Like most people, I was leery of the idea of “The Hobbit” being split into 3 movies. Of the four Middle Earth novels, it’s the shortest and simplest (not saying it’s simplistic or anything, just the simplest). The other three novels got a movie each, why split “The Hobbit” up so much?
Part of this is because a LOT of material was left out of the LotR movies, and part of this is because the movie of “The Hobbit” has extra material that Tolkien wrote about Middle Earth.
I could tell when the additional material was inserted. It felt like someone pried apart moments in the text and jammed the new material in. I don’t know if someone who wasn’t as familiar with “The Hobbit” would notice, though. I also thought every fight scene could be at the very least halved, if not reduced by 2/3s.
I really liked the songs in the movie. I know some people hate them and mock them, but I really loved them and I wonder if the people who disliked them aren’t as familiar with the source material. Songs and poems are pretty big deals in the books, but aren’t really a common feature of most current movies except as background music or montage music. But listening to the Dwarves singing in Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit Hole threw me right back to childhood and my mom reading the book to me, singing the songs.
Gandalf is a different Gandalf than in the LotR movies. He’s shiftier, dirtier, less imposing, with less renown. It’s easy to dismiss him as some weirdo human in a funky hat, with his wandering ways and filthy fingernails. Saruman pops up and mansplains… wizardsplains?… stuff, dismissing the ominous portents Gandalf is piecing together. And they ARE ominous, a lovely and creepy fortelling of what will take place during LotR. It’s a great, low key performance where he seems all rational and wise, but his eyes are shifty and of course we know better.
Andy Serkis as Gollum was, of course, incredible. I was a little disappointed that some of the Riddle Game was cut but I think only hard core Tolkien fans will even notice, let alone care. And Martin Freeman, of course, was excellent as Bilbo Baggins. I was a little worried I’d only be able to see him as John Watson, but he became Bilbo very thoroughly (and fussily).
I do want to note that as was the case with the LotR movies, the cast is inordinately white. Yes, Tolkien was writing about the coal miners and weavers that he knew in the English Countryside when he crafted his novels, but in the year 2012 there is no reason for everyone to be white. Couldn’t there be Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves portrayed by actors who were Black, Asian, Hispanic, or (especially given the filming location) Maori? It’s lazy and cowardly casting to rely solely on white actors. Additionally, the Big Bad is entirely white. In the source material, he isn’t described. I had a sneaking suspicion that he was painted white to try and avoid a repeat of allegations that plagued the LotR movies, about the bad guys being too reminiscent of Africans (dark skin, dredlocks, face and body paint), especially as he was marked with ritual scarring.
Also, we saw the 2D normal FPS version, and I and the two people I saw it with both felt that some scenes, especially when the camera was moving quickly, was blurry. Not motion-blurry but weirdly out of focus blurry.
In all, though, I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next two movies. While I don’t think I’ll see this movie again in the theater, unless it’s at a cheap 2nd run place, we’re ultimately going to add it to our LotR collection.
And now I’m going to compose fanfic in my head of Bilbo Baggins in a frumpy sweater holding a pot of jam and blogging about Sauron, the World’s Only Consulting Dragon. BRB.
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