbit, and to connect this tale with his old and more serious stories.

Aaron Aukema said...

I loved the film. I went in knowing that Jackson was using material that Tolkien himself wrote, material that tied the entire tale into the LOTR. The points I liked the most were:

1) Continuity between the "racial" themes Jackson established in LOTR--music, architecture, dress, weaponry, etc. This was done well.

2) I like how Jackson seamlessly puts in "extra" material, like the White Council, the Morgul blade, and the discovery of the Necromancer, and puts them into the story.

3) While embellishments, I liked the way Thorin was developed: his feud with the "pale orc" of Moria (and for that matter, the Dwarves attack on Moria itself, which captures some of the mystique Tolkien paints of its ancient glory and fame) and his desire to recapture his home.

4) I thoroughly enjoyed the text, but thought the storyline lacked an explicit motivation. I think the film adequately captures this: the dwarves (at least those) are wanderers who have no home and are, at long last, attempting to return to the home they once had. This is an entirely too real feeling...I can sympathize with it.

tagnes said...

@Unknown - I completely agree with you. If I had written more, I would have said something similar - Jackson approached The Hobbit in exactly the same way he approached LOTR but they are very different stories. LOTR is an epic story of good versus evil, The Hobbit is more personal, it should have been more about characters than grand themes that aren't in the book.

Thank you for your comment! (And I appreciate all of the other comments as well, like I said there is a variety of reaction to the movie and I am glad that some of you really enjoyed it!)

Peace,

Sr. Theresa

Wilson Orihuela said...
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Anonymous said...

I agree with the writer of this article and the critics of the movie! I yawned continually. Yes, those that speculate that 3 movies = mo do$$as...that's why there will be 3 big yawns....instead of one fun flick.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Unknown.

The Hobbit is a light-hearted (but yet serious) children's book. It is a mistake to make it all dark and gloomy and heavy; gothic stuff.

I decided not to see the movie since it was pretty clear that this would take a wonderful book, The Hobbit, and change it into TLOR precursor story, rather than something that can stand alone on its own right and strength.

WHY on earth would it take 3 movies to tell The Hobbit? Extremely bad judgment ($?) there.