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The Hobbit: For the Fans, by a Fan
Ahh The Hobbit. Here at last. Remember back when we started this column for Optionated? The anticipation post for The Hobbit was our first piece. Even more than a year ago we couldn’t wait to see this film and now it is finally here!
I am ready.
Oh I am soooo ready.
We’ve had a lot of changes since our original post. The production videos have brought me back into full-fledged Middle Earth fangirlisms. I feel extreme nostalgia for kiwi accents. I desire hours and hours of extended documentary footage following every goddamn employee that worked on this film. ALL OF THEM. I’ve re-read the novel. I still can’t remember all of the dwarves’ names. LET’S DO THIS.
Proper preparation for viewing The Hobbit:
- Peruse “Randy Thrandy”, “Dwarf Racist Party Dad” and “Party Time Thranduil” tags on Tumblr. Become obsessed with totally inaccurate internet interpretation of King Thranduil.
- Purchase “Party Thrandy” tshirt to wear to the film even though Thranduil will occupy about 5 seconds of footage.
- Dramamine even though it will make you fall asleep because everyone is saying the 3D 48fps will make you sick to your stomach.
- Coffee to counteract the Dramamine.
- Obsess over the novel again and try to figure out when the best time will be to take a pee break.
- Get really uppity with people excited about The Hobbit – I WAS THERE IN ’01! Realize you are an asshole. Quit it.
- Get side-tracked on the Smaug-Cumberbatch/Bilbo-Watkins Tumblr tag.
- Totally forget Evangeline Lily is in the film. (Probably not. Probably the next one) Remember suddenly while walking down the street. Realize, you are totally OK with Middle Earth getting more bad-ass lady residents. Be at peace.
- THERE ARE THREE MOVIES FOR THE HOBBIT? THE HOBBIT IS 200 PAGES LONG. YOU WOULDN’T GET ENOUGH POINTS TO QUALIFY FOR A SLICE OF PIZZA IN AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL READ-A-THON! HOW CAN THERE BE THREE FILMS?
- Party Time
- Secret Step: Get your replica of The Ring of Power out of your jewelry box. Polish it. Love it. Post a picture on face book that instantly convinces your mother you got secretly married. (Obv. To Sauron.) Never let anyone handle your replica. Or touch it. Or do anything with it because it is MINE. MY OWN. MY….. PRECIOUS.
My preparations were slightly different. I spent the week leading up to the film:
- Resisting the urge to reread the book at the eleventh hour (I haven’t read it since college, AKA closer to a decade than a year ago at this point), because rereading the book JUST before seeing the film never goes well for me. I like to take a film on its own terms.
- Laying out my Randy Thrandy power tee for the viewing. Blessing Rachel for giving me an easier alternative than actual cosplay to wear.
- Brushing up on my Sindarin so I won’t have to read the translation of every word King Thranduil the Beautiful whispers sweetly to me in Elvish. This way I will know that, whatever the words on the screen are, what he is really saying is “Come to me, Starfire Brightmaiden” (this is my Elvish name. Don’t question it.)….
- Illegally downloading the soundtrack to the cartoon version because, seriously, WTF iTunes, WHERE IS IT?
- Wondering how the hell there will be a third movie if they get all the way to Mirkwood in this one. Deciding I don’t care because it just means I get to see Thranduil sooner.
- Taking Rachel’s advice and falling down the rabbit-hole of Tumblr tags into the Wonderland that is the (Party) King of the Wood Elves as seen through the internet.
- Going from resigned that the film is actually going to exist to “epitomizing Beatles meets Tolkien” in 60 minutes flat (it’s all Lee Pace’s fault. He shouldn’t be so awesome).
I did not expect to get excited about this film. I grew less enamored of LOTR as the trilogy went on and as I have revisited it in the decade since. I was enthused about a Del Toro version (thinking of Pan’s Labyrinth Del Toro, let me be clear) and sort of resigned to a PJ version that would be pretty much exactly like LOTR, except based on the book that meant just a little more to me than even the trilogy did.
But I broke down at the end and got really pumped about this movie in the last week before it came out. Thanks entirely to the fandom and the ridiculousness that is Tumblr and meme-generator and all of it. And even though the film wasn’t, for me, as fun as the excitement, I am still so happy I got that week of pure anticipatory pleasure. A very sincere thank you to all the people who wrote crazy shit about Thranduil on the interwebs. And Lee Pace, for existing and taking this role and putting up with having his face associated with Dwarf Racist Party Time Thrandy Who Sparkles and Carries a Wine Scepter While Riding a Moose. Y’all are all awesome and I love you for it.
So. About the film…
Yeaaahhhh…about the film. I…didn’t hate it? In fact I even kind of liked it, despite myself, because it’s the fucking Hobbit and that’s the first non-toddler book that was ever read to me and it will always have first place in my heart and this was a pretty faithful adaptation of the book onto the screen and so I couldn’t entirely dislike it even though I feel that, objectively speaking, it wasn’t great.
I wrote a really long and really boring diatribe about what I didn’t like about this movie. Bored the shit out of Rachel and made her threaten to disown me. (Ha! She’d cry for days if we didn’t speak again. Wait. This is Darth Rachel. She doesn’t cry about things. She’d just send her pet dragon to eradicate all traces of me from the Earth so she would not have to be sad, because how can one mourn what never existed? I guess it’s a good thing I have had a few days to let my criticisms simmer down to small but potent matter.) I am not going to run that first version of this review. It was long. And boring. And, most importantly, pretty inarticulate because it still didn’t say quite what I wanted it to say.
Here’s what I want to say, verbatim from an IM with Rachel.
Elena: my take on this movie, my problem but why i understand the people who love it for this reason, is that he made a film for the fans and not for the sake of making an objectively good film
different goals drive different executions
i think he met his goal
i wanted the other goal
Rachel: ah. yea.. i’m a fan. so. yay.
The Hobbit isn’t bad. Not bad bad (shut up, Tom Hardy as Bronson, you weren’t even in this movie! Although you would have made an excellent addition to the Hot Dwarves ’13 calendar…). For the average movie-goer it’s going to be a lot of fun, nothing to complain about in terms of structure, acting, effects, etc. It’s a pretty faithful rendering of the book to the screen, if with a ton of added stuff that was going on in the background that you don’t learn about in the book but later, when you read LOTR (or even later, when you read the appendices of LOTR).
And while I guess a big studio film that is true to the book is better than a big studio film that isn’t, I find I’ve become a little bit of a film snob in the last 10 years, and it’s really hard for me to actually like a movie that I don’t find amazing as a piece of cinema. Again, it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t…art. PJ is not Paul Thomas Anderson or Tomas Alfredson or Terrence Malick. He makes solid films in a predictably cinematic way, corrals large casts and big budgets with confidence, and puts together inoffensively easy to watch movies. Fine. For me to thoroughly love a movie I need more. This was a B movie for me because the style of moviemaking was just solidly there, not something deep and profound on a cinematic level.
Also, I got bored in places. I will freely admit I get bored watching the extended editions of LOTR. They are too long. This felt like PJ just went for it and put the extended edition out in theaters (hence the third film). So for me it was 5-10% too long across the whole movie. I was ready to get to the point and move on about 2 minutes before that happened in almost every scene.
While I enjoyed the back-stage (versus what we see in the book) story, I felt like the movie swings between two extremes, the cartoonish Radagast and the full-on Nazgul darkness of LOTR, and the two do not work as being part of the same film. I think there are ways to include Radagast and make him weird and eccentric without making him Looney Toons manic.
Finally, my biggest issue, was the high frame rate. It. Looked. Terrible. Maybe the opening scenes in Bilbo’s hobbit-hole and the Hobbiton set looked good with it, sharper and clearer than they otherwise would have, but the rest of the time the movie looked like a soap opera daydream of a fantasy adventure. I can’t watch movies on TVs that have the soap operatic effect (it’s a real thing, Google it), and this whole thing was intentionally filmed that way? I wanted to see it thinking maybe intentionally filming it at that speed would make it better. Nooope. Call me a luddite, but I’ll take the speed of real film to my dying day. I feel like everyone’s afraid to call the film out on this because it’s new tech, ooh, isn’t it shiny and special?, but I am not afraid to call bullshit. THE EMPEROR HAS LOST HIS PANTS. I REPEAT, THE EMPEROR IS NOT WEARING CLOTHES. High frame rate sucks. Also so does 3D. Let’s get the fuck over that trend already, too. The end.
There were things I liked. I appreciated the faithfulness to the book story. I enjoyed seeing the additions played out on center stage instead of discussed in the abstract of history. The Gollum scene was everything I could have hoped for. Best section of the movie, by far. The dollar per second of Thranduil was worth the cost of admission just by itself.
Basically, what I’m saying is, I was disappointed with this film aesthetically but was still somehow okay with it because in the end it is The Hobbit and at least PJ didn’t ruin the story by changing it and Lee Pace is awesome and he rode a fucking moose and was pretty and vaguely sad like Elves always are and I think he must have muttered some Elvish spell under his breath because, swoon, and in the next one I get to see him drink wine and curse dwarves and talk about dungeons and I would totally be okay with getting thrown in his dungeon because it will be like Fifty Shades of Green with Randy Thrandy the Elvish Party King and ohmygoddidIjustsaythatoutloudI’mgoingtostopnow.
I’m a hater. I’m a hater who decided prior to seeing The Hobbit that I was going to hate it because three movies was unjustifiable and the new cameras were a gag.
I was wrong. I loved it. Elena is dumb.
I’ve seen it twice. Once in regular 24 fps 3D and once in the Director-intended 48 fps 3D. It’s much better (at least in 3D) in the high frame rate. So shoot me. The high frame rate rendered the 3D clearer (3D sucks, but if I have to watch it, this might be the best way). Any discomfort or weirdness was gone by the time Frodo (haha, his FACE) ran off to the East Farthing Wood.
Also, after seeing the first part of this trilogy, I kind of hate myself for ever doubting that PJ would approach the story from the same place of respect and love that he did for LOTR. Only a man truly in sync with the subject matter would give us Party Time Thrandy on a giant Elk going “is…is that…DWARF waving at me? Gross!” and rabbit sleds with the 7th Doctor and a complete tour of Bag End, and SEXY DWARVES (Looking at you Fili and STOPPITKILI and Thorin and you, too, Bofur. You minx. Call me.)
I’m a fan, I will take all of the Middle Earth that PJ presents to me. If Radagast wasn’t explicitly needed for the plot I’m sure glad I got to see him! Saruman muttering about mushrooms and Galadriel on a turn table is just what I needed to help me through my continuing affliction: Missing Tom Bombadil Disorder. (Sometimes, when it’s quiet, I sing his songs to myself while weeping. Bright blue his jacket is/And his boots are *sob* yellloooow.)
When it comes down to it…The Hobbit itself wasn’t necessary. We know how the story ends. LOTR was already made. Already successful. If an unnecessary (and… let’s face it, all book adaptations are unnecessary because THE BOOKS EXIST) film was made because a fan wanted to make it and fans want to watch it, then well you’re just kind of a jerk for bitching about 20 extra minutes of run time than you’re used to or the fact that PJ can’t go back in time and make six LOTR movies.
You also can’t complain about the rabbit sled…BECAUSE IT WAS AWESOME. OK, ELENA? You can’t hate on a movie because it “panders” to the fans. Joe on the street wants to randomly see a fantasy movie, fine. He’s not going to see a bad movie if he sits down in front of The Hobbit. He’s not. It’s not a bad movie. Just because you watched a film that did not instantly become your most favorite movie ever doesn’t mean it’s bad. We have SEEN bad movies, and this is not one of them.
You probably like that crazy Russian adaptation of The Hobbit don’t you? DON’T YOU? In this instance, you are Radagast knocking back a bunch of mushrooms and I am Saruman muttering in the corner about how much you piss me off. (No, I’m sorry, I luff you. Don’t leave me.)
Mushrooms would probably have improved my experience. Actually I feel like I just took some after watching that…I don’t even know what to call that. Is it a movie? Is it a play? Is it just a bad dream? What have you put in my brain you awful child? (Never stop putting the craziest shit you can find in my brain, I luff you, too!)
Gollum looked absolutely incredible and uncannily like Anthony Serkis. Bravo, guys. That technology has certainly come a long way. So has the Goblin King’s goiter. HA. KILL HIM. Herding 14 and 15 people per shot with all those dwarves must have been exhausting for PJ, but it wasn’t exhausting to watch. In fact, I kind of give more of a crap about the dwarves now since PJ spent the time to show us their backstory. I know who else’s back I’d like to make stories on…wait. No. Where am I?
The only thing this film needed was more Mirkwood. More Elk-riding, party having, douche bag elves, please. I assume this will be the title of Part II. I can’t wait to hang out with some of Middle Earth’s biggest douchebags (waves at Legolas. I will always fancy you, baby) and see a Mother. Fucking. Dragon. I will take three movies over two any day as long as PJ fills them with rock smashing giants, muttering crotchedy wizards, fuck twat elves, and sexy…sexy…sexxxxy dwarves.
What this film needs…is more Mirkwood. I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is, More Mirkwood.
BRING ON PART 2! The Hobbit: A Perilous Detour Through the Greenwood. Starring Lee “I’m Not Gratuitous This Time!” Pace as Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves.
“Lee Pace is a god amongst men.” “The best 10 seconds a man has ever given me.” – Reuters
I’m serious. Bring it. I wants it…I wants it, precious. It will be my birthday present. My…precious….
' I felt like the movie swings between two extremes, the cartoonish Radagast and the full-on Nazgul darkness of LOTR, and the two do not work as being part of the same film.' Absolutely this. The balance between children's adventure story and prequel to Lord of the Rings seemed a bit awkward in places (whereas it didn't in the book) which is my main complaint. And in all honesty, I'm not sure which film I would've wanted. I struggled with Radagast. Don't get me wrong, he was amusing - but I kind of thought he was almost as Saruman sees him; a ridiculous figure wandering around half-deranged in the wilderness, rather than how he was described (or I interpreted) - as a kind of wisdom that is understated rather than powerful but no less important. The crusted bird poop and bunny sleigh seemed like overkill. Fun, but over-the-top to the point of ridiculousness. I didn't see it in 3D so I can't comment on that - but a lot of reviews comment that it makes the prosthetics more obvious? I did enjoy the film. It did seem a wee bit repetitive in places...such as the falling down scenery with people surfing on it (ala Moria) but I wasn't bored in what was quite a long film, so it was successful there. I believed in Bilbo completely. And the riddle scene with Gollum and Bilbo stole the entire film in my opinion. Overall I think it was just nice to go back and see Gandalf and Gollum again (and the cameos, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman) and the foreshadowing for the next films (MORE. SMAUG) was well played.
' I felt like the movie swings between two extremes, the cartoonish Radagast and the full-on Nazgul darkness of LOTR, and the two do not work as being part of the same film.'
Absolutely this. The balance between children's adventure story and prequel to Lord of the Rings seemed a bit awkward in places (whereas it didn't in the book) which is my main complaint. And in all honesty, I'm not sure which film I would've wanted.
I struggled with Radagast. Don't get me wrong, he was amusing - but I kind of thought he was almost as Saruman sees him; a ridiculous figure wandering around half-deranged in the wilderness, rather than how he was described (or I interpreted) - as a kind of wisdom that is understated rather than powerful but no less important. The crusted bird poop and bunny sleigh seemed like overkill. Fun, but over-the-top to the point of ridiculousness.
I didn't see it in 3D so I can't comment on that - but a lot of reviews comment that it makes the prosthetics more obvious?
I did enjoy the film. It did seem a wee bit repetitive in places...such as the falling down scenery with people surfing on it (ala Moria) but I wasn't bored in what was quite a long film, so it was successful there. I believed in Bilbo completely. And the riddle scene with Gollum and Bilbo stole the entire film in my opinion. Overall I think it was just nice to go back and see Gandalf and Gollum again (and the cameos, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman) and the foreshadowing for the next films (MORE. SMAUG) was well played.