The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Initial Thoughts

As many of you probably know, if you’ve read my work, I’ve become more and more of a purist when it comes to Tolkien over the years. Wandering Paths began precisely for that reason, starting my journey. And by now my “purist/analytical” hat is firmly ensconced.

I knew this would be potentially problematic, hindering my enjoyment of the first Hobbit movie, so partly by design and partly due to shortage of time due to work, I chose to hold off re-reading The Hobbit. I figured for my first viewing I’d attempt to pry that hat off my head and see the movie for its own sake.

I said I’d try…and I did.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hovering over my head throughout!

I just got back from seeing the movie in 3d with the high frame rate. As some may not yet have seen the movie, I’ll try to avoid giving anything away so you can make their own judgments. These are only my initial impressions.

First of all, let me say that it was a great movie, hands down. As I’ve admitted occasionally, Peter Jackson does make beautiful and amazing films. (I know, I know…so out of character.) And as I’ve stated multiple times, the films greatest, most inspired and true piece is the music. Howard Shore’s score is amazing as always, particularly the “Misty Mountain” theme. The dwarves’ song in the beginning gave me chills and my hair was standing on end. As in the original trilogy, the music really creates the heart and soul of the piece, and I am greatly pleased to have more of Shore’s work grace the lands of Middle Earth.

When Peter Jackson and Co. followed the book, which made up a significant part of the movie, it was awesome and extremely well done. They were able to strike an amazing balance between the humor and whimsy of the novel and the darker tone of the LotR. It did not really cleave to either, but sat comfortably in between, and I felt fit quite admirably. Martin Freeman made a most “excellent and admirable” Bilbo, and Richard Armitage, though different, a great Thorin. And as usual McKellen’s Gandalf and Blanchett’s Galadriel were wonderful.

The true show stopper, as it should be, was the Riddles in the Dark scene. It was almost exactly as I’d envision it, both chilling and humorous. Serkis’ Gollum is better than ever and the interaction between the two was spot on. Anyone else notice, though, the missing riddles?

So as I said previously, my “purist” hat, unfortunately/fortunately, never strayed too far. I say fortunately as pondering the changes has become something of a hobby of mine, and this movie yields much food for thought.

There are many changes which are small: changing speakers, tweaking the set up to a scene etc, which generally I did not mind as they tended fit within the film’s goals. Two changes were a bit of a stretch, one of which I found quite irksome as it ends up fundamentally changing the nature of the tale. And one small change preceding Riddles in the Dark I found I couldn’t let be. More on each of these later.

I can understand the changes. And from a purely cinematic standpoint maybe even live with. It is yet to be seen how they will be dealt with in the future two movies, though I can see where they are leading. If I am right, they make sense. I can follow the logic, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Though in a funny way, being who I am and doing what I do, these moments are great for me, as you’ll see in the future when I pick them apart.

With regards to the High Frame Rate controversy: I was not overly impressed. It was an interesting experience, which at times was overwhelmingly beautiful (primarily for panoramic shots) and at others strange and just this side of annoying. For me, I think part of the issue was the strangeness of it, and the necessary adjustment that had to take place. Though ultimately I think I still prefer 24 fps. Jackson and Co. may claim this is the way of the future, and it very well may be. But as with all else, it will remain a matter of personal taste and I think only a subset of the larger film industry.

I fully intend to go see the movie again in theaters, this time at the standard rate and no 3d. And hopefully at that point with the book reread and my “purist analyst” hat squarely on my head!



6 thoughts on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Initial Thoughts

  1. I had some quibbles with the film, though I was not particularly sensitive to the fps issue. I loved the score, however, and thought Riddles in the Dark was a brilliant scene! Look forward to hearing more from you on this.

    • I think the real issue was just a matter of adjustment to something completely new. I haven’t given up on hfr, but I am definitely not sold yet.
      Well, even with my so called analytical instinct turned off, I have plenty to discuss in coming weeks, which I am possitive will only grow upon my reread and rewatch.

  2. I was just so delighted by visiting Jackson’s Middle Earth again, and by the fantastic Dwarf buffet served up, that I think my critical brain parts took a vacation. I suspect I can join a more critical discussion after a second or third watching though!

    • See now I’m thinking the opposite. My thought is that now that I know what to expect I will be able to doff my cap and just enjoy it.

      It may seem from my “vague” review above that I was not delighted by the film, but where Peter and co. basically followed the book, I was grinning ear to ear…particularly the little things I noticed referencing the “arcane knowledge” of us Tolkienites!

  3. I also noticed the map of Gondor and Mordor in the background in Bag End in the beginning…which made me ponder…as at that time this would be quite uncharacteristic of Bilbo. But yeah…the sneak details were fun!

    You know, I’ve been thinking in many ways us fans are quite hobbit-like when it comes to the book-film relationship. We basically want a repackaging of known material…and when we see that already familiar information in new light are delighted.

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