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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

nerdz rool
On Saturday, M and I went to see The Silver Linings Playbook, only it was sold out, so instead I persuaded her to see The Hobbit with me.

Knowing what a Tolkien fan I am (okay, technically, I'm a HUGE Lord of the Rings fan, and I like The Hobbit just fine, but I couldn't get through The Silmarillion), M agreed to go. I tried to "sweeten" the deal by mentioning that there'd be "hot dwarves", but she didn't believe me.

Until, of course, Kili and Fili showed up, and then she changed her tune in a hurry. (Being 18, she wasn't nearly as impressed by Thorin Oakenshield, but Richard Armitage is perhaps a bit too old for her? Only I think it was the prosthetic nose that was the issue, since she seems to think his head shot on IMDB is pretty hot.) You should be aware that there are spoilers in this review, but seriously, the book has been out for so long that I assume you've read it, or at least gotten the gist. If you haven't, by the way, then some of what I'm going to say will make no sense at all. You've been warned.

Because I like the story, and because I loved what Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings, I expected to like the movie, despite having read a few less-than-glowing reviews. What I didn't expect was how very MUCH I would like it. Part of what made it great, in my opinion (not just good, mind you), was Jackson's decision to include some of the backstory and ramp-up to what would become Lord of the Rings. Oh, not just his decision to start the movie with a "framing story" featuring Frodo and Bilbo on the morning of Bilbo's party (that kicks of LOTR), but also his decision to include a lot of backstory in fully fleshed-out scenes.

For instance, the film gives the history of the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain by showing what transpired, including Smaug's desolation of Erebor and taking of the Lonely Mountain from the dwarves (mention of Erebor seems to indicate that he'll incorporate Tolkien's posthumously published The Quest of Erebor, which I've not yet read). The movie also includes a council involving Saruman, Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf that demonstrates that Saruman was already engaged in misdirection 60 years before the start of Lord of the Rings.

The inclusion of the wizard Radogast the Brown in the movie is sheer genius, as it allows Jackson to depict rather than merely convey information about Sauron/the Necromancer being in the Mirkwood. Radogast is only mentioned in passing the book, and only slightly more than that in The Lord of the Rings, but having him as a fleshed-out, somewhat comical, character who fills us in on other information/backstory is brilliant. And the rabbit-drawn sled is over-the-top genius.

And the depiction of Gollum as already being the split-personality Gollum/Smeagol made the character much more understandable and (dare I say) likeable than he would otherwise be. The playfulness and innocence of the Smeagol side makes Bilbo's decision to spare his life much more understandable.

The level of battle involved with the trolls, goblins, and orcs that are in the story is very satisfying, involving lots of swashbuckling and physicality and awesomeness, just as the battle scenes in LOTR depicted. And the level of distrust held by the dwarves for the elves is (a) explained, thanks to the background on the dwarves early on and (b) well-evidenced, perhaps even more so than in the book or in LOTR.

What I really enjoyed, though, was thinking about Seth Abramson's article on the movie in the Huffington Post (which he acknowledges may sound like "hapless nerd-kvetching"), because I think he's spot-on.

In fact, I would gladly go see it again. And will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out. And if they have one, I'd get the "extended cut" one, even.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
bogwitch64
Jan. 16th, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC)
"Part of what made it great, in my opinion (not just good, mind you), was Jackson's decision to include some of the backstory and ramp-up to what would become Lord of the Rings. Oh, not just his decision to start the movie with a "framing story" featuring Frodo and Bilbo on the morning of Bilbo's party (that kicks of LOTR), but also his decision to include a lot of backstory in fully fleshed-out scenes."

Yes, yes, YES!!! I have heard so many people say this is what they DIDN'T like about the movie. I thought it was brilliant. It gives depth not only to the Hobbit, but to the LOTR movies. Seeing that little something that recalls or justifies that other thing--so cool. It really bugs me that the naysayers just don't get it, or don't appreciate it. This is what STORY is about!
kellyrfineman
Jan. 16th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
EXACTLY!

Did you click through to read the Abramson piece? Because it was soooo good.
bogwitch64
Jan. 16th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
I didn't, but I'll tag it for a more leisurely reading during lunch. This is my LJ drive-through before writing. :)
kellyrfineman
Jan. 16th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
Hooray for writing!

I think you'll enjoy his "nerd-kvetching"
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2013 05:38 pm (UTC)
'...will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out. And if they have one, I'd get the "extended cut" one, even.'


Me too :)
kellyrfineman
Jan. 16th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
:D
midnightblooms
Jan. 16th, 2013 06:03 pm (UTC)
I agree that showing the back story was the right decision, because The Hobbit isn't a fluffy adventure story when you start realizing that everything that happens in it, even or maybe especially the brief mentions of certain events, affected the events years later in LOTR. Seth Abramson was right (And that was a brilliant piece. Thanks for sharing the link.) By showing those links that IMHO Tolkien skipped and skirted too lightly around, the stories are tied more closly together and you understand why he wrote The Hobbit, and why what Bilbo and the Dwarves did was important, not just for the purposes of their quest, but for the future of Middle Earth.

It goes back to one of the major themes of Hobbit/LOTR, "even the smallest person can change the course of the future," only in this case, it's a small story that changes things.
kellyrfineman
Jan. 16th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
So true - that last sentence was brilliant, by the by. Sums it right up.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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