It's here! The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey finally came out today! I saw it at 3:30 PM today, and unlike most movies, I walked out of it knowing exactly how I felt about it. I've been building up to this review for half a month now, so let's dive right into it!
First off, you've probably guessed by now that I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I keep count of how many times I've seen each movie, I have all the character bookmarks and Burger King toys, and I've been to two symphonies that performed the soundtrack scores. I even celebrate my anniversary with the trilogy every year; it's on October 26th, and I call it "Fellowfest." And if you still don't think that's excessive, check this guy out:
I've had that cut-out in my bedroom for almost nine years.
Bottom line, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is why I love writing and filmmaking, so when I heard that New Line was going to adapt The Hobbit...I was worried. With movies like the Star Wars prequels, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Godfather Part III out there, Hollywood's gotten pretty notorious for making bad follow-ups to great movies. I also didn't know what to think of them stretching it out to three films and incorporating subplots that weren't in the book. Now that I've seen it though, what did I think of it?
Well, I definitely liked The Hobbit. I just didn't like it as much as Lord of the Rings.
For starters, this movie has a much lighter tone. There's a lot more humor, it relies more on magical elements and less on realism, the villains and the action scenes are more cartoony in nature, and although there's a lot of emotional weight given to the dwarves' quest to reclaim their city, there isn't nearly as much at stake this time as there was in LotR. It won't be the end of the world if this quest fails. Don't get me wrong, The Hobbit still holds up very well as an action/adventure fantasy, and I don't think there's anything wrong with giving it a lighter tone than LotR. It just doesn't pull you into the world of the story as much when there's less drama.
I think a big part of that "problem" is the size of the cast. There were only nine characters in the Fellowship, so it was easier to flesh out each one and examine their relationships with each other. There are fifteen characters in Bilbo's group, himself included, and while the film does a VERY good job of making each dwarf unique, there's only a handful that you really feel like you know by the end. Heck, some of the dwarves never even get a line, so it's hard to get fully invested in everyone. Then again, there's nothing to hate about any of them, and you can certainly speculate a lot about their personalities judging from their character designs, so I do think you'd feel some sense of loss if any of them died. But here's the thing: since this is only a third of an adaptation, none of them do die in this movie. They just wander from one set-piece to the next without suffering any setbacks. At least LotR gave us some tragedy to deal with one movie in.
And that's probably my biggest hangup about The Hobbit. With the exception of Bilbo finding the Ring, it kind of feels like nothing happens in this movie. To be fair though, the same could be said about Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, so maybe I shouldn't fault this installment too much for that. These movies have always been more about atmosphere and spectacle than rapid-fire storytelling, and The Hobbit does have a lot of atmosphere and spectacle. I didn't get as immersed in it as I did in LotR, but I still highly recommend it. I'll give it an "A" grade. It might take a few more viewings for me to bump it up to an "A+" like its predecessors.
Good thing I plan to see it again within the week.
We must return to the city of Erebor! Our $#!%&er is full!
PS: Here's a commercial I made back in high school where my Gollum cut-out makes a cameo: BPTV Commercial - Gollum