The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
. Dir. Peter Jackson, 2012.
Having now seen this movie twice, in HFR 3D and in 2D, obviously, I quite enjoyed it. I deliberately didn't re-read the book before seeing the movie, but I don't have to do so to realize that the principal thing PJ has done, in bringing The Hobbit
fully into the ambit of The Lord of the Rings
and its appendices, is all but obliterated the whimsical quality that The Hobbit
shares with Tolkien's other early works--Letters from Father Christmas
comes readily to mind--but not his later ones. I liked that whimsy, once I learned to appreciate it; but at the same time, it's good
to go back to Middle-Earth. I haven't realized, but it's been nearly ten years since The Return of the King
, and I've missed it powerfully.
The first of the Hobbit movies covers approximately the first third of the book plus a good chunk of back matter from the Appendices. I know where PJ is playing fast and loose with the time scales of various parts, but almost all of it is canonical. (EXCEPT THAT DAMNED RABBIT SLEDGE, WTFFFFFFF.) The Appendices have always been some of my favorite parts--IF PJ DOESN'T DO THAT THING WITH GANDALF AND THE SMOKE RINGS AND SARUMAN AT THE LAST MEETING OF THE WHITE COUNCIL I'M GOING TO FLIP OUT SO HARD--and I loved seeing this stuff on the screen, not least because Galadriel is my absolute favorite and bringing in the Appendices stuff puts her back on the screen, and gives the movie its only female character with a speaking part. I could watch the bearers of the Three Rings chum it up in Rivendell forever, not gonna lie, though Christopher Lee totally nailed the Sarumansplaining.
I liked the dwarves! I liked them more than I thought I would, and I was suitably impressed by Richard Armitage as Thorin, though I am bored by his not-quite-canonical dwarfpain and really really really wonder whether PJ is going to work in Thrain's canonical fate or not--I hope so! It also struck me that PJ is really playing up the Hobbit/LotR::Thorin/Aragorn parallels, which is somewhat tiresome but was also well done, at least in this movie, which plays the once-per-trilogy deus ex eagle
card to great effect. (Sidenote: Aragorn is fairly low manpain, isn't he? I like that about him, and resent that Arwen's plotline was basically sacrificed to give him angsty backstory.)
I feel like Peter Jackson is really imitating George Lucas in these movies--making the prequel trilogy after the first trilogy--and the cinematic hobbyhorse that PJ is riding is shooting at high frame rate, specifically 48 fps (as compared to the standard 30 fps). epershand
and I shelled out extra cash to see the film in HFR 3D, and it was wildly disorienting. The HFR image is very oversaturated, which actually (because modern 3D is done with polarization rather than color-splitting of the light) really flattens the 3D effects. Because the HFR is so hyper-real, however, it has the paradoxical effect of looking really cheap, like a K-drama or an old BBC show, and also of making Middle-Earth seem really real
, like the filmmakers just went out and cast a random dragon and some trolls in these parts. It was really, really disorienting, and particularly at the beginning of the film, it makes the cinematography look like total crap, which it isn't. I got used to the effect partly, but never totally--every so often there would be a shot that would jar me out of my acclimitization, and I'd be left thinking again that it was so weird.
My sister and I saw it in 2D on Christmas night, and she actually reported a lot of the same impressions I had even at standard frame rate and without the 3D. To me, the 2D seemed pleasantly normal, though with rather too much detail of everyone's pores for true comfort. Movies are not life! Cinema is artificial, and I like it that way! And it's not like I can't go to Middle-Earth already--the Green Dragon has a Facebook page, FFS--so while I enjoyed the hyperrealism, I don't actually need ti. PJ: let the HFR go.
On Christmas night we did not see it with our fellow geeks and nerds, and the people in front of us actually turned around and glared at me when I laughed at Bilbo's last line. Don't look at me if you haven't read the book, fools! It's funny if you've read the book, and I refuse to apologize for having read the book.
Postscript: Andy Serkis as Gollum = still amazeballs. SOMEBODY GIVE THAT MAN AN OSCAR ALREADY, FFS.
Bonus postscript: If you haven't read Sarah Rees Brennan's Hobbit parody of hilarity
, do so.