Date Posted: 2012-12-15
Tolkien Fan Level: 7
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
This week saw the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, marking the end of many years of waiting by fans, and the beginning of a new journey for the uninitiated.
As a fan of the books, and Jackson's previous films, it was an occasion of massive excitement for me, and my exuberance was only held in check by a healthy dose of realism, and some small amount of trepidation. The trepidation in particular, was due to the nagging fear that Jackson's newest adaptation would fail to do justice to the source material and his previous work; a fear fed by the slew of less than positive reviews it has been receiving. It will only take one look at my "ring" ratings to see that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. That said, I do have a few criticisms, but before I get into discussing them, I'd like to discuss the disparity between the opinions of the critics who have panned the films, and most other people I've spoken to, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy them. Out of the existing fan base, the majority of viewers will love the film, as it delivers more of the wonderful world with which we are in love. Book purists may be disappointed by the additions and alterations, although by and large I found most of them worked well, and this film is more faithful than any of the LOTR films. On the other hand are those who are not already fans of Tolkien's world. Of them, those people for whom the Professor's tales hold no attraction will likely not be won over by this film. Everyone else is almost certain to find something they like, somewhere. Be it the spectacular landscapes, the action scenes, quirky character moments, or moving score, there are many high points to choose from. The disparity, then, must be caused by something beyond the film experience itself. While I suspect the whole HFR thing, attention seeking, and politics are major contributing factors, I think it boils down to the fact that TH:AUJ is a strange animal, and struggles a little under the shadow of the previous trilogy. Before LOTR... 1) A 9+ hour film series was almost unprecedented. Many are upset at the Hobbit's 3 film treatment, considering it may end up as long as the LOTR trilogy despite being a smaller novel. However, I feel the Hobbit's dense plot definitely justifies this, especially with the inclusion of many things that were omitted from the books, which gloss over much detail in a few sentences (such as Gandalf's several disappearances, and most of the battle of Five Armies). But my point is that if a series such as GRR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire can receive 10 hours per book (post LOTR), the LOTR films would have been much longer if made today, and a 3 film approach for a story as dense as the Hobbit (in terms of the sheer number of characters, settings, and events), is more than justified. 2) A fantasy world had never before been given such a detailed, mature treatment. There have since been many such films, heavy in makeup and VFX, yet detailed and realistic. The Hobbit, when compared to its contemporaries, is not as overwhelmingly superior as LOTR was. 3) The LOTR films were judged on their own, and as adaptations, they could have been much worse. They were not perfect, but they were better than they could have been, and thus many of their weaker points were accepted by those who otherwise enjoyed them. But nostalgia paints everything in a golden light, and viewers are less likely to accept anything in The Hobbit that they feel does not hold up to the standard set by the previous films. The Hobbit films are not going to be judged without bias. 4) The story of LOTR, unfortunately, has higher stakes and a darker, more emotional journey. This one is intrinsic to the books from which they were adapted. The Hobbit is lighter overall, which may come across as underwhelming following LOTR. However, it is also worth mentioning that AUJ is also likely to be the lightest in tone of the 3 new films, and this issue may be somewhat remedied after the final one is out. I think it is chiefly these problems which have lead to the film's mixed reactions. Now for the things that bugged me personally. 1) There were some clumsy lines of dialogue. I can't recall many as I sit, but the Goblin King's throwaway line during his demise springs to mind. 2)A wonderful opportunity to expand on Gandalf's relationship with the eagles was completely missed, and their presence was not sufficiently explained. 3)While overall I am okay with the inclusion of Azog, and understand why it is was done, the final confrontation with him felt a bit stereotypical and forced. 4) It really kinda bugged me that we never got to hear Bombur speak. Not sure why. But in the end, I loved the film for what it is: an adaptation of a children's novel that tries to remain faithful to both Tolkien and the LOTR films; and the first installment of what promises to be a thrilling return journey into Arda.
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