The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

Last night I went to see the Hobbit.  I was so excited that I could practically burst – I know, I need to get out more!  Anyway, I will start by saying that I really enjoyed the film.  I had reservations and I’ve been mulling it over.  A lot.  The following is my rambling reflections.

I went to see the film with my husband and we’re both basically going to have to agree to differ on this one.  To be honest he wasn’t keen to see the film because he was unhappy with the book being split first into two and then three parts – thinks it’s exploitation.  Okay, he’s got a point, but at the end of the day film makers are there to make a profit.  So, basically, he went into the film with negative expectations.  I went into the film with quite frankly over zealous, huge, monumental-off-the-chart expectations and there’s the rub – it was never going to quite live up to that standard.  So we came away, with my husband admitting it’s a good film, but with reservations and me thinking it’s a good film also with reservations.

I’m going to try and articulate my feelings on it but it’s probably going to be far from smooth.  I will start by saying I don’t have a problem with the film being split.  The books are two entirely different cups of tea and to make sweeping statements about the length of the Lord of the Rings books with one film for each and the length of The Hobbit with virtually the same is pointless.  The Hobbit was written as a children’s story.  As such it’s filled with silly nonsense and plenty of action.  The Lord of the Rings is written for adults, it’s world building is paramount, it’s scope epic – children would be probably bored within minutes.  But that’s why I think the Hobbit can work over more than one film because there is such a lot going on in the story.  LoTR has loads of detail – people quite often bemoan the fact – but when you translate this into a film, yes, great for the sweeping backgrounds but, not quite as much action per book.  The Hobbit is quite full of different action scenes.  If the same attention to detail had been paid on this book I dare say Tolkien could have made it into three books.  Therefore to give each of these chapters relevance I can see no problem with two films.  The third film I’m puzzled about and am assuming it’s some sort of novel that brings together all sorts of relevant background information to link the books and provide us with six films that when watched together become an epic story?  Don’t know if that’s the case though.  Feel free to enlighten me.

What I did have a little problem with is the pacing.  To be honest, most of the film I think is perfectly pitched.  There’s some background at the beginning which I think is quite relevant and well done and then we move onto the introductory chapters in the Shire.  Personally, this particular part of the film was too long and it felt like it dragged.  I mean, meeting the dwarves is great and seeing them rampage through Bilbo’s home while he hustles and bustles about is brilliant.  But it’s simply too long and you reach a point where you’re thinking, okay, move on now!   There were a couple of other scenes that were a little similar where there’s prolonged shots of people looking meaningfully at each other while you sit there thinking wtf.  Most of the other scenes didn’t feel quite as prolonged but I would suggest that the film could be reduced by about 30/40 minutes – it almost feels like a justification of the fact that the book’s been split.  It’s not necessary.  Two hours is a perfectly reasonable time for a film – particularly when there’s two more films to follow.  Stop apologising and just get on with it.  One of my biggest disappointments in recent films were the final two of the Harry Potter series where the Deathly Hallows was split.  I really just don’t like those two films.  The first is just down right boring and the second is none stop action.  It doesn’t feel right for me and it spoiled the end to a brilliant series of books and film interpretations.  Probably because of the whole start, middle and end, which when split over two films generally leads to a bit of a dull first film.  The Hobbit isn’t like that.  The Shire scene isn’t the best in the world but it pretty quickly moves on.  So, again, I don’t think the film would suffer the same as the HP films did.  I just don’t think the length was necessary and it feels like you’re watching an extended version – which is okay once you love the film and are gagging to see all the extras.

There were two other points that sat a little ill with me.  Firstly, it appears that these films are going to be turned into sweeping epics like the LoTR.  Now, you can call me a purist if you want but the Hobbit is far from a sweeping epic.  It’s a quest, a journey to recover a mountain claimed by a dragon.   The LoTR is an epic because it involves the survival of the whole of middle earth.  Great sweeping battles pitched against menacing foe with a dark ruler who plans to take over the entire world spreading rot and ruin.  It’s not the same is it.  ‘Oh, I want my mountain back and my home’ or ‘mm, lets save the world as we know it’.  The Hobbit just simply isn’t epic.  It’s a great story with a bunch of amusing characters bumbling along trying to stay alive and have a bit of an adventure.

And, that brings me perfectly to my final point, which is that in keeping with the LoTR and in order to please fans of the film, etc, etc, we have a completely different nature of dwarf to that in the book.  Again, I’m not being purist.  I can see the reasoning behind a number of changes within the film which I won’t be so indelicate as to mention here.  But, the dwarves are like bloody warriors.  In The Hobbit they’re, frankly, less than useless and would be quite undone if it wasn’t for Bilbo.  In An Unexpected Journey they’re all like swordsmen and experts with the bow and arrow – too much of a reflection of LoTR I felt and a little bit unnecessary.  Perhaps it was felt we would think all dwarves are like Gimli who was quite capable after all, but the ones in this story are not really battle hardened are they?  I can live with it and see why it’s been taken down that route.  But…Anyway, if you think when The Hobbit was based in relative terms, this is before anybody new they had a problem, right?  So, think of the FoTR – it’s got a lovely feel to it at first, everybody living their lives in blissful ignorance of the menace growing around them.  So, given The Hobbit is much earlier – it should have a much lighter feel also shouldn’t it?  – instead of which, it does have rather grand sweeping fights underground and other things brooding.   Again, can see the reasoning behind the brooding but….

Okay, that’s my main criticisms.  Think this film should have been shorter.  The nature and feel which has been changed.  The Dwarves are all, with a few exceptions, heroes.

Now, that all sounds really critical which isn’t intended.  I enjoyed this film and intend to go and see it again (and probably again, who am I kidding). The music was uplifting where it needed to be.  The return to middle earth was brilliant.  The shooting of the film is masterful.  We got to revisit old places and friends.  Gandalf was his usual amazing self.  Bilbo was played brilliantly I thought and Gollum absolutely stole the show.  I think it’s great I really do.  A masterful creation.  I have no doubt that people will love this film – as will I.  Just needed to think a few things through.  There’s still loads to look forward to after all and I can’t wait to see it again!

 

20 Responses to “The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey”

  1. Elise

    I went to see the hobbit yesterday, loved it! I wrote about it too.. It’s interesting to read your opinion now. Personally, I didn’t have much to complain about though haha. At first it seemed to me that three films of the one book would have to be very prolonging, but actually, there wasn’t single moment during the movie of which I thought it was unnecessary to put in there, it didn’t feel like it was stretched at all, to me anyway. I hope it will be the same with the coming two movies! I can’t wait, that’s for sure! Loving the Middle-Earth stories
    Elise

    • lynnsbooks

      I must admit that I’m a total Tolkien geek! I still really enjoyed The Hobbit and I wonder whether what I’ve written comes across as too negative which certainly isn’t intended. I did have niggles and really I just wanted to express them and get them out of my system. I don’t agree with some of the bashing that the film is receiving. It’s totally brilliant and well done and I don’t see how anybody can really deny that! I’m going to see the film again next week and I’m really looking forward to it – perhaps the second (and third) time round I’ll be able to relax more and take everything in a bit better. I also can’t wait for the next two movies.
      Lynn :D

  2. Redhead

    I’m hoping to go see The Hobbit this evening. I”m a little nervous, as is my Tolkien loving other half, as to what are they going to do with all that time? the book is only 200 some pages long, and they are splitting it into 3 movies? Many other reviews have said the same thing you did, that the pacing was too slow. I miss the days of 100 minute movies.

    it’s the toughest thing when you go into a movie with super high expectations. reminds me of my experience with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

    • lynnsbooks

      I definitely think I went into this with ridiculously high expectations but just let me reassure you this is no Prometheus! I did have niggles and really I just wanted to get them off my chest. Now I’m all like ‘phew’ and I can just relax, go and watch it again and really enjoy. I think the other thing for me is that I probably shouldn’t have gone to see this with the lovely hubby – he was just too ready to criticise and it made it difficult to just chill and watch it. I still think it’s a bit overlong to be honest and it makes it feel as though Jackson is trying to justify the split. I don’t think he needs to justify splitting the book and he certainly doesn’t need to make films the same length as LoTR. I think it’s a thin line between keeping the film entertaining and just expanding the scenes to the point where you’re thinking ‘move on’.
      I’m sure my review came across as overly negative which wasn’t really what I intended to be honest. I just had things bugging me and they needed articulating is all. I don’t get the ‘bashing’ this is receiving from some. Its a good film and no denying.
      I suppose the other thing is whether or not you go into this with the expectation it will be the same as the book – if you do so then you will undoubtedly be disappointed because there are changes. But, I sort of expected the changes and the small continuity things.
      I look forward to seeing what you think.
      Lynn :D

      • Redhead

        you review came off as very balanced, not negative. I read most of it outloud to my other half, and he said this review makes him feel less trepidations to see the movie, not more.

        i’ll let ya know how it goes later! :D

  3. Genki Jason

    Interesting review. Your impressions chime with a lot of other critics with regard to the pace of the early part of the films. I’m not a fan of LotR so this one is going to pass me by.

    I love this comment: “There were a couple of other scenes that were a little similar where there’s prolonged shots of people looking meaningfully at each other while you sit there thinking wtf.” :)

    I’m going to use this at some point!

    • lynnsbooks

      Oh well, I’m glad I left that sentence in then! I almost removed it – thought I might be coming across too strong. Basically I like the film and never really doubted that I would but I don’t think that means I have to just love everything about it unreservedly and frankly there were parts that I thought could be better or that I thought would have been better left alone – there’s a reason that Tolkien’s novels are classics after all!
      Lynn :D

      • Genki Jason

        I’ll use the phrase when reviewing “slow cinema”. :) Your review was balanced and well explained. I think the important thing about The Hobbit is the fact that LotR fans will be happy enough with it.

  4. Carl V.

    I’m not sold on the idea that a trilogy is 100% about money. It is of course about money on a major level, that of getting it to happen, but I’m also convinced that Peter Jackson, and more especially Fran Walsh and Philipa Boyens, are so in love with the material that the opportunity to bring in stuff from the appendices that fits in this time period was simply too good to pass up. I don’t think the three of them would do it just for the money nor do I think they would go along with it if they didn’t have a passion to. Having read a bio of Jackson and his attitude behind the scenes during the LOTR, he had no problem standing up to the studio and doing his own thing and that was before he had this much clout. Anyway, I say all that to say that I think the major players’ intentions are good. But will the end results be good? I guess we’ll see.

    This first episode was pretty darn cool! I didn’t have a lot of issues with it personally. I like the longer versions of these films anyway so when the ‘filler’ is either based on Tolkien’s writing or in the spirit of Tolkien’s creations I have always wanted to say “bring it on!”

    Had a lot of reservations going in, especially after hearing so much criticism early on, but was so thrilled when I found myself getting lost in the story during the film. So great to be back in Middle-earth.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m going to give way to your superior knowledge on the money making side of things because I have not the faintest clue so probably shouldn’t make such flippant remarks. I think the love for the material is perfectly obvious in these films.

      I did enjoy The Hobbit, I really did, I just had some issues.

      Anyway, It’ll be interesting to see how I feel after seeing it for the second and third time!

      Lynn :D

      • Carl V.

        Oh there is no superior knowledge here, just years of reading and watching interviews with Jackson and Boyens that lead me to believe they would not go the money route if it didn’t give them the opportunity to engage their passions. I suspect they were giggling like kids when it was greenlit to go to three films as that gave them a chance to cut less in editing and add more of Tolkien’s stuff in there. I don’t think your remark was flippant at all. For the studios funding this it really is ALL about the money, no doubt about that. No doubt at all. I’m just not as ready as some to be cynical and throw Peter Jackson under that same bus. He’s getting his money irregardless.

        And please don’t take any of my comments as contradicting your experience. I’m just having a conversation. I can see lots of areas where people might have had problems with the film…more than anything I’m just surprised that on this first viewing I didn’t have any major problems with it. An example is that objectively I can see little reason for Radagast to be in the film other than his presence in the books as it didn’t, for me, add a lot to the film. But I’m still glad he’s there because I know other fans are passionate about him as are the writers of this film. We probably didn’t need so much time sitting around with the dwarves. But again, this is the only new LOTR film I’m getting for another year so I was just enjoying it and not caring if it slowed down the pace.

        Where Jackson succeeded with me personally is that he had the right emotional moments at just the right time which tugged on my heart strings, brought a stray tear to my eye, and reminded me just why I love Tolkien’s work, and Jackson’s interpretation, so much.

      • lynnsbooks

        I definitely don’t take your comments that way :D. I was being sincere about bowing to your knowledge as you always seem to have a hell of a lot more than me, not to mention reasonableness and all round goodness to see the best in everything. So, dont’ think I’ve taken offence. I am a big softie but I can take other people’s opinions and actually welcome the discussion. It’s sometimes more enjoyable when we have a proper debate and I’m open to change :D
        I know that we all have to sometimes differ a little, it makes things more interesting. I think I will enjoy this a lot better second time around simply because I now know what to expect.
        Do you know – I actually liked Radagast. I thought the hedgehog scene was lovely and I thought the rabbits pulling the sled added this really nice element. I totally wasn’t expecting that and it was made all the more touching because I’ve had to rescue two hedgehogs from my garden recently (and when I say rescue I mean from my dogs!). And they are lovely little critters (full of fleas mind you so wouldn’t want to be bringing them in for a cup of tea!)
        There certainly were the emotional moments there pulling our heartstrings and it was really good to revisit characters we didn’t expect to see again.
        It’s going to feel like a long wait!
        Thanks for the comments, I appreciate them.
        Lynn :D

      • Carl V.

        I thought Radagast was fun but since I don’t have a book-born affection for him I can see his parts being something critics would rip. The actor choice was great and I loved the big rabbits. I could have done without seeing his hair on the big screen, lol! Ugh!!! That is where high definition gets to be a detriment. :)

        It is going to be a long wait. A very long wait. very…..long….

        I’m glad to know you took my comments in the spirit they were offered, it doesn’t hurt just to check in once in awhile. I always want my opinion to be taken as that, “opinion”, and one that is no more valid or right than anyone else.

  5. Carol

    We saw it over the weekend too. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I do wish it weren’t split into three, but in general I dislike when they do that to movies. I want a complete story, not a “to be continued.” Of course, I usually feel the same way with books too.

    • lynnsbooks

      I do hate the wait also – especially with books. I’m tending more recently to leave series until the second book is out and the third almost on it’s way. I certainly didn’t hate this, I enjoyed it actually, but I didn’t love it either and I had a couple of issues. I do worry about the third book really. The first two I think will be fine because they’re based on a book with a structure and dialogue. I can see that there’s plenty of material to base a third film on to link the two trilogies but I wonder how it will run. How well it will be structured. Hopefully it will be a great surprise as we don’t know how the story will be told so less opportunity to be too judgemental!
      Lynn :D

  6. Shimona from the Palace

    I have been debating with myself whether to go and see this film. I loved the book and, of course, I couldn’t help but wonder if splitting the book over three films wasn’t an attempt to cash in on the success of the LOTR trilogy. But two things impel me to go and see the film(s) – One is curiosity to see what they’ve done with a book I loved :-)
    The other is the fact that, I was expecting the worst from the LOTR films but was astounded by how good they were. So I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised again.

    • lynnsbooks

      You should definitely go and see the film. I really do recommend it but go with an open mind about the changes that have been made. I wouldn’t say that this adaptation remains quite as faithful to the book as the LoTR films but having said that I can see the reasons for the changes and I think they are justifiable. The film is really brilliantly produced, the effects are awesome, gorgeous scenery and music. I don’t deny that I had niggles and that was what I was trying to get across in my review but i still enjoyed it and in fact have been back to see it again already! I think that probably my main criticism would be I think it could have been slightly shorter – only maybe 30 mins but those extra minutes sometimes felt a little stretched. That being said, quite a few of my Tolkien friends loved the extra length and said they could have spent longer in the Shire, etc. Definitely much more character led than the book which isn’t a bad thing.
      Definitely go! I think you’ll love it. I know the press have been a bit negative but I don’t know anybody personally who hasn’t enjoyed it.
      Lynn :D

  7. nrlymrtl

    We recently went to see this movie and found it quite fun. We laughed quite a bit, which is great for a movie based on a children’s book. I was a little concerned how it was going to go with pulling in bits and pieces from other Tolkien works, but it worked for me.

    • lynnsbooks

      I also enjoyed it – just had niggles (I kind of have niggles with plenty of books and films) but thankfully it doesn’t spoil it for me. I’ve actually been back again to see it this week as well! I really enjoyed the scene with Gollum – so funny!
      Lynn :D

      • Carl V.

        I think that is part of the charm of these films, all of them thus far, is that you cannot help but have some niggles about all of them and yet there is such a passion for the material and in just the craft of making films that it helps them rise above the faults. I don’t often feel that way about films but I do about these ones in particular.

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