tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (hobbits in woods)
[personal profile] tardis_stowaway
I saw the Hobbit!  I have a few major gripes and a few great joys. 

Let's get my complaints out of the way first so I can end on a positive.  I decided to go see it in 3D because it was at the most convenient time for me and the work friend who went with me.  What I hadn't realized was that the theater was showing it in the new high frame rate.  It looked terrible.  I spent the whole movie badly distracted by the way things were both hyperclear and fake-looking.  It got very slightly less distracting as I watched it more, but only a tiny bit, never enough to cease being a problem.  It looked like a video game or a cheap tv show.  Movements almost seemed jerky.  Between the frame rate and the 3D, actors seemed not only in front of their environment but not a part of it at all.  If you are reading this and have yet to see the film, make sure to check that your theater is showing it in the normal 24 fps frame rate.  This viewing option seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. 

Second, I am sad to find that my misgivings about the decision to split The Hobbit into a trilogy were entirely justified.  The plot was often plodding.  I don't need something to be exploding every second to be entertained (indeed, some of the parts I was most annoyed by were unnecessary battle scenes that weren't even in the book.)  Still, this movie just had too much filler.  It would have been so much better if a third of the film's material had been cut to allow the book to be made into two movies instead of 3. 

More minor issues include the fact that the whole sequence in the orc caves under the mountains, especially Bilbo's finding of the Ring, were much too bright.  In the book the sense of darkness is intense, and the darkness is an important reason why Bilbo being lost and separated from the group is such a big problem.  I realize that darkness is hard to do in a visual medium like film, but they could have done better than this.  Also, I'm not entirely sure why the film left in the goblins' song about dismembering the dwarves but cut the (IMHO better) one about fifteen birds in the fir trees they sing while the company is up the trees, not to mention the elves' teasing song when the dwarves arrive in Rivendell.  The film seemed to have a hard time finding the balance in tone between goofiness and serious epic, but that is partially the fault of the source material.

Despite the big problems with projection and pacing, there were many things that I truly loved about The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  Martin Freeman is absolutely perfect as Bilbo.  His face!  His body language!  His comedic timing!  I loved watching him.  The rest of the cast is also splendid.  Thorin smolders and does a great job showing both his heroic and prideful asshole sides, Kili is disturbingly hot for a dwarf, Bofur unexpectedly stands out as a really nice guy and friend to Bilbo.  (Bofur also has a notable hat. Dwarf walks through Middle Earth in that hat, people know he's not afraid of anything.)  I liked Sylvester McCoy's rather clownish turn as Radagast the Brown, though I could have done without the bird poop in his hair.  I was also geekily amused to see Figwit with actual lines.  (On the subject of fandom inside jokes, I LOLed at the fact that Bilbo is so protective of his jam.) 

It was a treat to return to Middle Earth.  It's hard to exaggerate just how happy it made me just to be back in this world.  As in the LotR movies, the costumes and sets were gorgeous and the landscape even more so.  No wonder New Zealand is so keen on this movie; it makes their country look spectacular.  The music was awesome.  Mega points to Howard Shore as well as the singing dwarf cast.  Part of me wanted to see more of Smaug, but overall I'm glad they saved the full dragon reveal for a later film. 

I really liked the way the film emphasized that the dwarves' desire to retake the Lonely Mountain isn't just about the gold or revenge but the desire for a homeland.  Bilbo's little speech about how he'd realized that was one of the movie's finest moments. 

In summary, The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey is not an insult to the memory of the original LotR film trilogy. It is a frustrating movie, because it could have been great if it hadn't gotten too big for its britches by expanding to unnecessary length and using stupidly fancy new filming techniques. A hobbit should have known better.  As it is, it's a movie with some truly great aspects as well as some problems that can't be overlooked.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 04:50 pm (UTC)
mysticalchild_isis: (dr who 7)
From: [personal profile] mysticalchild_isis
I am in perfect agreement with your points of criticism. I just am still completely baffled by the splitting into three thing, and don't understand why on earth they would do it.

Also, the bird crap on Radagast was so gross and so unnecessary. I love Sylvester McCoy, and I loved his portrayal, but I was so busy being grossed out by the bird crap, it distracted me from my enjoyment.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
The only reasons I can see for making The Hobbit into a trilogy are money and directorial self-indulgence. In the LotR trilogy, PJ usually showed a good eye for where and how to cut to make the book work better as a movie, and I'm sort of baffled as to how he seems to have lost it. :(

I guess bird crap is a large enough part of my life that it caused me only a passing "eww" rather than a continual distraction. Still, it was a bad choice. Gross-out humor is dumb.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-17 03:37 am (UTC)
mysticalchild_isis: (lord of the rings)
From: [personal profile] mysticalchild_isis
Seriously. Unless the next two movies blow me out of the water, I'm going to say this was a bad call.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] terendel.livejournal.com
Interesting how many people complain about the frame rate. I saw it in 3D IMAX at 48fps, and I didn't notice anything unusual. I just thought it was beautiful. My husband felt the same way. Maybe there's something wrong with our old(er) eyes?

And yes loved Martin Freeman! I liked the pacing and loved just about everything about the movie, but I can see where others might have thought it was too long.

Whether 2 or 3 movies, I still think where they broke was the right choice. It had been my prediction back when we still thought there were only 2. My concern is how they are going to make an entire movie out of the Battle of the Five Armies.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed the movie, frame rate and all. I read an interesting article about some of the reasons why the high frame rate bothers many people. Among other things, it says that high frame rate movies often hit the uncanny valley, and that people who have less of a visceral reaction against the almost but not quite real phenomena in the uncanny valley may be less bothered by the frame rate.

The Hobbit is shorter than any one of the volumes of the Lord of the Rings; I don't think it's dense enough to support being given three times the relative screentime. If it had been me, I would have made two movies, splitting either when Gandalf abandons the company right before they head into Mirkwood or on a cliffhanger just after the spiders have been vanquished but then the dwarves are captured by the Wood Elves. But given that there are three movies, I think you're right that this was the right splitting point.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] terendel.livejournal.com
Just after the spiders had been my second guess when I thought there were only two. It also would have been a great stopping point.

I guess I'm just so in love with Martin as Bilbo that the idea of three instead of two works for me.

Interesting article about frame rate, although the comments skewered it thoroughly. But the huge variation in reactions to it does sort of imply that there's something going on in different people's brains.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] locker-monster.livejournal.com
I agree that the movie felt padded. I hadn't read the book in over a year, but I cracked it open after I got home and I was surprised to see that the movie is only a third of the way through the book. A third! I'm sure there's going to be more about the Necromancer and so on, but it's just weird. It's like there's another movie going on while Bilbo and dwarves are running around Middle Earth.

But I loved Martin Freeman as Bilbo. They made a slight change in the beginning, in that Bilbo actually decides to join the dwarves instead of being shoved out of the door by Gandalf, which was nice. He wants to be there, even if he's a little overwhelmed.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-12-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
Well, it makes sense that they're a third of the way through the book given that they're a third of the way through the filmed version. It's just unnecessary to give barely over 100 pages of book (in my edition) an entire lengthy movie. I kind of like that we get to see some more about the Necromancer, because it will be a nice feed-in to Lord of the Rings, but this is a bit too much.

I agree with you in liking the way they handled Bilbo deciding to follow the dwarves. It might be a hasty decision he sometimes regrets, but it is at least his decision 100%. The Tookish aspect of him is stronger than he realizes even at such an early point in the story.


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