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 Film Review: The Hobbit

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Sue77
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PostSubject: Film Review: The Hobbit   Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:13 pm

I decided to watch Peter Jackson's latest Tolkien adaptation and a very pleasurable 160minutes or so it was. The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey covers the first third of Tolkien's children's novel and narrative links to The Fellowship of the Ring were established as the film commenced. I did feel there was a lighter touch to this movie than Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, not necessarily laugh out loud moments, but at times I could feel a big grin on my face. However, the darker aspects of Bilbo's journey were given focus at appropriate points - the scene with Gollum is one example - and these served to balance the film overall. In addition, despite the battles and frequent sword and sorcery deaths, including decapitation, very little blood or gore was shown. CGI has moved on in leaps and bounds during the last decade, but somehow the Orcs, Waugs, Trolls and Goblins didn't convey the same sense of threat as the Orc's alone achieved in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The artistry reminded me of a graphic novel. That said, CGI action sequences were seamless and exciting, including the rabbits. I felt that overall, the humour and bloodless violence meant quite a fine line had been trod in adapting this children's novel for two markets: Lord of the Rings admirers and devotees have been juxtaposed with introducing today's children to Tolkien's world. I'm not suggesting this duality is a weakness of the film, in a number of respects it's a strength. Plus, it is perhaps reflective of how Bilbo then Frodo's journey develops and progresses.

The character of Bilbo was well realised and portrayed by Martin Freeman. The scene where the Dwarves arrive at Bilbo's house and proceed to feast his pantry bare, worked as a vehicle to define general attributes, whereas individual traits were revealed during the course of the film. It is clear that each individual actor or actress embraced their role, so the portrayal of Shirefolk, the otherness of the Elves after the earthiness of Dwarven company on the road, the contrasts of the different factions that reside in Middle Earth were well defined. There is however a further factor that comes into play here, and that is how Jackson arranges his shots. The scene where the Elven horsemen arrive at Rivendell is beautifully orchestrated and the use of light when filming the scene between Galadriel and Gandalf accentuates both the otherworldliness of Galadriel and their connection.

Tolkien's story is full of songs and poetry. There are some songs present in The Hobbit, but they flesh out the mood of the moment rather than being a distraction. Although the film is long, I admire the way Jackson isn't afraid of spending time to build character and drama. For example; the dialogue between Bilbo and Gollum in the novel is complete in the film. It could be argued the original material is strong enough to warrant this, but it remains a brave choice in a world that leans towards fast imagery, dialogue and sharp action. Jackson almost takes us back to the age when Technicolor was first introduced and Epic films were produced. I would suggest the difference is in the drive and pace of Jackson's narrative, for despite the time taken to establish character, the drama is driven by cause and effect. Every action has a reaction and consequences. Therefore, the film has action and pace. Once Bilbo leaves Bag End, the pace gradually builds to breakneck speed and his last line means we leave the cinema with a knowing smile.
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Carabas
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PostSubject: Re: Film Review: The Hobbit   Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:56 pm

I should start with a disclaimer: I've done my Master's Thesis in English Literature on the subject of Storytelling in the Lord of the Rings (before the first Peter Jackson movie) so you have to bear in mind that I'm what most people would call a Tolkien fan.

I actually liked the first PJ movie because he succeeded in bringing to the screen the scenery and the characters. I was slightly annoyed about a few minor things like the fact that he didn't choose to include the whole dialogue between Saruman and Gandalf which worked rather well in the cartoon:



This could have looked incredibly good in the movie. The many coloured theme is central to the story because white is the summation of all colours in the visible spectrum and as such breaking white into many colours is a regression and as we all know "he who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom" (Gandalf).

I was annoyed by the emphasis PJ gave to Arwen who replaced Glorfindel when it didn't make much sense (Arwen has no direct connection to Valinor).

But all in all I liked the first movie. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the trilogy. Aside from the dwarf tossing scenes and the silly wrestling scene in Edoras or the scene where Gandalf beats up Denethor with his staff or the silly extra lines that were added to make it more of a Hollywood cliché (Legolas telling Aragorn: "you're late" -and don't get me started on the whole silly cliff episode which didn't exist in the book) I believe that PJ didn't get the book at all... Tolkien spent twelve years writing this story and PJ thought he could improve it by making such stupid modifications as the scene at Osgiliath and turning Faramir into another Boromir. A very stupid decision on PJ's part.

I've seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and I've enjoyed it more than the previous movies although in my opinion it is flawed. I think it doesn't really work as a far as the pacing is concerned (it's a long movie but it never takes the time to develop characters without throwing in some action sequence when things start getting interesting). It is not what I would call good filmmaking. PJ tries to hard to cater to his audience and doesn't take the time to get started on his story. The framing device was a nice touch but it could have worked better without getting into the high fantasy stuff right from the start (in both books the high fantasy elements are set in stark contrast with the more mundane and relatable setting of the Shire).

I think the cast is really great though and the visuals and production values are very solid. Richard Armitage has an incredible screen presence and makes a believable and even likable Thorin (despite the fact that Thorin is not always nice he is the sort of character you have to like for the story to work) and Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo (he is probably the best actor for that role).

PJ did a good job at bringing up darker elements to what is a tale for children (The Hobbit is more lighthearted despite its ending which bears more similarities with the Lord of the Rings). The whole thing with the Orc antagonist works well given the fact that we are to expect several movies and Smaug (much like Sauron in the LotR) has remained hidden from the audience.

But there are many things that don't make much sense. For instance the entire scene with the storm giants is not very satisfying, it is useful in the sense that it shows that Thorin is not afraid of putting his life on the line in order to save Bilbo but it doesn't work that well. Just like all the jumping around on scaffoldings make the whole goblin warrens look like a platform game. I wish they would have paid more attention to details like Thorin telling the dwarves not to make a fire when it's obvious there is already a fire going or Thorin's sword moving during the scene with the eagles.

I also didn't enjoy the scene where Bilbo launches an attack on the Orc leader. It makes his evolution from a scared little hobbit into something of a warrior less believable because it feels rushed. At this point Bilbo stepping up to save the day is out of character. In the book Bilbo first uses his wit (and the ring) rather than his sword. That being said I have to acknowledge that the whole scene in the trees wasn't an easy scene to pull off.

The thing that I found annoying is the depiction of Radagast. I won't even mention the rabbits... That bit was simply crazy but they went too far in making Radagast a simple minded fool. Radagast is not a very sensible character that much is true in the books but using him as comic relief is a bit of a stretch.

I think the main problem with bringing the Hobbit to the screen is that you are constantly trapped between two extremes: either you keep up with the lighter mood of the original story or you go for a grim and darker atmosphere and it's very hard to do both. In the book there are some very dark passages (including Gollum and his riddles) but the tone is set by the much lighter atmosphere that is evident in most encounters. Just consider the humour of the situation with the trolls or when they are stuck in the trees. The scene with the trolls works pretty well in the movie but the scene with the dwarves and the wizard in the trees is rather messy (PJ went for a fight between Thorin and his Orc leader to give the audience what they wanted despite the fact that it didn't make much sense at that point -i.e. why climb up a tree if you're going for a last showdown instead moments later? It seemed a little odd).

Last but not least, PJ tries hard to tie in this movie with the previous one and that includes showcasing Saruman and Galadriel in Imladris. I can't say I found this entirely satisfying as the meeting shouldn't have happened at this point in the story but I understand that it was a decision to include it in the main storyline.

I will come clean and say I didn't like Elrond in this. I really hated the scene where the elves arrive on horseback. I don't feel it brought anything except that it made the elves look like they were rounding the dwarves up which is not in keeping with how nice the elves were towards the dwarves in the book (I'm talking about the elves in Rivendell not the ones following Thranduil). It made the entire scene where Thorin confides in Elrond hard to swallow because at this point as a viewer you have to side with the dwarf and see these elves as being haughty and uncaring on their high horses.

Quote :
example; the dialogue between Bilbo and Gollum in the novel is complete in the film. It could be argued the original material is strong enough to warrant this, but it remains a brave choice in a world that leans towards fast imagery, dialogue and sharp action.

I think they left out a few riddles but all in all it is probably the strongest moment in the film. I believe it works because instead of going for action over dialogue PJ makes the right decision (and that is rare enough IMO). The fact is that what matters in a story is the atmosphere and action scenes can't build that up. You get to relate to characters when you accept them as "real" individuals and see them as such and not just action figures.

Quote :
I would suggest the difference is in the drive and pace of Jackson's narrative, for despite the time taken to establish character, the drama is driven by cause and effect. Every action has a reaction and consequences. Therefore, the film has action and pace. Once Bilbo leaves Bag End, the pace gradually builds to breakneck speed and his last line means we leave the cinema with a knowing smile.

I can't agree with you here. I think character building is minimal. For someone who is not familiar with the source material the movie may not provide much in the way of characterization. There is no place for growth since Bilbo's evolution from regular hobbit into a full blown sword wielding protagonist is achieved much too quickly especially since it is only the first part in a series of movies.

For a movie that is so long it doesn't dwell much on dialogue and we keep hopping from one action scene to another. Scenes where characters are allowed some introspection are just too rare. Even the campfire scene is just an excuse for Balin to bring up some background on Thorin and introduce some action scenes during the flashback.

All in all this is something that is only too common in movies nowadays especially blockbusters and in that respect PJ's movie is comparable to Christopher Nolan's last Batman movie. You've got non stop action scenes and no time for character building and dialogue. You have no time to appreciate these stories because there is always too many things happening on screen. I believe the problem is that these directors are catering to today's audience and the taste for action over substance. I yearn for movies with a slower pace that establish characters and settings and take the time to set things up before getting down to business. The perfect example would be Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in which the audience is left wondering about what is going to happen and in which there is a sense of expectation that is building up before the actual action takes place. Of course keeping up such a pace and maintaining the interest of the audience is not something that most directors can achieve. In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey just like in The Dark Knight Rises the focus on action prevents the audience from actually expecting anything. PJ took the sentence "from the frying pan into the fire" literally and the result is that there is no room left for the audience to wonder about or even to relate to what is happening. Showcasing CGI and running through one action scene after another is not my definition of great pacing.

I believe filmmakers today don't know how to take the time to build up their stories (it's obvious in this movie and the last Batman movie). It's even more ironic considering how long these movies are. In that respect I do believe that less can be more.

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PostSubject: Re: Film Review: The Hobbit   Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:43 pm

Just my 2 cents Very Happy
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Carabas
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PostSubject: Re: Film Review: The Hobbit   Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:46 pm

Nakia the Rogue wrote:
Just my 2 cents Very Happy
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Definitely. All the focus on Arwen as a warrior princess in Peter Jackson's movie only cheapens Eowyn's status as the true heroine of the story.

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