Hobbit Review….

Originally posted on my Blogspot site on Feb. 26th, 2013…site is no longer active…

Well, it has taken a lot longer than I originally anticipated, but here I am. Back in the Outhouse! I have had a pretty busy time of it kids, so cut me some slack will ya? Sheesh. I have a new baby girl and she has been taking up most of my time, as I am daddy daycare throughout the day. And my job takes up most of my evenings. Anyway, I promise all 2.5 fans of mine out there, that this year the Outhouse will become more of a priority and will become what it was originally designed to become…..an….outhouse. A golden outhouse….of gold and some……gold.

Ok, on with the ‘blog’ at hand! The Hobbit is finally out! At least the first installment that is! And by finally I mean it came out in December and it is early February. Yes, I am way, way behind schedule. The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey crashed into theatres, at least here in Canada, on December 14th. I went to see it as soon as I could, which was only a day or two after the opening. I saw it again a few days later and then a third time in mid-January. When I first saw Fellowship of the Ring, I remember sitting in the theatre thinking ‘wow, this is a beautiful movie….and freaking awesome to boot!’ I didn’t have those thoughts exactly during the first viewing of The Hobbit. I was really unsure of what I was watching to be honest. I couldn’t make my mind up afterwards, and wouldn’t until at least the second viewing. That feeling scared me a bit. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge Tolkien fan and The Hobbit is my favourite of his works. It was also my introduction to the world of Tolkien, way back in Grade 5. My teacher at the time, Mr. Reid, spent the year reading us The Hobbit. I was ruined from that point on. It was from there I dove into the role-playing game of TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons. I bought fantasy/adventure video games, comic books and novels. So The Hobbit movie was really, really important to me. I was really worried that it wouldn’t live up to the public hype first of all, and I was also worried it wouldn’t live up to the standards I had set out in my head for it. Peter Jackson and his crew had captured lightning in a bottle, in my opinion, once with The Lord of the Rings but I wasn’t sure they would be able to do it again. Now, to be completely fair, there were some aspects of TH in that first viewing that were total home runs, but there were some pretty big question marks in my eyes. Large enough question marks for me that I couldn’t make up my mind about what I honestly thought of the movie. The last time I had ‘similar’ feelings was with the Star Wars prequels. I loved the original series, absolutely loved it….but I have a serious problem with those prequels. The Lord of the Rings is my favourite movie series of all-time, it replaced Star Wars at the top of my list. I never thought that would happen. Jackson’s movies were that good in my eyes, and Lucas had fucked up the Star Wars movies that badly for me as well. I went into the second viewing knowing what to expect, I went into that viewing to look at the movie a different light. I wanted to look for things I may have overlooked and wanted to give the things I was critical of a second chance. I came out of that second viewing feeling much, much better about the movie. Which bugged me. Surprise, surprise. My wife says I over analyze things, well, I may have been doing that with this movie as well. Needless to say, I was still leery of a few areas of TH and they were the same areas I was unsure of after the first viewing. A few areas though I had changed my mind on and was ‘ok’ with them after the second viewing. The third viewing definitely got better for me. For one, I was with my mom. It was a birthday gift from me to her (I know, I know big spender….shut up) and it is always great to be able to spend time with my mom. This third time, I went in with a completely open mind. I wanted to just watch it as a ‘movie’, without any preconceived thoughts or concerns or ‘likes’. So I sat back and just watched Martin Freeman and company do their thing. By the third viewing I can honestly say I like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Do I love it though like I did the Lord of the Rings? I’m not sure, it is close, but I’m still not sure yet. I will say this though, this is a beautiful movie and there are some things I really, really like. But there are a few things I’m still no sure about and they continue to plague me enough that I may not ever be able to say I like The Hobbit movies better than the Lord of the Rings movies. I don’t know if that is because of my fondness for the book or if it is just because the movies aren’t as good.

Ok, so moving on. I really liked the portrayal of Thorin. I didn’t know if it would be an easy task for the movie makers to portray his stubbornness and his lack of faith in Bilbo. They did just fine and Richard Armitage does a wonderful job with the character.

Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is my favourite all-time Tolkien character and therefore I tend to scrutinize Bilbo’s big-screen appearances a little more. And Freeman is just fine. I have liked Martin Freeman since his early days on the BBC’s The Office and later in Sherlock. Freeman can play Bilbo the rest of his life as far as I’m concerned.

Ian McKellen does a splendid job with Gandalf, however the writing doesn’t allow for much ‘character’ with Gandalf in the Hobbit. It is just not there in the book. McKellen can act though, and he handles it all well.

The rest of the dwarves are ok, however we don’t get to interact with all of them, so future movies will probably be key in this regard. We do get a lot of Balin, played by Ken Stott. This is a great character and Stott seems to be up to the role. Balin is written well enough for my likings at this point. I hesitate to make any real concrete statements about the dwarves though after only one movie. I think when all three are out, I will have to re-visit the entire saga as one big story – obviously.

It is obvious Christopher Lee is aging, but he is able to pull off Saruman well enough, although I sense a bit of frailty in the character, which I am not sure if it planned that way or if that is just Mr. Lee’s age showing through.

The goblins and orcs are all great, the landscape does its thing and the computer-generated landscapes are fantastic. Peter Jackson’s sweeping camera shots were epic in LOTR and are the same with the Hobbit. I thought the pacing of the movie was great, I didn’t feel like I had been sitting in my chair for over two hours. The novel moves along quite quickly early on, and the movie does the same.

Primarily, I have issues with two aspects of this movie. There are others, but these two are what I am still having the most trouble adjusting to. The first is the ‘Pale Orc’ storyline. This storyline is all fabrication and I’m not sure I like the idea. Hopefully it ties in nicely by the end of the saga. Secondly, the Radagast character has me cringing a bit. I am glad the character makes it into the movie and I am glad Radagast has an increased role in the movie. However, I’m not horribly pleased with how his increased role is developed. I have never believed that Radagast is as feeble-minded as Jackson portrays him. I am also not fond of his ‘distraction’ with the orcs to help the Company get to Rivendell. Again, this is fabrication by Jackson’s team. I was ok with most of the fabrication in the LOTR series, but for some reason these two instances have really held my back from the giving the movie a completely fantastic review. I may be looking at this too harshly, but then again, maybe Jackson has gone too far in order to stretch this story over three movies. Time will tell. The last piece that sticks out to me in an unfavourable way is the Goblin King. He appears to me as a bumbler, whereas in the book I ‘read’ him as being much more intimidating and took him as much more of a threat than I see him in this movie.

The one aspect that really stood out to me is Gollum. Andy Serkis and Peter Jackson’s team have Gollum down, I mean – DOWN. When looking at this movie alongside of LOTR, Gollum might be the most complete, compelling and amazing character this team has done. The portrayal of Gollum in the Hobbit is absolutely amazing.

In the end, it is The Hobbit, and it is my favourite book of all time. I may be judging these movies a bit too harshly because of that. But that won’t stop me from enjoying them. At this point I am relieved that they appear to be better than the Star Wars prequels, which I absolutely hated. They almost ruined Star Wars completely for me. But that is for a different rant.