The Hobbit: first impressions

Overall reaction: This movie is a glorious, overindulgent, geeky hot mess and I love it.

It’s a third of the book at two hours and fifty minutes, but there’s no flab. The movie more leaps and runs from one scene to the other, not resting. (Then again, you shouldn’t trust this unless you trust me, and I am heavily biased: a Tolkien geek with little movie-analytical gifts or interests.)

*

This whole movie feels like they took the Lord of the Rings team, fed everybody lots of drugs, and told them to get to work. (“No no, I can see it! Rabbit pulled sleigh!“)

This-all feels like Peter Jackson read the Hobbit and said, “Thunder giants? Not quite over-the-top enough.” Everything is more extreme, more grotesque, more outlandish; and in this movie, it works well.

*

Peter Jackson is better suited for this than he was for the Lord of the Rings. The latter is a book of great solemnity and stern humorlessness, with occasional professor-of-language nerd jokes, of momentous occasions and great anguish. The Hobbit has talking spiders and bone dead stupid comedy trolls. The Lord of the Rings as done by Jackson was a touch… a touch crass, maybe? The additions didn’t always fit the spirit of the movie. The Hobbit is perfect for Jackson’s phantasmagoria. If you add slapstick to the Lord of the Rings, or over-the-top action stunts, they don’t quite fit. They fit in the Hobbit.

*

The movie is not true to the spirit of the book; but it has found a spirit of its own. The movie is the book, grown up and crooked.

The book-Rivendell is a place of enchantment and elvishness. The movie-Rivendell is a place of tenseness and wariness. I think I like the movie-Rivendell better; it shows more than what Bilbo saw, and since we “know” the Lord of the Rings trilogy is going to happen, we need to see more than just what the clueless Hobbit saw.

Overall, the most outlandish and childish bits have been pruned away. The trolls don’t have a talking purse. The eagles don’t speak — I suppose that would have been hard to pull off convincingly.

*

Just one “For fuck’s sake!” plot moment that stuck with me. Thorin has all his dwarves up in arms, and the trolls have Bilbo. Trolls say, either we rip Bilbo apart, or you-all surrender and (by implication) we eat all of you and Bilbo. It does not seem anyone could be so fecking stupid as to choose the second alternative: what, throw thirteen dwarves away to buy the Hobbit a few hours of life? Madness even in the context of the whole stupid surrender-or-the-friend-gets-it meme.

*

The addition of Azog works nicely, I think. Adds more structure to the episodic, unconnected book-plot.

*

Two hours and fifty minutes is a long time and a lot happens. You could break this movie into two or three pieces like a miniseries and make it a bit easier to watch.

*

The mythology additions and extrapolations fit (on the first look) really well, though I’m pretty certain a lot of them are not even History of Middle-Earth canon. Overall I remember counting just three points where I felt the urge to leap up and scream “Fuck you, Peter Jackson!” — and all were during the first half-hour. (First and second were over the narrative overglorification of the Dale-Erebor realm; what, they were better than Gondor? Preposterous! But the narrator was Bilbo, who really is not an impartial observer. The third was a mention of prophecies and this being the time of prophecy; I really don’t remember that from the original, and I think it takes away from the danger and uncertainty of Thorin et al’s undertaking.)

I never even considered what would happen to Sting’s glow if the only orc present died. Does the glow result from live orcs, or will a dead orc-body do? Very nice, movie!

The Dol Guldur addition — the Witch-King out of the statue — was neatly done. The White Council’s talk of the Witch-King’s body buried in the hills of Rhudaur seems like a break with canon, but one that works very well for mood and plot. In real canon, Angmar (Sauron’s catspaw of centuries ago, set up to destroy the northern Dunedain kingdom of Arnor, from the Shire to Rivendell, the kingdom of Aragorn’s fathers) was defeated at the Battle of Fornost and it is explicitly stated that the Witch-King fled; no capture, death or burial for him. He was long since a shade, a Ringwraith at the time, and there’s no canon source that I can recall that would describe him at all; certainly not as a possessing spirit, capable of leaving some corpse behind or being trapped in one. So, probably a total invention; but it works well.

*

Will probably go and re-see the movie next week; may write something more analytical then.

One Response to “The Hobbit: first impressions”

  1. The Hobbit: a second look « Masks of Eris Says:

    […] Saw the film again, this time in 2D. Some additional thoughts to complement the first ones. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s