Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Hobbit: A Completely Expected Journey

I finish my viewing of The Hobbit Part 1 with totally mixed feelings. Chief among my disappointment however is that this is exactly the way I expected to feel following it. I wish that Peter Jackson had blown me away with a fantastic vision comparable to LOTR or left me outraged at his desecration of the text. Alas, to be somewhere in the middle, devoid of strong emotion is depressing.

Don’t get me wrong, on the whole The Hobbit was a viewing pleasure. Visually dazzling (and I only saw it in 2D, none of this 48FPS – I’m a traditionalist), amazing attention to detail with the art direction and costuming, an emotional and appropriate score (more on music later), and great performances from the leads. I had a few reservations about Martin Freeman as Bilbo but for me the guy nails it. The dwarves I admit were a little less impressive. Not so much in terms in terms of performance as character development. I know 13 is a large number of dwarves to create distinct characters for, but apart from a few they all seem to blend in to one another. You’ve got Thorin, the leader; Balin, the fatherly one; the fat one; then there’s one inexplicably good-looking one… he pretty much only has a 5 o’clock shadow compared to the other dwarves, he’s never shown using forced perspective (ie he’s never shown to look short and squat), he even fights with a bow and arrow rather than a traditional dwarf weapon like an axe or sword. It’s like Peter Jackson thought “we need a Aragorn/Legolas in this party”. It actually kind of distracts from the film he seems so out of place. The other 9 dwarves? I’ve kind of forgotten already.

Pictured: smouldering good looks not usually associated with the dwarf race

My number one complaint with the film is simply that it feels a little too much like LOTR: The Prequel. I appreciate the use of the same locations for places like The Shire and Rivendell, but other elements borrow too much from the previous films. The score, while spectacular, borrowed many themes from LOTR like it was trying to create the same emotions and perhaps recreate those films. I wish instead that Howard Shore had taken a chance and done something different with this one. I know it’s a little nit-picky, the score was really good, but it detracted from the film by making the audience constantly compare it to its predecessor. Perhaps too the film would have benefitted from a different director. I mourn the loss of Guillermo del Toro; whose vision I feel could only have altered this universe for the better and allowed The Hobbit to stand alone. With Peter Jackson at the helm An Unexpected Journey is just a little too expected.

Splitting the story into 3 films is another thing that I’m no less apprehensive about having seen the first one. I feel if they just stuck to the content of the book they could have made one great movie, but instead they’ve added a whole lot of extra content that doesn’t always gel. The best parts of the movie are undoubtedly the elements that come straight from the book. The scenes with Gollum are easily the highlight; Andy Serkis is a genius. The 3 parts also leaves me worried about what is to come in Part 2. I have no doubt it’s going to be another 3 hour long epic and I wouldn’t be surprised if the first 2 hours is a whole lotta wandering around Mirkwood. I seriously fear it might turn out a bit like Harry Potter and the Great Camping Trip (Deathly Hallows Part 1). At least with the title The Desolation of Smaug set in stone I’m guaranteed some dragon at the end. Part 1 was beautifully restrained with regards to Smaug. Jackson managed to show us a whole battle scene featuring Smaug while never showing us more than a claw or a tail. That anticipation for Smaug is the number one thing keeping me excited for Boxing Day this year.

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