50, Los Angeles, CA
Date Posted: 2013-12-28
Tolkien Fan Level: 9
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
Let's face it: adapted word for word, Tolkien's vision of "The Hobbit" would make a rather dull film - an art film, which might not be a bad thing, but one that would not generate the revenue that makes such grand filmmaking possible. And you can be sure, the filmmakers could not forget they were having to live up to very high expectations, given the unqualified brilliance of LOtR.
The problem, of course, is that both the narrative and developmental framework of Tolkien's universe has unspooled in reverse order. The author penned the sweetly simple "Hobbit," then expanded that universe into the epic "LOtR," and then deepened the lore with "The Silmarillion." But since "LOtR" was produced first, there'd be no way to step back and produce a "small" Hobbit (no pun intended). Thus, high marks are due the screenwriters for their freewheeling adaptation that, by delving deeply into "Silmarillion" lore, more fully illuminates this narrative while remaining true to the Tolkien codex. We already know the import of the ring - we already know the scope of Gandalf's mission, and so of course we must follow him to Dol Goldur, we must see his developing friction with Saruman's hubris. Production values (costumes, props, art direction, makeup, photography, stunts, visual effects) are uniformly excellent, as with LOtR, in the unprecedented style of Weta's big umbrella that made the first trilogy easily among the greatest achievements in cinematic history. One small casualty of high expectations unfortunately falls on the outstanding work of Howard Shore, who suffers for the genius of his LOtR work. Whereas with LOtR he somehow managed to create brilliant and unique anthems for virtually every aspect of the story - memorable themes for the ring, the hobbits, the fellowship, the Rohirrim, for Gondor, for Gandalf's majestic powers, for the infernal machine, and more, with "The Hobbit his work has been reduced from brilliant to merely outstanding. For some reason, the one memorably powerful theme used to great and heroic effect in "AUJ" went mysteriously absent in "DOS." The shame of it is that the score is splendid, and perfectly serviceable -- it can only be found wanting in comparison to his truly inspired LOtR achievement. Casting - and acting - are brilliantly first-rate, and a joy to watch. The only great, enduring tragedy of "DOS," as with "AUJ," comes with having to wait an entire year for the final chapter -- and in the looming reality that with that chapter, PJ's (and Fran/ Phillippa's, and many others') great cinematic gift of middle earth must be sadly complete.
Submit a Review