Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Hobbit

I’m going to make the assumption that whoever reads this review will be somewhat acquainted with The Hobbit and other works of J.R.R. Tolkien.  From my most recent experience, I have discovered that most people who are seeing The Hobbit or have seen Lord of the Rings are diehard Tolkien fans; most have likely read the books. 

The Hobbit, as precursor for LotR is an interesting novel and makes for a rollicking good movie.  While LotR is full of weightier elements, The Hobbit was clearly written for children.  Bilbo is a likeable hobbit who is swept away on an adventure by Gandalf and the merry troupe of dwarves. 

LotR fans have been waiting for The Hobbit for many years.  Return of the King debuted in 2003, which gives us a whopping 9 years of anticipation slowly growing.  Peter Jackson did an incredible job with the CGI and artistic look of LotR, so expectations have been high for The Hobbit.

In the span of the years following LotR, 3D has become a popular way of creating and watching movies.  Personally I’ve never been hugely supportive of it as I occasionally find it distracting.  However, when Matt and I went to see The Hobbit this past weekend, I was pleased to discover that the 3D was not choppy or obviously used.  For example, in scenes of the dwarfs sitting around the table talking, the dwarves closest to the camera were 3D, popping out from the screen, making the table look deeper without 3D affecting the actual table.  Camera shots starting from high up in the air and panning down were breath taking and the 3D complimented it greatly; I was literally catching my breath during some of the angles sweeping through caverns, things popping out at you in 3D.

So the 3D was well done and the graphics were phenomenal.  I don’t see that fans could be disappointed by Jackson’s creation of the trolls and orcs.  Rivendell was also more explored and we saw a large scope of it than previously seen in LotR.   Jackson seemed to use the locations more, perhaps to exhibit the distance that Bilbo and Company were travelling, from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.

In a way, it seems as though Jackson seeks to satisfy the viewer with sumptuous shots and elaborate costumes and CGI, perhaps to distract one from the rather large changes to the plot. 

The plot changes will undoubtedly be the biggest issue among Tolkien purists--I had just re-read the book last week so I had it fresh in my mind and was able to compare it to the movie.  I could definitely understand why some viewers would be a little upset with some changes that were made, even though I believe that most people prepared themselves for that.  There was no way Jackson could stretch the novel into three movies without taking some liberties and adding certain characters or scenes in. 

The biggest question I had with these issues was:  why did Jackson choose to delve so deeply into The Hobbit and bring out all these side characters when he neglected them in LotR? (I am still mad that I never saw Tom Bombadil!)  In The Hobbit he introduces us to Radagast the Brown, Azog the pale orc (not alive in the book) and a few other characters; I’m sure the list will grow as the movies continue. 

With the introduction of these characters, Jackson slowly spins the background of the rise of Sauron the Necromancer.  This is how I believe the plot changes will redeem themselves:  Jackson wisely built these characters into the story in order to flesh out The Hobbit as a precursor to LotR.  A meeting between Gandalf, Elrond, Sarumon and Galadriel in Rivendell is an interesting addition, but we see the birth of the Witch King, Sauron’s right hand man. 

Bilbo is still charming and the dwarves are their typical churlish selves.  In one scene Bilbo wins over the hearts of the dwarves by throwing himself out in front of Thorin in a brave attempt to save his life; such a scene does not exist in the books and it was the most irksome to me.  Another annoying moment was the change to the troll situation:  in the novel the dwarves and quickly and neatly bagged up by the trolls but in the movie there is an all out rumble between them all.  What was the point of changing that scene?  I still don’t know… It’s the small changes that were most irritating instead of the addition of entirely new characters.

Other than that, I can honestly say that I didn’t truly mind the liberties that Jackson took.  It was an interesting and fascinating movie, we are introduced to the characters in a funny way and it has good moments of comedy and genuine heart.  Jackson wins over his audience yet again and I hope The Hobbit causes more people to become aware of Tolkien’s genius.  

What will perhaps enrage purist viewers the most is the change of Radagast the Brown's character.  From what I recall, Radagast was a wizard similar in power to Gandalf the Grey, except that he was content to busy himself with nature, being wiser than any man in things concerning herbs and beasts.  Gandalf refers to him in the books as his confident and "cousin".  In the movie, Jackson turns Radagast into a bumbling wizard, changing him from being wise to being the comic relief.  I'm sure some people may be understandably offended by the changes.  

I gave The Hobbit 8.5/10, even though I waver at times and consider it to be a 9.  The small changes Jackson made annoyed me enough to affect that decision.  Still a fantastic movie though and I hope everyone takes the opportunity to watch it on big screen.

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