Film and TV

The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey ( 3D IMAX) 8GPP

by on 20/12/2012
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Straight to the point: no completely true to the book and so far not climbing the heights of  its predecessor, BUT still  extremely enjoyable and as much as its frustrating to have to wait 2 years for the end, I’m glad it has been padded out.

What we like

Trilogy cohesion For those of you who have read Tolkien, you will know that his books each have their own personality and underlying disposition, dependant on when they were written. The Silmarillion, for example (though not published, or completely finished until after his death) was penned during Tolkien’s time in the Trenches of WW1, a fact very apparent by its bleak, and frankly disturbing nature; the pinnacle of which comes about when the children of Hurin, Turin and Nienor, are put under a spell by the dragon Glaurung and end up falling in love, only to be told in his dying breath; “dude, that’s your sister!” Or words to that effect.

The direct antithesis to this is The Hobbit, which, being written after the war and before WW2, is a friendlier, lighter hearted and childish affair. Simply written and easy to digest; a true children’s book and nothing like the Silmarillion. Lord of the rings on the other hand is a mixture of both, with a more complicated story and harder more adult edge, but still keeping with the charm of hobbit.

We know that Matt, so what are you getting at? Well It is this diversity / contradictory style that worried me when it came to adapting the books to film. Obviously, as I mentioned, Lord of the Rings was a happy medium and worked well as a film but the Hobbit is a kid’s book, it’s pretty silly in parts, and if they did stay true to the feel of the book then you would have two extremely contrasting trilogies. Something die hard fans and cinema goers (who haven’t read the books) would hate. Saying that, In the same breath, had they changed the mood of the film too much, to tie in with the hobbit, lord of the rings fan boys, like myself, would have ripped it to shreds for bastardising Tolkien’s memory. Can’t really win can they?

Thankfully Jackson has been mindful of the above concerns and being stuck between fan boys and a hard place, I can honestly say he has done his best to keep both sets of trilogies in sync with each other (stylistically), without undermining the childish charm The Hobbit exuded as a book.  By keeping in some of the songs and the more eccentric parts – like the talking trolls – whilst keeping a darker edge and cutting out the talking animals (so far), he has kept it similar enough to the style of Lord of the Rings films  all the while staying true to the feel of the Hobbit book.

 

Extra Padding When I first heard that they were expanding the Hobbit into a trilogy I was very nervous. How could they do this without adding a lot of filling? ****GASP****

Filling to a LOTRs geek is like wondering into the Vatican, breaking out your Crayola and writing a new chapter for the bible, replete with phallic symbols and swearwords; It wont go down well. I therefore was really dreading the oncoming ‘new’ trilogy. Not only because it might not be any good but also, if it wasn’t, because it would taint the entire previous trilogy for me; then what would I do?! I’d be a lost, have to sell all my LOTR toys and resign myself to the west wing, where I could write abusive letters, in blood, to Peter Jackson for his betrayal!

Thankfully for me, and for P J, the extra padding (so far) was well placed and acceptable. It could even be argued that it added a lot more depth and background, not present in the book….WOW WOW WOW there Matt, what are you saying?! To accept that anything not written by the creator’s hand himself is good, and even better than the original, is paramount to blasphemy.. BE GONE WITH YOU!

Before you light your torches and run me out of town with pitch forks, films are by their nature, completely different creatures than books, and what you read in a book might not fit well in a film, especially as a lot of people tend to not read the book. Had the Hobbit been scene for scene, word for word, played out as written, I think you would have had a pretty tame kids film What Jackson has done, is take all the main bits and, using source material from other Tolkien works, expanded on it to make an enjoyable more adult friendly film, that explained the back story for people who hadn’t read the books.

Sadly not everyone – and I don’t understand why – has read all of Tolkien and so an explanation is needed about what people are doing, what places and things are, and what happened before. I for one am glad they did it because it added visual substance to expanded Tolkien fiction that probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day ( film )in any other instance. Granted some of these expanded bits do not completely tie in with the mythology but it captivated me well enough and I didn’t really care; I am very much looking forward to see what they do with the necromancer part, which is not mentioned at any great length within the book.

 

The Hobbit and the DwarvesReally impressed by thechoice of actors for the company. Martin Freeman, played Bilbo exactly as I imagined him when I was reading the Hobbit, Richard Armitage made a brilliantly brooding Thorin and (being slightly bias) having James Nesbit as Bofur was a stroke of genius, especially as they let him keep his N.Irish accent. All the rest played there parts with distinction and brought this group of party loving misfits to life.

The Songs I have to admit, I wasn’t too keen on the songs when I read the book and even more when I listened to the audio book BUT for some reason I quite enjoyed them in the film; especially ‘ Far over the Misty Mountains’ which was made a more brooding and sombre number than I think was intended when it was written. These kept the film in line with the book and so, ticked my fan boy box as well as entertaining me as a cinema goer.

Gollum – Gollum played by Andy Serkis; need I say more. Brilliant character, awesomely played. Just a shame that’s he won’t be in the rest of the films.. or will he?

The Unknown actors there are a raft of lesser known actors in this film and I found myself trying to place them, which was enjoyable in itself:  Slyvester Mcoy (of Dr Who fame) as Radigast (who wasn’t in the book) was a strange and likable character. Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) played the Great Goblin annnnnd, this is the one that took me ages to figure out; Manu Bennett (of Spartacus: blood and sand fame) as Azog.  

 

 

Niggles

Cinematics – There was something about the way the Hobbit was filmed that I found slightly strange. A little ‘too real’? Its hard to describe to be honest but I felt as if I was watching a documentary about the making on the film, in parts, rather than the film itself; no gloss? It seemed as if they were doing things more to capitalise on the 3D than to give scope to the film and that didn’t really sit well with me.

A little too much CG – I’m not adverse to a bit of CG but I think they over did it slightly this time round, especially making entire main characters, like Azog CG.  It took away the rustic feel that the LOTRs trilogy had and made it a bit more… cartoony?

The little things – Ok, here it comes, the pernickety fan boy bit… I’ll try and keep it short. Unlike Lord of the Rings, which had to be cut down due to its shear size of THE trilogy, the Hobbit is a very short book and stretching it over 3 films should mean that everything will be kept? Sadly not. It seems that, along with the extra padding that has been added, they have also taken some creative licence with the original source material and I can’t help but have a pick.

  • Firstly, In the book, The trolls don’t steal the ponies, the Goblins do, when they are in the cave in the Misty Mountains. Also the floor doesn’t give way in the cave, a door opens up, the ponies are stolen and the company are assailed by goblins, and taken captive; Gandalf is also present at this point and takes out a few goblins with a flash of light, before slipping through the door.
  • Secondly, when Bilbo gets captured by the Trolls he is trying to steal something from their pocket to show he is a good burglar but is foiled by a talking troll purse that yells out and alerts them. He is not trying to get the ponies back. Also Bilbo does not play for time; Gandalf does by mimicking the trolls and causing them to argue with each other on how they should cook the dwarfs, until the sun came up.
  • Thirdly, Bilbo follows Gollum to the exit of the cave and makes for the door that is partially closed, it is here, because the goblins spot the shadow in the door that Bilbo loses his buttons while trying to escape.

Now obviously these are not major gripes but I just don’t understand why the change, especially on such minor things? It is not as if they would have confused the progression of the film any and I could understand certain deviations; like Bilbo being more heroic earlier on than in the book and defending Thorin against the Orcs (who aren’t in the book ); and Azog being the main protagonist (in the book he is killed by Dain at the Battle of Azanulbizar and doesn’t fight Thorin) as it would have been a pretty anti climactic end with out them, but I found some of the other alterations slightly bizarre and unnecessary.

 

Conclusion

Lord of the Rings was a film I wanted made all my life, something that when I found out about it, was my sole purpose in life to see. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me stand and cheer at the end; I couldn’t envisage anything ever beating it. So when I found out about the Hobbit films, I was already a bit apprehensive.. not psyched. The Bar had been set really high and the book it is based on, although great, was no LOTR so I couldn’t see how it could get any better, and i’m sad to say I think I was right.

Don’t get me wrong, it fought hard, I Laughed and I nearly cried, but it just couldn’t push me to that rapturous applause at the end. All the parts were there and had it came first I think I would have scored it higher but it didn’t, so I can only judge it based on what came before and that was my favourite set of films, of all time, bar none!

Bearing the above in mind there are still 2 more films to come out and I have high hopes for the Battle of 5 armies, so hopefully something epic will come out of this and change my mind when all are released; until that point I’ll base my view on what I have seen and give it a well fought 8.

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