A Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I've decided to add a new "feature" to my blog to get me to blog a little more about something I really love: movies. I'm going to do these reviews in three parts. First part I am calling "What I Liked," the second part is going to be "What I Didn't Like" and the third part is going to be a pseudo-analysis of what I can take away from the movie as a writer. So here goes....installment number one: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

So I stayed up entirely too late last night to watch this movie and I enjoyed it very much. Let's address the elephant in the room first. The novel The Hobbit is one of those books. It's importance to writers of fantasy is immeasurable. Without it, many of us are still looking for work, so to speak. I dare say, to me, that it might be more important than Lord of the Rings. As with adapting anything with that much love and importance, there is bound to be issues. With that understanding, here we go:

What I Liked

  1. Martin Freeman: To those of us of a certain age, Bilbo Baggins will always and forever be Orson Bean. (There's another blog post in me about Batman and Kevin Conroy, but I digress) That being said, Martin Freeman is pitch perfect as Bilbo. He brings all the right notes about the character to the screen while adding just the right amount of self-deprecation and humor. I really enjoyed Freeman in the terribly mediocre adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and he's perfect in this role, hobbit mullet and all.
  2. Erebor: Was this not the image of every Dwarven city from any D&D game, module, guidebook or novel that we ever read growing up? It's literally as if Peter Jackson reached into our collective geek minds and made everything we dreamed a reality. It was just stunning, from the entrance to the mines to the corridors and walkways. Bloody brilliant.
  3. Rivendell: It's easy to forget how stunning a place Rivendell is supposed to be and Jackson pulls it off. 
  4. The Dwarves: I always liked how Jackson approached the dwarves. Sure they were strong and stocky but like people, there are all kinds and we see that in this. And I always hated that dwarves are limited to using axes and hammers. It was nice to see some swords, bows, maces and even a slingshot thrown in there.
  5. The Riddle Scene: The most important scene in maybe the whole book and they nailed it. It was taut and well played. Andy Serkis owns Gollum and Freeman's Bilbo is threatening to Gollum as he is unsure to us. Unfortunately it's kind of overshadowed by some...wait, I'll get to that in a minute.
  6. The Dinner Party: Utterly brilliant and fun...from the raucousness of the dwarves to Bilbo's fretting over things and finally to Bilbo just throwing his hands up and saying he's not going on the quest. 
  7. Bofur: I liked him. He accept Bilbo from moment one and was truly disappointed when it looked as if Bilbo were going to quit. It was a nice moment without dialogue that told you everything you needed to know about the character and his relationship to Bilbo.
  8. Richard Armitage: He was Thorin Oakenshield and brought the right amount of intensity to the scene. You have no doubt that he is singleminded in his quest to win back his home. He's channeling Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn with more ambition, which I like as a theme. Does he want to lead because he's a great leader or because he feels he deserves to rule? I want to see how that plays out.

 What I Didn't Like

  1. The Goblin Chase: Someone, somewhere, either on Twitter, Facebook or on a blog posted how annoying it was that this scene was like one extended video game sequence. (I'm not doing justice to what they said, it was far more eloquent than that.) I'm not against a good action sequence, this just seemed like too much, as if they were just showing off what they could do with CGI and playing to the video game crowd. Didn't the movie DOOM teach us that doesn't exactly work?
  2. The Dwarf Analogy: Maybe I've become oversensitive in my older, more politically left leaning, inner city school teacher ways, but it felt as if Jackson was kind of hitting us over the head with the Dwarves are an analogy for the Jewish people, or at least of Jewish stereotypes. I'm basing some of this on something I read somewhere, so that's where the kernel of the idea comes from, but it really felt that way watching the movie, from the "people with no home" angle to their obsessing over money. Like I said, maybe I'm reading too much into it.
  3. Azog: He's the bleeping Darth Maul of The Hobbit. Seriously. He's an action figure they wanted to sell. That's it. End of list.
  4. Radaghast and the hedgehog: Okay, I get that this trilogy is more of a prequel to Lord of the Rings and you want to include him, great, but the whole scene with hedgehog was about 5 minutes of my life I'm not going to get back. And quite frankly, I don't need to see all the bird poop in the man's hair. 
  5. Kili: Okay, we get it, he's the "hot" dwarf, but there are a bunch of other dwarves there too. It gets distracting after a while that they focused on him so much.
  6. Awful Lot of Honkies In Here: Is Middle Earth the whitest place ever? I mean not one person of color in the whole movie. Come on. You're willing to make all these changes, why not do that with Papa Tolkien's vision? Well, except for the orcs of course...but that's another blog post. 
  7. F**king Eagles: Are the military minds of Middle Earth that dim? Why aren't they including these guys in their big strategy meetings? They've got these giant, flying eagles that can cover huge distances and chuck wargs around like cats do mice, yet no one in Middle Earth is bothering to see if these guys want to help out. 
  8. The Cheesy "I Was Wrong About You Speech." The whole speech at the end was cheesy and corny in every way, shape and form. It was awful.

What Can I Take Away As A Writer
I'm not going to spend any time on this. Without the book The Hobbit, I'm probably not a writer. So there's that.