The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has not been without its naysayers prior to release. Many wondered why it was going to be released as two movies and even more grumbled when it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to extend it to a trilogy. The Hobbit as a book was a relatively short book and moved along at a fairly rapid pace. How was Peter Jackson going to stretch it out to the length of a trilogy?
The answer of course was to draw in material from the appendices and other sources. I believe there are various interviews with Peter Jackson where he says they were licensed to use up to 125 pages of more material in total. This additional material would add the extra minutes to tell the tale and extend the movie from two films and finally to a trilogy.
Now the movie has been out for a few days and as expected the reviews are at various points on the spectrum. Some folks love it, some folks hate it. Some say the extra pieces detract from The Hobbit as a story, breaking the flow of the original story. Some say 90 minutes of the film could be dropped and nothing would be lost. Some say this film is better than any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Obviously opinions vary quite widely on the movie.
Here are my thoughts on the movie. For those seeking to avoid any spoilers at all, you may want to bookmark this post and come back after you have seen the movie. Otherwise, read on!
Which version do I go see?
The Hobbit is being offered in a myriad of formats. 3D, 3D with high frame rate, IMAX, and good old fashioned 2D.
It was an easy choice for me. I went with the 2D version. I tried 3D in the theaters when it was all the rage again. I watched a movie or two in 3D this time around and I still thought it looked a lot like Jaws 3D did back in 1983. I just wasn’t seeing that great of an improvement. If anything it was simply annoying to wear the glasses and the kids weren’t a fan of the glasses either.
While I was intrigued by the high frame rate version, I still chose to go see it in 2D at my local theater. I have no regrets about that.
My wife had no interest in going, plus due to a current medical condition it is best she not be exposed to a germy movie theater. She isn’t way into Tolkien or really long movies in general, so she was not terribly disappointed.
On the other hand my kids, son at age 9 and daughter at age 5 are huge fans of Middle-earth. My son has an attention span that rivals most adults I know, so I had no concerns about him. My daughter however can’t sit still for more than five minutes on most occasions. When I saw this release was 2 hours and 46 minutes I started trying to talk her out of wanting to go. Yesterday she told me “Dad, I don’t care what you say, you are not talking me out of going.” Yeah, I am going to be in trouble when this girl hits age 13.
Luckily, my Mom was willing to go to the theater with the sole purpose of taking my daughter out for a walk or break if she got restless. She volunteered for that duty without me even asking!
So I attended the movie with my two kids and my mom. My daughter, at age 5, was a rockstar! She had no issues sitting still through the movie. We never had to take her out of the theater for a walk or distraction. I did cover her eyes for a couple of brief scenes. But despite the length of the movie, she did great!
My son enjoyed the movie. I had forgotten to warn him that this was now a trilogy, so he was a little disappointed at that. But he had a good time with the film.
How was it?
I thought the movie was wonderful! Were there deviations from The Hobbit as written? Definitely. Did I care at all about the artistic deviations Jackson made with the film? Nope! I would have easily watched more in one sitting if it had been included.
I think of people go into the movie expecting a chapter by chapter rendition of The Hobbit are apt to be disappointed. The movie does not try to be a direct recount of The Hobbit. It tries to paint a much deeper and more detailed picture of Tolkien’s Middle-earth story. The extra pieces did not detract from the movie at all in my opinion.
The opening scenes helped set the stage about the dwarve’s history. While many my readers here are likely Tolkien fans, or at least familiar with The Hobbit story, not all moviegoers will be as familiar with dwarven history. I thought the scenes helped give the viewer that information. And knowing how The Hobbit does play out later on, I think pieces of information from these prelude scenes will really come into play.
I thought the dwarves were well done. The scenes in Bilbo’s house were splendid with the dwarves “being rude” as my daughter said. They did not all have long, gruff beards associated with dwarves, but these dwarves seemed younger than what I expect of most dwarves.
Radagast was depicted much differently than I would have expected. I am not sure if I really like how he was depicted in the movie, I can certainly deal with it in the course of things. He seemed just a little too “out there” for my tastes. But he did have some fun moments in the movie. His “sled-rabbits” were great!
The Rivendell scenes later in the movie were wonderful as well. The splendor of Rivendell always rings true with me for how I visualize elven cities and population centers. With The Hobbit it is no different. I do wish they had shown a bit more of Bilbo’s exploration of the city, but I was fine with what it was.
The Stone Giant scene is spectacular. It does deviate from The Hobbit in interpretation, but it made for great movie scenes! This was a favorite scene of my Mom.
The capture from the Front Porch in the mountains deviated from the book as written, but again in a way that I think worked for the movie. I have read that some thought the scenes here were action for the point of action, but I still think it played out well. I could see that some folks might be disappointed if they desired a strict interpretation from the book. But I was happy with the way this scene was interpreted.
The scenes with Bilbo with Gollum were were great! The riddles going back and forth between the two were quite similar to the book. My only complaint here was that I sometimes had a hard time hearing Gollum’s riddle clearly. But that may be my hearing more than the movie audio!
Escaping the clutches of the goblins, the dwarves, hobbit and Gandalf find themselves tracked by the orcs still. Forced into trees with worgs snarling at the bases of the trees led to a climactic scene with Thorin doing battle once again with the master orc.
The movie ends with the heroes being rescued by the eagles and dropped off within site of the Lonely Mountain in the distance.
I have heard a few complaints about the acting by some of the characters. I did not notice these issues. I did not see anything that I thought was forced. I did think the acting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo was excellent! Much less grating than how Frodo was portrayed in the LotR trilogy.
I was very pleased with this movie. While it is not a blow-by-blow account of The Hobbit was written by Tolkien, it was a wonderful film! I was actually disappointed when we reached the end of the movie and could easily have watched more. I really like what Peter Jackson has done with bringing Middle-earth to film and have no qualms with the liberties he has taken. For me, 2 hours and 46 minutes was too short of an experience in Middle-earth and I anxiously await the next installment of the trilogy.