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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Ringer Review - NAME


56, Medford
United States

Date Posted: 2012-12-18
Tolkien Fan Level: 10
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? No

Contains spoilers (this is a revision of an earlier review by waiter).

Although I am loath to admit it, this adaptation of “The Hobbit” is unsatisfactory in many, many ways. It strikes me as Tolkien meets “Bad Taste,” meets “Braindead” meets the Feeblest excuse for a three-film extravaganza. After foolishly buying tickets for two screenings in advance, I have now had the displeasure of seeing the film twice in 3D HFR. The experience leaves me embarrassed to have invested so much gleeful anticipation into the release of this film. It very nearly taints my love for the LotR films, though in the end that love remains intact. Here are just a few of the serious issues I observed:

1. The screenplay departs wildly from the heart of this whimsical tale. Two themes are central to the book: first, the moral bankruptcy arising from greed and the lust for gold. This stems in part from Tolkien’s adaptation of the Volsungsaga, wherein a dwarf turns into a dragon through greed. Thorin is becoming a dragon. Second, the self-discovery of Bilbo and his emerging moral strength, set within the symbolism of a seasonal journey from spring to spring. This first film does almost nothing to set up these points, aside from some cringeworthy and heavy-handed dialogue that violates PJ’s oft-stated stricture against saying instead of showing (in film).

2. Other weak choices in the screenplay include the following: (a) inappropriate lowbrow humor; (b) frequent, pointless references to LotR dialogue (compare “The key is yours now” to “The ring is yours now,” to cite just one example); (c) excessive exposition; and (d) heavy-handed clunkers everywhere (along the lines of Legolas’s “a diversion” line in RotK. Seems the screenwriters aren’t counting on an intelligent audience.

3. Mystifying errors: (a) the grass is golden brown in the land before Rivendell. It should be May, not lat summer. Yet Thorin says earlier that the summer has nearly passed. This ruins the seasonal symbolism of the journey. This is not the much-vaunted fidelity to text. (b) Why do the dwarves gawk at Balin’s backstory about Thorin as if they hadn’t already heard it? (c) Why is there no blood on Bilbo’s sword after he stabs the orc near the end of the movie? This road goes ever on and on, but I’ll stop here.

4. Mystifying plot/story decisions (fodder for cuts): (a) Azog is ridiculous, fake-looking, and pointless; (b) Radagast has no place in this film and is beyond ridiculous with his bird-poop hair and stupid bunny-sled; (c) even Rankin Bass understood that the place for the Erebor backstory was to insert visuals over the song at Bag End: the song is an oral history of dwarves. So PJ gave us the same story twice, and the first time told by the wrong person (Bilbo); (d) the stone giants are way over the top, recycling Moria staging from FotR, and badly overstating the way Tolkien tends to invest nature with intention; (e) the White Council should, at best, have been shifted to the second film (as part of the Mirkwood material). Overall, the narrative structure of the film is confused, with a gross overemphasis on set-piece action, so unbelievable as to jar the viewer right out of the film.

5. The 3D HFR, though spectacular at times, is a nearly total catastrophe, or perhaps the film was not ready for release. Everything outdoors is badly overlit. The worst example is the company riding through a rainstorm, where (a) they appear to be moving in between the raindrops and (b) the sun appears to be shining everywhere from all directions. The characters do not blend organically with their environments. Rivendell looks like a matte painting. The film is often (but not always) ugly, period. And I don’t see how the 3D served the storytelling at all, moths flying out into the theater notwithstanding. Spectacle is not a substitute for character development and emotional resonance, both of which this film sorely lacked.

Enough. Sir Peter: please, I beg of you, try to fix these sorts of problems in the next two films. This entry was dreadful, in spite of the widespread (apparent) fan adulation. You are better than this.

The Ratings
The Other Ratings
Martin Freeman 's performance as Bilbo Baggins?
Richard Armitage 's performance as Thorin?
The Overall representation of The Dwarves ?
Andy Serkis' performance as Gollum?
Ian McKellen's performance as Gandalf?
Bilbo's retelling of the history of Erebor and of Thror/Thrain/Thorin
The Eagles rescue sequence?
The Goblin King ?
Initial impression of Thranduil?
Hugo Weaving's performance as Elrond?
Radagast's portrayal in the movie?
The representation of Goblintown?
Cate Blanchett's performance as Galadriel?
The Bag End Supper scene?
The scene of the Trolls?
The representation of the Arkenstone?
The Stone Giants?
Escape from the Goblin cave?
Riddles in the Dark scene?
The return to Rivendell?
The attack on the party by the Wargs
The first glimpses of Smaug?
The ending of the movie; in regards to leading well into the next film, and serving as a good ending point.
The overall pace of the film
Peter Jackson's vision in bringing the Hobbit to the big screen.

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