Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

So I saw The Hobbit

Due to the computer trouble (see the previous entry) and also my general and regrettable allergy to deadlines, I haven't finished the Breaking Dawn thing yet. However, even if I do finish it this weekend… I'm not sure when it will be appropriate to post it, given the really, really awful events in Connecticut. Charlie's Over-Protective Father Shotgun is a running joke to bring it around full-circle to the first movie, but I'm not sure it's something people want to hear right now. I'm not saying the Fifteen Minutes is postponed indefinitely; I'm just saying that I'm going to take my time polishing it and maybe wait until the end of this week or the beginning of Christmas week to post it, when everyone's a little less emotionally raw. I think laughter can help people cope with terrible things or distract them in a way that helps them keep moving, but I'm not sure this particular thing is the answer to that right now.

However, we can talk about The Hobbit here if you want; I have many thoughts under the cut, and it can be a nice bit of fantasy escapism, since there are no really, really ill-timed elements involved.

>> It might help to know, first of all, that I was obsessed with The Hobbit as a child. I loved the Rankin-Bass cartoon and obsessively checked the tie-in picture book and cassette tape out from the library when I was about four years old, as well as loving the actual book when I was a couple of years older. It was to the point where I knew in 2000 that Ian McKellen was a great actor, and yet I was still concerned that he would not be as good a Gandalf as John Huston's voice. My inner child was that irrational about it. (My inner child was also pleased with how that turned out, for the record.) And while I liked a few specific scenes in Lord of the Rings (Galadriel's temptation was important to me, as was Eowyn generally), the book was mostly a blur when I read it at the age of twelve. I didn't really get into it until I read it the summer I was 22, a few months before Fellowship of the Ring came out, and I had all the actors' faces firmly in my head--which meant that I was now able to follow who was who and what was what. So when everyone else was freaking out over the whether those movies did justice to the book, it was The Hobbit that mattered to me (and the Narnia books that I was more into generally). Knowing what a different approach Peter Jackson was taking this time around--or rather, the same ~Epic Trilogy~ approach to a short book written for a younger audience in much broader strokes--I just went ahead and gave up on worrying if it would be a good movie adaptation. And yet, I had this irrational moment where I teared up when the title came onto the screen--not unlike the first Narnia movie, where I always cry helplessly through the entire first ten minutes just because it hits me right in the childhood. So I basically had this strange viewing experience of The Hobbit where I compartmentalized all the things that I enjoyed and made me happy and just kind of threw up my hands and didn't worry about the movie as a whole. Also, best birthday present ever.

>> And I saw it in plain vanilla 24 FPS 2D, because, seriously, fuck this whole eye-melting high-frame-rate mess. Supposedly it's so clear that it looks like you're actually on the set and everything looks fake because it is, and three hours later you stagger out with a massive headache? Please, just give me a nice burnished fantasy veneer and let me go on my way.

>> I don't even think we really have to talk about how amazing the returning actors are, except that Ian McKellen is clearly having a ball, and any movie where he hustles people around while bellowing "RUN!!" is okay with me. Obviously Cate Blanchett is a goddess, although now she apparently has a little turntable for all her turning-around-slowly needs, particularly so that her long flowing train will twist perfectly around her feet (not once but twice), because obviously. And... I... I find Hugo Weaving really attractive in armor on a horse. Like, elf robes, okay, that is excellent costuming—elf armor, something just clicks in my brain, I don't know. The whole movie is riddled with weird brain-clicks like that. You'll see what I mean.

>> Martin Freeman is perfection. I think we all knew he would be. I had actually hoped they would get him for years now—I can't remember what put the idea into my head, but I'm talking, like, back before they had ever greenlit the production. There were rumors it might be him or James McAvoy, which was also a great idea, but I'd gotten my heart set on Martin Freeman, who just looks right. Richard Armitage is great, although the whole Thorin as Hot Warrior Dwarf is super weird, given that I grew up with Rankin-Bass Cartoon Thorin as pissy little old man. Like, my brain. My brain does not know what to make of this, please send help for my brain. It is, oddly, as much Thorin's movie as it is Bilbo's, if not more so, plus you also have Fili and Kili, who were very clearly cast younger and prettier on purpose, which means it is just all Hot Dwarf Cognitive Dissonance all the time.

(Man, can I just say that this movie is like a gift from the Fanfic Gods? I could actually hear fanfic springing into being as I sat there. The Galadriel/Gandalf scene is practically a writing prompt.)

>> So…. there's a ton of Radagast the Brown? And emergency hedgehog procedures? And him being endlessly (and fittingly, I guess) squirrelly? Which is kind of worth it to see Christopher Lee huffing, RADAGAST? RADAGAST is your proof that Sauron's back? RADAGAST is on SHROOMS. But... maybe not that worth it? Although there was a point where Radagast is gleefully leading a herd of orcs in circles while on a sled drawn by a team of rabbits (a sled drawn by rabbits. A rabbit sled) that goes on so long it becomes tiresome and ridiculous and then circles all the way back around to entertaining. Like… whatever, movie. I give up; you win. Rabbit sled, okay, sure. Basically, when Lee Pace showed up near the beginning on a giant elven moose, I just started gleefully, helplessly mouthing what the fuck? to myself. You stop loving it because you hoped it would be good and start loving it because it's awesome, if that makes any sense.

>> A lot of critics have complained about the tonal whiplash; @Gollancz on Twitter pointed out that it's a good fantasy movie, but it's not a good adaptation of The Hobbit, and (I say) there is one particular scene that can sum up the difference for you. There's now a specific antagonist—Azog the Pale Orc, an analogue to Lurtz in FOTR—who is chasing the company around Middle Earth, I guess to provide some narrative urgency to the journey. Maybe, in fact, to provide us with this particular Tone Whiplash scene. He's specifically after Thorin, who gets multiple So What Is Your Deal, Pissy Hot Bitter Dwarf flashbacks so that Richard Armitage can be grim and dirty and heroic in the throes of epic battle (I approve of this product and/or service and would like to sign up for its newsletter). The goblins inside the mountain who the company falls afoul of because they happen to pick the wrong cave for a night's sleep (as in the book) are a totally separate thing. So Azog is also hunting them, and after the company escapes the goblin caves, Azog's crew comes barrelling over the mountain and Our Heroes are off running again, yes, "out of the frying pan and into the fire."

And that's how the company ends up in the trees (which is one of my favorite parts of the book). But rather than the orcs setting the trees on fire, Gandalf lights up some pine cones (...okay, sure) to try to drive them off (which has the unfortunate side effect of everything being on fire). In the book, the goblins then break into song, which adds this dark, grotesque absurdity to the whole thing. It's actually frightening because it presumes their success: this is such a commonplace event for the goblins that they're just gonna camp out and sing, they have no doubt that they're going to be eating dwarf barbecue in about five minutes—nor can the reader, at that point, figure out how the company is going to get out of this. Here, instead of "Bake and toast 'em, fry and roast 'em, till beards blaze and eyes glaze," Thorin loses his shit and jumps down to charge Azog while all the other dwarves are hanging on to the domino-falling trees (because of course they're action trees) going THORIN WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? And he's slo-moing through the burning forest like OBVIOUSLY I'M POSING FOR MY HERO SHOT (*HAIR BREEZE*). And Peter Jackson no longer has a working relationship with subtlety so it's totally awesome. But this now-climactic movie-ending scene turns into, basically, Aragorn vs. Lurtz instead of one more episode of dark-comedy peril in the middle of a narrative. Except not exactly Aragorn vs. Lurtz because Thorin gets his ass kicked, and Bilbo has to jump down and defend him like a tiny terrified BOSS, which I loved, but also is totally not Book Bilbo cowering up in a tree all like I WASN'T EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE HERE TODAY!! That, in a nutshell, is the difference between the book and the movie. I love it, but I can't claim it's in any way the spirit of the original book.

This is basically what splitting a short book into three movies has done: it requires you to bring in Department of Back Story material from the appendices and The Silmarillion, or events alluded to in the book itself but never seen, and those things have a vastly different tone from The Hobbit. The Silmarillion, in fact, is high mythology, and thus even more elevated than The Lord of the Rings proper, so juxtaposing material from that with The Hobbit is the biggest moodswing you could possibly contrive. To use examples from the Fellowship of the Ring movie, it's basically "ISILDUR! THROW IT INTO THE FIRE!" rubbing shoulders with Merry and Pippin stealing carrots. That's the whole movie, back and forth. You--well, I--love the scenes individually, but as a single viewing experience, it's... weird. It works in FOTR because the tone doesn't flip back and forth: it starts out with Bilbo's party and Gandalf's silly jig and the hobbit antics, then shit gets real at Bucklebury Ferry and the hobbits realize that the world outside the Shire has become a terrifying place. Weathertop escalates it all into real danger. Then they get to Rivendell and Elrond tells us why shit has gotten real, and exactly how real it has gotten, and in the moment that Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, a new seriousness settles over the narrative. He is giving up the happy Shire antics and entering a new, sobering story that he may not return from. There are a few light-hearted moments, but it's a more dry sense of humor than Wacky Shenanigans, and more in the service of developing the characters than slapstick for its own sake, you know? Whereas here, you get Epic Thorin Battle Flashbacks one moment and the dwarves bagged up by snot-sticky comedy trolls the next. That's what people are talking about when they complain about tonal inconsistency in The Hobbit, or the problem of adding that second, more epic tone at all. It works in FOTR because it's escalated from one to the other with no turning back and for a purpose, whereas in this movie, it's like two completely different movies spliced together. I like them both, but yeah, it's a bit weird. So, if you want to go hang out in Middle-Earth again for three hours, the movie might be more enjoyable if you go in knowing that.

Given my computer issues, I may or may not be able to chat much in the comments, but I'll try. Therefore: go ye and discuss.
Tags: lord of the rings, movie discussion, movies

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