The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Movie Review)

Title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Excellence: 2 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A bloated, overlong adaptation of Tolkein's beloved novel that could have been fantastic if they'd just allowed a film editor at it

My wife and I went to see The Hobbit on opening night. Let me preface my review by reiterating that I am one those (few?) ardent fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels who also enjoyed the films so this is not a continued Peter Jackson hate-on.

In fact, there was a lot that I enjoyed and thought was very well done in this film. Martin Feeman was perfect as Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellan was always a good Gandalf. The casting I thought, overall, was stronger than the L.O.T.R. films (which I personally thought was fine). Even Richard Armitage, who I'd had reservations about, was an excellent Thorin Oakenshield. Howard Shore's score was good as always, ESPECIALLY the tune he put to the dwarves' "Misty Mountains". It may have been worth the admission to the cinema just for the scene where the dwarves sing it:

Much of the expanded backstory of the dwarves that is introduced to the story was interesting and I did like seeing more of the dwarves who I always liked. Costumes, sets, etc. are all good as with the L.O.T.R. films. In many respects, I thought that it was better done than the former. To make a long story short, in my view, it had all the elements that could have made it a masterpiece ... had they left 1.5-2 of the 3.5 hours on the cutting room floor and made one Hobbit film rather than three.

The film was way too long. It felt like self indulgence on the part of Peter Jackson, self-indulgence that he was allowed to get away with due to his success with the original trilogy. My "feeling" may well be correct since in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine he quite arrogantly said that "I make movies for myself". This film really proves that film editors truly are the unsung heroes of movie-making. I love fantasy, I love Tolkein -- I appreciate the extended edition of L.O.T.R. and actually wouldn't have minded there being a bit more in there -- but I was actually getting bored about 2/3 through this and near the end, thinking based on Lego sets I'd seen that the first film might encompass the adventures in Mirkwood, was thinking "please, no more". Perhaps it is not simply length, but the cramming-in of too much stuff that doesn't progress the plot. The sort of stuff that writers must painfully excise from their work. That's why I give The Hobbit 2 stars despite a whole lot that I did like.


On the Train ...

So I actually have a FEW minutes to write. It's been a trying month with illness that I've never quite been able to shake -- it reoccurred badly this weekend. But, lest I allow life to get boring, mow that I'm sufficiently recovered that I don't need to sleep when I'm not at work, we bought a new house conditional on the sale of our current residence. So the posts will continue to be few and far between fir a bit yet. A few thoughts that have coalesced recently ...

  • Sophia's Favourite reminded me of his serious dislike of Christopher Nolan's Batman films last week. I'm not a Batman geek, although I've read more than my share of comics, many of which included Batman, over the years. Maybe if I were a true purist I'd share his views but I continue to hold that all three are very good films. My only complaints are minor and unrelated to his complaints (although to address one of those, I should note that I checked The Dark Knight and the Joker doesn't laugh the same way twice in that film). One is the casting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes in the second film. I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but she is not attractive at all to me, and it just makes it unbelievable to me having Harvey Dent  and Bruce Wayne so madly in love with her. 
  • Speaking of Sophia's favourite, he has some good arguments against academic feminism in his latest post. Gives some good historical precedents on things I've harped on (like women engaging in combat with men and sex roles). 
  • Please no ... Having annihilated his legacy of the original Alien, I saw an article today suggesting that Ridley Scott is planning Blade Runner 2. Even worse, some interpret a little "Easter Egg" hidden in the Prometheus Blu-Ray to portent a tie-in between the two films (see here: http://screencrush.com/prometheus-blade-runner/?utm_source=zergnet.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=zergnet_32813). Please let the Mayan calendar be right ...

This post was written on my iPad which is not as easy as it looks, so I apologise for any typos.


If Jackson-Haters Could Have Made LOTR ...

Personally, I'm much more forgiving of Peter Jackson's adaptation of the Lord of the Rings novels to the screen. I know that a lot of my friends are death on the films. I think the reason I am forgiving of Jackson's "take" is that I was not introduced to L.O.T.R. until very late in life, and actually only started reading the novels after seeing Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema (which I thought was the best film I'd ever seen at the time -- I've grown less enthusiastic, but still like it). On the other hand, having grown up with John Carter and loving the books as a young adult, I will probably be a much harsher critic of Stanton's film. 

I mention Stanton, because I asked my "Facebook Readers" who they would have chosen to adapt the L.O.T.R. books to the silver screen. Mr. A. Tardiff, a fellow apsiring writer, puts Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) and Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and John Carter)  on his short list. I know he's a huge fan of Pixar films, so I'm not surprised. Those films are all pretty decent, enough so that I'm willing to let my children watch them, but I'm not as huge a fan as Mr. T. is. The thing that puts me off the most about such films are their hapless, bumbling male leads.
If I were to choose between the two, I think I'd take Santon over Bird since the latter's work on WALL-E makes me think he'd "nail" the economic themes. 

I jokingly held out Mel Gibson (pre-apostacy) for an R-Rated, but integrally Catholic, version of the films.  But seriously, his style, while I thought very good and effective for The Passion and Apocalypto, is not fitting for a tale like L.O.T.R. He'd be more suited for something historical I think.
I really liked Christopher Nolan's work on the Dark Knight trilogy as well as Inception. I think he could have done a great job. He does very well with strong male hero-types, and I think that those who thought Jackson's Aragorn was too wimpy/indecisive would be mollified by what Mr. Nolan could do. I am also partial to Joss Whedon as well, especially given his good work on The Avengers and my suspicions of his "anonymous Catholicism" given some themes in Serenity. He's a bit more hit-and-miss, though, so I think if it were up to me, Christopher Nolan would top my short list.

I'd love to hear what readers of the blog version of Swords and Space think.


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