Brief thoughts on the Hobbit

I decided to go see The Hobbit today. For the technically minded, I decided to see it in 24 fps, 2-d, since I am not a fan of 3-d movies. As an aside, my plan to see an early viewing of the movie was quashed because that showing was sold out by the time I got to the theater (with about 20 minutes to spare).

The movie takes it sweet time introducing us to Bilbo in the time frame of the movie. We see Ian Holm and Elijah Wood interact, and Elder Bilbo narrates a heaping infodump–we see the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor at its height, and its fall to Smaug (cleverly, we don’t see the dragon, rather we see the dragon’s damage. Jackson is using the Jaws approach here). With the fall of Erebor out of the way, we finally get to the time frame of the movie. Gandalf comes knocking at a skeptical Bilbo’s door, and the book’s matter begins in earnest…
Until we get an aside involving Radagast the Brown, the Greenwood/Mirkwood, and Dol Guldur. I am not sure the movie needed to linger on Radagast’s efforts to revive a beloved hedgehog. (yes, really). This sets up a crucial scene where Radagast meets Gandalf and the Dwarves…
Yes, the movie takes liberties with the book. Radagast does meet the company. Galadriel and Saruman make appearances in Rivendell. Azog, who is mentioned in the book as having killed King Thror (Thorin’s grandfather) has been promoted to a actionable character who is obsessed with destroying Thror’s line. I have a very strong suspicion that they are going to basically fold the character of Bolg (who in the book was at the Battle of Five Armies) in with Azog as one person, and have him be Thorin’s nemesis throughout the three movies.
Gollum is one of the best things in the movie, and the Gollum-Bilbo interaction is one of the best scenes in the movie.
There are a lot of callbacks, visually and musically, to the Lord of the Rings movies.
The acting is okay for the most part. McKellen, Weaving, Blanchett and Lee could do these roles in their sleep. The real acting chops come from Martin Freeman as Bilbo, who manages to make Bilbo the same sort of everyman he made Arthur Dent in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy movie.
The tone of the movie has some problems. The movie clearly, clearly wants to be Lord of the Rings Volume 0. It tries so very hard to do this. There is nowhere near the level of humor and levity that the book has, and one key scene plays VERY differently in tone than the book.And yet there are scenes where the humor comes out in force, just like the novel. It’s a frustrating mess. I’m not sure what the movie was trying to be. The Trolls come off as humorous as they do in the book. The Goblins in the Misty Mountains? Mostly not, although that tone wavers even in the middle of that scene. I was left scratching my head.
And there is the three movie thing. The movie ends with the rescue of the Eagles. 6 chapters of the Hobbit, and that’s it. And this thing is 3 hours long. I think it could have been trimmed. The movie does not leave The Shire until an hour has passed. That’s way too long. And The Shire itself does not feel as inhabited or alive as in the LOTR movies. However, there are plenty of really good looking set pieces, including Erebor and Goblintown. And the New Zealand Tourist board will be very happy, again.
So is it worth it? If you are coming to see The Hobbit, you are going to be confused, and very disappointed. If you want Peter Jackson Presents: Middle Earth Episode 0.1: The Hobbit, then you are going to have a much better experience.