lostcarpark: (Lego Harry Potter)
[personal profile] lostcarpark
Although still afflicted by the cold, on Sunday I braved the elements to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Overall I found it a very enjoyable movie, and I think if you like Tolkien's universe at all, you won't regret seeing it. However, I do feel it's a little longer than it needs to be, and I question the wisdom of splitting the book into three parts rather than two.

If you haven't seen the movie, and want to avoid SPOILERS, stop reading now!

Like the Fellowship of the Ring, this film starts by filling us in on the background of the Lonely Mountain, and the origin of Smaug. This is explained much later in the book, but I think moving to the start is easier for viewers.

However, for some reason, this is followed by a second prologue, with Bilbo and Frodo getting ready for the party at the start of the Fellowship of the Ring. This scene contains very little that's relevant to the plot of The Hobbit, and it's only purpose seems to be to make it clear that this film is set before any of the Lord of the Rings. It's probably there to explain why the movie is about Bilbo and not Frodo. I would have saved this scene for the DVD extended version, or possibly dropped it altogether.

The movie proper then starts, with the opening line from the book, "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit..." Unfortunately, the way it's set up, Bilbo is writing to Frodo, which leaves you wondering why he should be bothered explaining about Hobbit holes, which Frodo is already clearly intimately familiar with.

The early part of the movie is about the arrival of Thorin's company, and how they upset Bilbo's life and try to entice him to come on their adventure. It's entertaining, but goes on for what seems an age, and when they finally leave Bag End, we've already been in the cinema an hour.

I should point out that it's quite a few years since I've read the book, but somewhere around here comes a fairly major divergence. Bilbo asks Gandalf if there are other wizards, and Gandalf says there are five, and mentions Radigast the Brown. We then cut to see what Radigast is up to, which certainly wasn't in the book. (As an aside, I noticed the Hobbit game from Games Workshop has a "free" Radigast miniature, and wondered why that would be relevant to the movie - so now I know).

I could be mistaken, but the scene with the trolls differs somewhat from my memory of the book. As I recall, Bilbo comes upon the trolls when they have already captured the dwarves, while in the movie, he's mostly to blame for their capture. Again, in the book I remember, Bilbo stays hidden from the trolls, imitating their voices to cause them to quarrel until they get caught by the sunrise. In the movie, it's mainly Gandalf who saves them, though Bilbo's stalling tactics help. I can see some logic in this change, since it shows Bilbo growing into a hero as the movie progresses.

I've been talking about things that were added, but one thing that's was removed was Tom Bombadil (who was also removed from Fellowship of the Ring). I don't recall him contributing to the plot, so this possibly isn't a bad thing.

One that has changed from the Lord of the Rings is the appearance of the orcs and goblins. In the previous movies they were lean and mean and their skin was various shades, but always dark. Now they are generally fat and pale skinned with bulbous deformed features. It's a fairly small change, but I'm not sure of the reason for the inconsistency, or for breaking with the previous movies.

I'm not saying the changes were all bad, but some seem to have little reason, and even many years after reading the book, I found it a little distracting be constantly thinking, "that's not how it was in the book."

However, despite these little misgivings, there's an awful lot to love about this movie. After seeing the run down and abandoned mines of Moria in Fellowship, it was nice to be shown a dwarf city in its prime. I thought the casting was excellent, and the effects were stunning, and where Lord of the Rings showed us a Middle Earth in decline with the rise of Sauron, The Hobbit shows us the world in its prime.

I do think the movie could be shorter by at least half an hour without losing anything of significance.

However, I'm thoroughly looking forward to parts 2 and 3.
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