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John Drew

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

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Denes, I think Jackson got it right, too—in LOTR. Let's see if Abrams pulls it off in Darkness. The stumbling block is there: characters the audience already knows, the desire for the spectacle to be increased. I am glad I am not a writer and director of blockbusters. So much money, so many pitfalls.

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Attica   

Buckeye Jones said:

:at once hitting the notes of familiarity and amplifying them like an American raising his voice so the non English speaker can understand him better. Never mind that they're not speaking the same language...

That is a very good line for describing the Star Wars prequels.

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Attica   

Turns out that Willie Nelson had auditioned for the Hobbit.

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Hey, Buckeye Jones... I'd love to quote this on my blog. May I?

And if so, how would you like to be credited?

Not much more should be said about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but since I finally got around to seeing the movie, I figured I’d take some time to type out my reaction. Interesting to go back and read some of the early speculation/joking about this film form 2005 in the thread. I think I called the Saruman meet up scene to discuss the Dol Guldur concerns.

I’m glad that I’ve caught this on the tail end of most folks, so my expectations were sufficiently lowered. I really wanted to like the film, as I very much love and enjoy Jackson’s take on the LOTR (though, I think I have epic fatigue by the time the green ghost army Scrubbing Bubbles away the orcs from Minas Tirith). But the blatant commercialism of The Hobbit, the constant amping up of each confrontation as one of epic proportion, and the frequent recycling of notes from the earlier trilogy wearied me more than anticipated. I suppose I enjoyed many little moments, but for an almost three hour film, those little moments were few and far between.

Most of you have already commented on additions to the story, apparently in order to stretch out the film (I forget who said it, possible Jeffery, that it was like too little butter scraped over too much toast). Additionally, I thought the odd blending of whimsy with the LOTR style never quite paid off. One could tell Jackson’s awareness of the source material being more “fairy tale” than “epic”, but it never quite gelled. As a prime example, many of you have mentioned Radagast and his bird crap stained hair and hare-pulled sled, but other examples abound, like the level boss sized Goblin King with his goiter and bright British accent. I applaud Jackson for attempting this more whimsical approach, but it was a whiff. I am struggling to think of what points in the film where the whimsical approach worked—could it be the mountain troll scene?

There’s two other areas in which the Hobbit disappointed me. The first, the compulsion to develop an arc for every character where one does not need to exist. Who’s story is this? It’s Bilbo’s. And we’re told a lot more than we’re showed how soft and lumpy his life is and how much an adventure he needs, and then, flick, a switch is thrown and he’s diving into a fight with Wargs and Azog the destroyer. Out of the blue, and all alone! It boggles the mind that Jackson and co felt this was a wise choice—but the choice itself was forced. Forced by a need to make Thorin a proud and selfish warrior who learns to value those below him as he faces down a foe that inexplicably leaves Moria to collect his head. Forced by a choice to make The Hobbit as much Thorin’s story as it is Gandalf’s as it is Bilbo’s. But it is not Thorin’s story, it is “The Hobbit”. And so, driven to show a dramatic three act arc for Thorin, the filmmakers miss an opportunity to develop a more natural character for Thorin. It’s all set up so that he can say to Bilbo “I was wrong” on the eagle’s eyrie.

The second, and this is a fault that Jackson likely will never overcome, is the amping up of epicness in every scene. In the Fellowship of the Ring, as orc after orc surrounds our heroes, it felt invested and real. It felt such a way because we had a series of small scenes that allowed the audience to breathe, but then the danger became worse and worse and worse. But always real—even with a CGI Balrog. But in the Hobbit, the danger always felt unthreatening (maybe the riddle scene transcended this), and the scenes felt like video games. So many bad guys, so easily destroyed, and physics did not apply. Falls that would crush normal people didn’t even daze our dwarves. Why? Why would it have to be this loud, visually and sound-wise? Why does all this sound and fury signify nothing?

One reason I think that this character development and epic-ness of the movie fails is because it is recycled. Gandalf darkens the room with his reverb voice at the dinner, the ring falls slowly through the air and lands on a finger, Gollum talks to himself via reflection in the water, Wargs attack, a moth gets the eagles, a particular orc hunts down our heroes, a campfire on a hill where scary noise abounds. Jackson is counting on his audience to remember what his characters are from LOTR (either the actual character or their type), and so invests little energy there. But where he does invest his energy is the action scenes—to the film’s detriment. Imagine the conversation—how can we make this scene (such as fighting orcs in a cavern) bigger than in LOTR? More orcs! More bridges! Bigger orcs! Orcs that talk!

And so at the end of the unexpected journey, I was tired. And not very rewarded. Character moments felt shortened and forced. Action scenes felt not like spectacle, but like the latest video game release. The only sad thing, I didn’t find any of this actually unexpected.

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Jeff--I just saw this.  If you still need to quote it, please feel free.  Credit?  I think I listed all my Image Top100 blurbs under Edward Allie. 

Hey, Buckeye Jones... I'd love to quote this on my blog. May I?

And if so, how would you like to be credited?

 

Dude

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If anybody was hoping that the Extended Edition would be an improvement, well... sure doesn't sound like it. Here's a rundown of the new material. And here's an excerpt that pretty much fulfills my fears...

 

The dinner scene, where the dwarves complain about green food, has a bunch of new bits. First up, Kili (Aidan Turner) flirts with one of the Elf girls, then mistakes a male for a female, which gets all the dwarves to laugh at him. Bofur (James Nesbitt) then leads the group in the first of several song additions lasting about a minute or so. Both scenes are cute, but unnecessary.

For the rest of this section, the film adds a lot of Bilbo exploring Rivendell, helping establish what will become a lifelong fascination with the place. The first such scene sees him walk by the the shards of Narsil and a painting of Sauron having the ring cut off. He lingers for a second as the camera zooms in on the ring in the painting. While this is a nice link betweenThe Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the actual purpose of the ring is so far away in terms of story, this was a wise cut. Bilbo has no idea the consequences that will follow him taking the ring from Gollum later in the film. Even a suggestion he knows what the ring is distracts from the story. The scene itself is great, but doesn’t really help The Hobbit as a whole.

Bilbo later chats with Elrond about Rivendell, and they playfully rib one and other about their place in the world. Elrond then tells Bilbo he can stay there whenever he likes, an offer he of course takes up about 60 years later.

In the next added scene Lindir (Bret McKenzie) complains the dwarves are stretching the resources of Rivendell. It then cuts to a long shot (so no closeups) of the dwarves bathing, naked in a fountain. It’s very funny.

 

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Been reading the Hobbit...about 100 pages in.

 

Maybe I am reading the books to late in life to find them all that mesmerizing...I mean, I am enjoying the Hobbit, but no more than the first Hobbit film.  I did not enjoy the LotR books more than the films either... the Dwarves in the books all jumble together and even Thorin seems light on distinguishing personality...

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SDG   

I can't speak to the right age to encounter Tolkien, but I'll say this: I am in forever in love with the language of The Hobbit.

The first paragraph is wonderfully evocative and poetic, evoking a whole homey, earthy, genteel world of hobbitry before one has the slightest clue what hobbits are:
 

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.


(The movie tips its hat to this language, but makes a muck of it with a completely inappropriate context. It makes no sense at all for Bilbo to be writing these words to Frodo, who a) is a hobbit himself, and b.) grew up in that very damn hobbit-hole.)

Then, still on the first page, there is this lovely passage:
 

what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it). Now you know enough to go on with.


This is a world of words and images and sensibilities in which I can happily spend a lazy afternoon, or a stolen half hour. There is charm and grace here, qualities sadly lacking in Jackson's Unexpected Journey and essentially wholly absent in The Desolation of Smaug.

 

And consider the character of Bilbo. Ian Holm created an astonishingly rich character as textured and complex as one could hope for. One can imagine Holm's Bilbo goaded by exasperation and pride into rising to the dwarves' challenge in this speech (still chapter 1):

 

“Pardon me,” he said, “if I have overheard words that you were saying. I don’t pretend to understand what you are talking about, or your reference to burglars, but I think I am right in believing” (this is what he called being on his dignity) “that you think I am no good. I will show you. I have no signs on my door—it was painted a week ago—, and I am quite sure you have come to the wrong house. As soon as I saw your funny faces on the door-step, I had my doubts. But treat it as the right one. Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert...."

 

Martin Freeman's Bilbo never says anything half so interesting as that, and one can't really imagine him doing so, alas.

Edited by SDG

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Been reading the Hobbit...about 100 pages in.

 

Maybe I am reading the books to late in life to find them all that mesmerizing...I mean, I am enjoying the Hobbit, but no more than the first Hobbit film.  I did not enjoy the LotR books more than the films either... the Dwarves in the books all jumble together and even Thorin seems light on distinguishing personality...

 

I'm not surprised by this at all. 

 

For one thing, we are accustomed to fantasy literature in which the characters are more complex, the stories much more detailed and extravagant. But most of the fantasies we know were built on the shoulders of Tolkien's mythos. Part of what bothers so many of us lifelong fans of the books, I think, is that the simplicity of the books has invited us to participate, and imagine, what's left out. We come away with something personal and imaginative. 

 

The movies do that too, but they fill in the gaps with things that feel entirely derivative of ... well... stories and characters and plotlines that are already derivative of Tolkien's work. Moreover, much of what Jackson and Company have used to "fill in the blanks" runs harshly contrary to Tolkien's central convictions.

 

Furthermore, Jackson and Company subtract so much that is distinctive about the book's action and dialogue and replace it with bland, heavy-handed, obvious dialogue and activity.

 

See, this is why I think a one-movie version of The Hobbit is the only reasonable way to approach an adaptation... if, indeed, there must be an adaptation at all. The story is a children's tale. A fairy tale. A lightly sketched work, compared to The Lord of the Rings.

 

For me, the one true movie version remains the Rankin/Bass animated version. That is the story Tolkien wrote, like it or not. I happen to love it.

 

[uPDATE: Whoa, SDG and I were writing at the same time. I agree with everything he wrote!] 

Edited by Overstreet

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I do not really disagree (though I found that outside of the Radagast stuff and the "Angry Vengeance filled Orc", the movie follows the first hundred pages book closer than people led me to believe) that keeping it to one film would have been a better move.  At the same time, there was no way as a film, the Hobbit could ignore it's predessor.  The book is a different creature not just in the fact that books and movies are different, but in the fact that the book the Hobbit came along before the Lord of the Rings books.  The Hobbit film is connected to the Lord of the Rings films in a way that books are not.  The Lord of the Rings books are certainly a sequel to the Hobbit (and reference the Hobbit more than once).  But the Hobbit movie is a prequel.  Of course it will reference familar things from the LotR films.  This criticism strikes me as the most odd, that they re-use imagery.  Yeah, some of it is fan service (but I suspect so were call backs to the Hobbit in the LotR books-maybe I am misremembering, but I seem to recall the fellowship passing the stone trolls...which the movie added in as well, but what was Tolkien's purpose in that?  Aside from "remember this thing from the Hobbit?")...but it is also a storytelling technique.  And an understable one.

 

Although, the One Ring landing on peoples' fingers like a reverse basketball hoop is kinda annoying.

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Tyler   

Jackson says he was "winging it."

“Because Guillermo Del Toro had to leave and I jumped in and took over, we didn’t wind the clock back a year and a half and give me a year and a half prep to design the movie, which was different to what he was doing,” reveals Jackson. “It was impossible, and as a result of it being impossible I just started shooting the movie with most of it not prepped at all.

“You’re going on to a set and you’re winging it, you’ve got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you’re making it up there and then on the spot […] I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it ][…] even from a script point of view Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I hadn’t got the entire scripts written to our satisfaction so that was a very high pressure situation.”

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On 3/13/2013 at 4:37 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

Warner Bros. Claims Tolkien Estate Breached 'Hobbit' Contract (Exclusive)
In November, the Tolkien estate and and its book publisher HarperCollins filed an $80 million lawsuit that claimed that Rings/Hobbit producers including Warner Bros. had infringed the copyright in the books and breached a contract by overstepping their rights.
Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. already made their own counterclaim that the Tolkien estate has breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by going down this road.
Now, it's Warners' turn.
The studio, represented by pitbull attorney Daniel Petrocelli, is now striking back at the Tolkien estate with amended counterclaims that alleges the Tolkien estate's repudiation has cost Warners to miss out on millions of dollars of licensing opportunities. The studio demands damages for the alleged breach of contract. . . .
Bonnie Eskenazi, the attorney for Tolkien estate, responds that Warners can't sue for being sued. She says that an anti-SLAPP motion as well as a motion to dismiss is coming. We'll add her formal statement soon.
Hollywood Reporter, March 13

‘Lord Of The Rings’ Lawsuit Settled Between Warner Bros. & Tolkien Estate
After a grueling five-year court battle, Warner Bros. and the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien have settled an $80 million rights dispute over The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.
“The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future,” said a statement from the estate and the studio today, with no details of the deal they finally struck.
Deadline.com, July 3

- - -

Is this where I mention that all of Tolkien's works enter the public domain in Canada just seven years from now? He died in 1973, and copyright is only good here for 50 years after the author's death, so... (And yes, that means all of C.S. Lewis's books are public domain here now. You can get 'em all dirt cheap on Amazon. Heck, you can probably download some of them from the Canadian version of Project Gutenberg.)

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