Date Posted: 2012-12-28
Tolkien Fan Level: 6
Film Format Seen? 3D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
Several elements of the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey viewing experience struck me. I have read the Hobbit novel numerous times and in my opinion, nothing will equal the revelation that it was to me on a deeply personal level (I feel the same about The Lord of The Rings: to this day I read it once a year at least). That said, as a filmgoer, I don't expect the film to be 100% faithful to the source material as long as it causes me to have equivalent levels of affinity or resonance with the characters in a similar, if not exactly the same, way as the book does. The filmmakers were hit-or-miss there. In my case, they succeeded with Bilbo, Gandalf, Gollum, and Balin. They didn't exactly hit the mark with Thorin, though. If they were going for the creation of more context for his grudges and his troubled, prideful nature, the addition of the blood feud with Azog and the Elvenking's refusal to succour the dwarves of Erebor were not the way to go, in my opinion. Thorin's jealous zeal to retake Erebor comes in the book from his history as a dwarven lord's heir, his nature as a dwarf (as laid out by Tolkien), and as the representation of the collective sense of entitlement and driver for the redress of past wrongs, held by the dwarves...there was a reason that Tolkien put the line "The Dwarves No More Shall Suffer Wrong" into the verses of their song, explored later in the book. The point of this all is that the Dwarves think that the world is out to get them, and in many cases, given their history, they were right. But something like that is hard to portray on screen. So mining Azanulzibar and the War of the Dwarves and Orcs for context is not a bad idea in theory, but there is so much depth to the dwarves' story in Tolkien's supplementary material that it would almost take a whole hour or even another film to tell it.
That said, I actually did like the idea of "Action Dwarves" as it's presented in the film. If I had a problem with any part of the novel it's that the dwarves are presented in the text are a bit helpless and hapless and maybe even a bit passive-aggressive...I like the idea of dwarves who kick @$$ (always played mine like that in RPG land), even if it might take timely intervention by Gandalf (a Maia, no less) to help them out of a fix now and then. Which says more about the fix they're in than their own capability and skill or lack thereof. Down to brass tacks: for me, the most important things I was looking for in the film were the sense of resonance with the characters and characterization, similar to what I'd felt when reading the novel; and how successful the filmmakers were at capturing those absolutely chill-inducing moments from the text which illustrated Tolkien's brilliance as a storyteller. In particular, Bilbo's escape/Gollum's final ululation (PJ Win), the Eagles' first arrival (PJ - meh), Unexpected Dwarf party and planning (PJ Win), and characterization of Elrond (PJ Fail)...I mean, come on. Elrond is the shiznit. Wise, tried warrior, peaceful leader of dignity and gravity...they wrote him like crap. I know he doesn't play a huge part, but he's always been one of my fav characters from the legendarium and the way he's written and described in the novel's text is as brilliant in its economy as its effectiveness. SO I was definitely disappointed there. As a setup for two future movies which will hopefully have denser plotting and deeper characterization this installment was effective, though I do wonder to myself whether they needed 2 and a half hours to accomplish that.
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