The Hobbit (3 hours long and it’s only the start..)

On X’mas evening, I went to the movies with both my kids, such a rare event it deserves a special mention! Unsurprisingly, the common denominator for the three of us was The Hobbit (I), on its second week. The small Norman cinema where we went was far from packed, no wonder for a X’mas evening, and it reminded me of the time I took my brother-in-laws to see Time Bandits in the same room, with a crowd close to 12 people total! (Yes, it was a while ago, as Time Bandits came out about 1981…!)

Anyway, we watched the movie together and came out with divided opinions! My daughter liked it, my son thought it was not as good as the Lord of the Rings, not enough fighting maybe?, or simply less convincing orcs, and above all a missing Legolas!, and I considered the whole affair just ridiculous! I had misgivings from the start as Tolkien’s Hobbit is a kids book, which does not make for a proper setting for Jackson’s usually grandiose fantasy operas… It is also a short book and I could not see why it required three movies altogether! Well, I still do not see, except for providing the producers with more revenues.

The movie indeed feels sluggish most of the time, with long periods that could fit in a single shot as they contribute neither to the story nor to the dramatic tension. And which are mostly copies of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, a row of dwarves on a moor against a beautiful sunset in the mountains replacing the Company of the Ring on a moor against a beautiful sunset in the mountains. The number one problem is, I think, that Jackson sticks too much to the book and thus needs additions that feel awkward and unconvincing. For instance, the introduction of a super-evil orc (with a fairly predictable name, “Azog the destroyer”) does not ring true, because it turns the dwarves’ quest into another good-versus-evil battle, as in the Lord of the Rings, while it should just be part of an “adventure”. One of the masterpieces of the book, namely the encounter with the three trolls, sounds shallow and predictable, Bilbo missing the necessary rethoric. Some of the special effects are great: the dwarves’ citadel in Erevan, the escape from the goblins’ nest, but others are not so convincing, like the battle of the dwarves with the orcs or even the mountain landscapes, which do not manage to look realist enough.

I am also fairly annoyed with some of Gandalf’s acting manners: he spends a lot of of his time smoking his pipe and squinting his eyes, maybe because of the smoke, maybe because he things it looks mysterious enough… Get on with it, Gan’! On the opposite, Radagast is a much more convincing creation, even though his comics characteristics clash with the overall darker tone of the movie: he can definitely be alloted the best quote of the movie: “These are rhosgobel rabbits: I’d like to see them [wargs] try!”

The meeting with Saruman, Elrond, and Galadriel also sounds fake and not necessary, except for some infodump: why is Gandalf so apologetic and so obsequious? why should the elves allow for the dwarves to wake up a dragon? how could the dwarves leave unnoticed? And even the centerpiece of the whole book, namely the encounter between Bilbo and Gollum, and the ensuing “theft” of the ring (sorry, Ring!), is lacking the proper tone, i.e. it is not somber enough: there is too much light, everything looks too clean, from Bilbo’s clothes to the tunnels where Gollum lurks. And no-one believes a second that Bilbo is ever going to kill Gollum (well, having seen the Lord of the Rings first obviously helps, but this is another unnecessary lengthy moment).

My daughter thinks I am getting grumpier and grumpier with old age, and this is quite probable. In toto, I did spend a good evening and it was fun to be back in Middle-Earth with well-known characters, enjoying another tale of battles and dangers. When the movie ended with Smaug’s eye opening, I was actually surprised it was over!

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