Date Posted: 2012-12-19
Tolkien Fan Level: 5
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
Many complaints about the film seem to be, at the end of the day, complaints about the source material. The critics, mainly comparing it with LotR, say that it's not grand and epic enough, the serious themes of LotR are just not there, the characters are not as well-developed, it's episodic, it's got a silly humour, there are SONGS, for goodness' sake, there are too many dwarves. BUT, they admit that Bilbo is a delightful character and Riddles in the Dark is the stand-out moment. Just what I thought when I read The Hobbit after reading LotR first.
Somehow, rather than blaming Tolkien, they are blaming PJ and have refused to see just how hard he's worked to iron out the problems of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, seen both in 24fps 3D and HFR (which I liked). And I really admire PJ for what he has tried to do here. And what do I think he has tried to do? I think he is trying to mend the "broken back" of the book by blending the whimsicality of the first part of the book with the more epic nature and change of tone of the second half. This, of course, by the time the three films have been seen, will then allow us to segue seamlessly into LotR without a feeling of discord. So, the first hour of the book presents us with a lovely trip back to Bag End, which I totally enjoyed (but which many of the critics found boring and long-winded). To me, it was a great piece of immersive scene-setting: we get to know and understand Bilbo and are introduced to the dwarves and their quest. And there's some delightful silliness and short songs too - JUST LIKE IN THE BOOK! But, PJ cleverly brings in some epic overtones by allowing Old Bilbo to tell you all about the dwarven kingdom of Erebor and the coming of Smaug and how the elves of Mirkwood turned their backs on a homeless people. (I'm really looking forward to Thranduil and Co who, I'm certain, will be portrayed with an icy and unpleasant side - shock, horror!) The dwarven underground kingdom is beautifully and grandly realised and I want to go back there. Smaug is quite a terrifying force even when you only catch glimpses of him. All this ups the scale of TH and makes it more than a jolly adventure story; plus you learn about Thorin's tragic history. As soon as you set out on the journey, a lot of the whimsicality disappears and it becomes more serious as we begin to edge into LotR territory. PJ tries hard with the character development: the relationship between Bilbo, Thorin and Gandalf is done well and he has begun to give us a more rounded picture of some of the dwarves: Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Bofur, Ori and Dori get the most attention this time around and I'm sure the others will get their turn in the later films. Again, a touch of the epic comes in when Balin tells Bilbo why they follow Thorin and gives an emotional and moving account of the Battle of Azanulbizar when he became Oakenshield. Loved Ken Stott as Balin. Radagast the Brown and the evil doings of the Necromancer are brought in here. I didn't like Radagast but it's not padding as a lot of critics will realise by the second film. After a beautiful return to Rivendell, the critics were a bit more pleased because the action is non-stop. Goblin-town is very well done, Barry Humphries' voice-over for the grotesque Great Goblin is excellent, and, of course we have the riddle scene with Gollum even better than ever. The final warg-chase and showdown with Thorin's nemesis, Azog, the Pale Orc who earlier decapitated his grandfather, is very exciting. PJ has changed the story a bit to make it into an over-arcing story-line and it is this which gives the first film some shape. It is PJ's attempt to create more than a series of episodic events and it helps to put the spotlight on Bilbo and Thorin's relationship. I didn't really mind the CGI. The very last shots make you feel that you want to watch the second film next week. The Hobbit is an entertaining, humorous, exciting and well-realised film with great acting from everyone, especially Martin Freeman who is a perfect choice for Bilbo and Richard Armitage who is outstanding as Thorin. This is the Thorin I always had in my head when reading the book once I got past the silliness and lack of characterisation of the first half. He absolutely exudes power, even if he is, as the Great Goblin says sneeringly, "king of nothing." He shows why these dwaves are willing to die for him. The characterisation is all in his bearing and in the eyes: the pain, the suffering, the despair, the feeling of failure but also the arrogance and the anger. If you don't look into his eyes, you will miss so much. And the HFR? My husband and I both thought this was great although we didn't notice a HUGE difference. The images seemed clearer, there was a lot of depth and it seemed easier on the eyes than regular 3D. I'd be more than happy to watch any film in this.
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