Yes, I'm reviewing the first The Hobbit
movie. Because I can. I might be mentioning stuff that happens later on in the book and will likely happen later in the movies, and so theoretically I should say that there are spoilers ahead. But really, the book is 80 years old. Do I really need to put in spoilers for a book that's 80 years old?
Reviews of The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey
seem to comment a lot on the fact that a 300-ish page book is being stretched out to cover 3 movies. "Far too padded out" and "far too stretched" and "oh my god the beginning bit in the Shire takes FOREVER" are mentioned. "How on earth is this possible!" and "This offends my sensibilities" and "This offends my wallet" and "They're doing this for the money the dirty moneygrubbing bastards!" seem to be implied.
If you ask me, that's not the real
problem. The main issue is that originally, The Hobbit
is very much a kid's book. Tolkien did some edits to The Hobbit
later on, to tie it in better with Lord of the Rings
, but it is still at heart a kid's story.
- Rather than an epic quest to save the world from a terrible foe, the quest is to help some dwarves get their gold back.
- A tense showoff between Bilbo and a vicious nasty little creature who wants to eat him is solved by a game of riddles (and then some running away).
- The One Ring at first comes across as a Deus Ex Machina - it lets Bilbo turn invisible right when he needs to be invisible.
- The eagles come across as another deus ex machina, rescuing everyone right in the nick of time.
- There's a major battle at the end of it all along with a very angry dragon, and Bilbo's asleep for a lot of it and the dragon is felled by a guy who's a crack shot with an arrow.
- There's not that much distinction between the dwarves, because it's only really Thorin that's important.
- Bombur is the designated buttmonkey and keeps on being made a fool of.
- The plot comes seems very "this happened and they got through it (because Gandalf saved the day) then this next thing happened and they got past it (because Bilbo was clever) then this next thing happened and they got past it (because the Eagles saved everyone) then they got to the end of the quest and the day was saved, yay Bilbo (and dwarves)!" It's really suited to reading one chapter a night to your kids right before bedtime.
No, I'm not trying to say The Hobbit
is bad. I'm just saying it's very obviously a kid's book.
The movie tries its best to be Darker and Edgier, but at heart it's still the same kid's story. All those things I mentioned in that list? They have to be there, otherwise it's not The Hobbit
, but in being there the movie comes across as still a bit kiddie and twee. It's a bit like a kid trying oh so very hard to be a grown-up.
I should mention the violence and fighting. It gets pretty nasty. Heads and limbs go flying, dwarves are burnt alive by a dragon, an attempt at killing an orc swiftly and silently goes awry and is messy and noisy, the Great Goblin is eviscerated onscreen, Gollum beats and kills a goblin (and eats it?) offscreen, the dwarves are almost cooked by the trolls (but fortunately get better)... it's all pretty scary, and would give the kiddies nightmares for weeks! So a movie that feels like a kid's movie trying to be grown-up (and not quite succeeding) can't be shown to kids. There's something deeply ironic there.The dwarves
The dwarves are far more than just "Thorin and the other 12 dwarves" this time. Being a movie helps a *lot* in this regard. They all have distinctive looks, and there are little throwaway lines that help establish, if not personality, at least character quirks. They have cool beards.
I really like Balin, the old white-haired one with the long forked beard. Possibly because he's one of the dwarves that speaks and does more than the others.
Bombur, sadly, doesn't have any speaking lines (that I can remember, anyway) and the movie still makes fun of him and how fat he is.
I'm hoping that in the next two movies, the dwarves will become more distinctive.Epic riddle battles of history
So yeah, Bilbo gets lost under the Misty Mountains, picks up this strange ring, meets this curious vicious little creature that wants to eat him, and has a game of riddles with it. Which he cheats on to win.
I can't remember how much "running for his life from Gollum" was in the book, but I rather like how in the movie, they start with the riddle game, but then it escalates at the end anyway. Because seriously, if there's a nasty vicious little creature that wants to eat you, asking it a riddle it can't solve isn't really going to save you. Especially if you cheat and the riddle is, "what do I have in my pocket?"
If by some chance you don't know what the One Ring is, then I suppose the "it makes you invisible!" revelation almost
comes across as a Deus Ex Machina, until you remember Gollum reaching for it (and not finding it).
On reflection, I quite like how the movie handles "Riddles in the Dark". I have only one annoyance. In the movie, Bilbo actually *does* work out the "time" answer by himself, instead of getting it by accident. Is this because he's the Designated Hero?Added stuff
We get to see Radagast the Brown and the White Council and the Witch King of Angmar and The Necromancer. We learn that Gandalf is in on all this because he wants to remove Smaug from the reckoning of things, and why he's helping out the regular people of Middle-Earth.
We get to see a segment about the dwarves and their history and the coming of Smaug.
It all helps give a bit of context to the story, rather than have it be just a quest to get the dwarves' gold back from a dragon.
The Battle of the Five Armies at the end of the story should be exciting, given that the team behind the movies has had lots of practice at bringing big battles to the big screen. I can't help but wonder if Bilbo will be asleep for it in the movie version?Overall...
...I still liked it. It's The Hobbit
, which I read a lot when I was a kid, and it's Middle-Earth, and I have *got* to see the battle of the Five Armies and Bard taking on Smaug, so I'll be watching the next two movies.
Next up is Wreck-It Ralph