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.
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