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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)


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Scott Foundas:

Whereas video-shot "films" have labored for years to approximate the look of celluloid, Jackson goes whole hog in the opposite direction, the idea being that this acute video quality comes closer to the way the human eye perceives reality. Fair enough, but the reality Jackson conjures isn't quite the one he intends: Instead of feeling like we've been transported to Middle-Earth, it's as if we've dropped in on Jackson's New Zealand set, trapped in an endless "making of" documentary, waiting for the real movie to start.

For the record, I returned to see The Hobbit a second time, at 24 frames, and found it more aesthetically pleasing but no more dramatically engaging. At any speed, the movie only springs to full life late in the day, during the first meeting of Bilbo and the tragic creature who will come to be known as Gollum (once again played by the sublime Andy Serkis), a hobbit reduced to a quivering, schizophrenic mass by his fidelity to a certain gold ring. Suddenly, in one long scene consisting of nothing more than two characters trying to outwit each other in a game of riddles, Jackson the storyteller seems to overtake Jackson the technocrat. The old magic returns, and for a fleeting moment, The Hobbit feels truly necessary, a triumph of art over commerce.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I'm sorry, I can't take anything Foundas says on this film seriously after I read these crashingly absurd comments:

Rest assured, Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey perpetrates no Jar Jar–size transgressions. Rather, it's reverential to a fault, with the director and his regular collaborators Fran Walsh (Jackson's wife) and Philippa Boyens hewing so closely to Tolkien's slender text that, at the end of three hours, we're barely 100 pages in, with mere sentences on the page having been inflated into entire sequences on screen. The detailed appendices Tolkien included with the final LOTR story, The Return of the King, have also been plundered for inspiration, and the result is a journey whose most unexpected element is just how little ground it covers.

How can any thinking person imagine the observations coming after "reverential to a fault…hewing so closely to Tolkien's slender text" to be supported rather than contradicted by what follows?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Time to say something nice about The Hobbit: I liked the music.

I received a soundtrack CD before I saw the film and had enjoyed the music before seeing any of the images. Having seen the film a few days later, I voted to nominate the score as part of my local critics' group vote. It got a nod as a Best Score finalist, and I voted for it, although if I could have better remembered Johnny Greenwood's work on The Master, I might've gone with that instead. (I voted for The Master in several categories, but for The Hobbit in just this one.)

What did the rest of you who've seen the film think of the music? I suppose some might think it's a bit much, laid on too thick.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I suspect quite a few of us still have an embargo to deal with... however, the soundtrack has been released online a couple times now (starting four weeks ago -- we linked to it over 80 posts ago! -- and most recently here), so it's as public as it can be, and therefore fair game, I'd assume.

And to be honest, while I devoured the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack repeatedly before I saw that film, I haven't had much luck finding time to listen to the Hobbit score without losing the internet connection or whatever. My *sense* of it, though, is that it was basically "more of the same", though I do like the dwarfs' song and the use of that new motif when it pops up.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It just occurred to me that if Beorn appeared in this film, we'd have more than one human/bear transformations to enjoy at the movies in 2012.

But no... his part of the story comes in the next installment.

The New Yorker's Jon Michaud proposes that The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Overstreet said:

:The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I've wondered the same thing over the years.

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There might be a case to be made there, but Michaud doesn't make it. His arguments are crude and silly, and he doesn't seem to understand The Lord of the Rings at all. Particularly frustrating is the way he repeats the totally groundless canard that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory of World War Two, which I thought had been left in the 50s where it belonged.

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Hm I'd read the thing about allegory of WW2 recently. Mighta been on Wikipedia or some other site, but it seemed to be saying that Tolkien himself had said something to that effect.

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Hm I'd read the thing about allegory of WW2 recently. Mighta been on Wikipedia or some other site, but it seemed to be saying that Tolkien himself had said something to that effect.

Quite the opposite, actually. Tolkien is on record as hating allegory, and made a good deal of the difference between "allegory" and "applicability"--that is, you could apply the War of the Ring to WWII, but you shouldn't seek a one-to-one correlation.

That said, I kind of doubt Lord of the Rings would exist without WWII. I think one can say that without immediately leaping to straight-up allegory. But it also wouldn't exist without WWI and Tolkien's experiences then.

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What Tolkien said on the subject (in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings) was:

As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and grew out unexpected brances; but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, 'The Shadow of the Past', is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.

The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.

...

An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous...

It goes on a bit longer (Tokien was no epigrammarian), but you get the point.

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Overstreet said:

:The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I've wondered the same thing over the years.

There might be a case to be made there, but Michaud doesn't make it. His arguments are crude and silly, and he doesn't seem to understand The Lord of the Rings at all. Particularly frustrating is the way he repeats the totally groundless canard that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory of World War Two, which I thought had been left in the 50s where it belonged.

There's a case to be made, but it's really a partial truth.

The Hobbit is neater, less flawed, more perfect than The Lord of the Rings. It's a fantastic book, truly.

But Rings is grander, more glorious, more beautiful, more heartbreaking. As Tolkien pointed out, The Hobbit is an adventure, undertaken voluntarily for personal gain. Rings is a quest, undertaken out of duty for the sake of a greater good, at great personal cost.

Bilbo, Thorin, Hobbit-Gandalf and a number of other characters in The Hobbit are charming characters; but there is nothing in The Hobbit comparable to the friendship of Frodo and Sam, the devotion of Gimli to Galadriel, or the strange friendship of Gimli and Legolas.

Gollum is a wonderful curiosity in The Hobbit, but becomes a complex, tragic figure of pathos and grandeur in Rings. Gimli is worth all of his father's companions as a character.

The temptation and redemption of Boromir; The stubbornness of Gimli at Lothlorien; the reluctance of Aragorn to leave his sword outside Theoden's hall; Sam defiantly dressing down Faramir before his amused men; a hundred other moments I could name: there is a fineness and acuteness of characterization here transcending even the best character moments in The Hobbit.

The allure of the Arkenstone is a potent motif, but the Ring is one of the great metaphors of world literature. Smaug is a colorful and formidable character, and in a sense there's obviously more to him than Sauron. But the mechanism of his defeat, seemingly pulled out of nowhere, by the hand of an unknown character, seems a bit anticlimactic, compared to the magisterial climax of the story of the Ring and its lord.

Rings is full of glories and terrors unrivaled by The Hobbit. The fall of Gandalf at Khazad-dûm; his triumphant return; his final confrontation with Saruman. The Nazgûl.

I could go on for literally thousands of words without breaking a sweat.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Yeah, I was trying to find the words for how I feel both stories have merits and it's hard for me to say which one is more meaningful, or better, thanks SDG for finding the words.

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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Overstreet said:

:The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I've wondered the same thing over the years.

There might be a case to be made there, but Michaud doesn't make it. His arguments are crude and silly, and he doesn't seem to understand The Lord of the Rings at all. Particularly frustrating is the way he repeats the totally groundless canard that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory of World War Two, which I thought had been left in the 50s where it belonged.

There's a case to be made, but it's really a partial truth.

The Hobbit is neater, less flawed, more perfect than The Lord of the Rings. It's a fantastic book, truly.

But Rings is grander, more glorious, more beautiful, more heartbreaking. As Tolkien pointed out, The Hobbit is an adventure, undertaken voluntarily for personal gain. Rings is a quest, undertaken out of duty for the sake of a greater good, at great personal cost.

Bilbo, Thorin, Hobbit-Gandalf and a number of other characters in The Hobbit are charming characters; but there is nothing in The Hobbit comparable to the friendship of Frodo and Sam, the devotion of Gimli to Galadriel, or the strange friendship of Gimli and Legolas.

Gollum is a wonderful curiosity in The Hobbit, but becomes a complex, tragic figure of pathos and grandeur in Rings. Gimli is worth all of his father's companions as a character.

The temptation and redemption of Boromir; The stubbornness of Gimli at Lothlorien; the reluctance of Aragorn to leave his sword outside Theoden's hall; Sam defiantly dressing down Faramir before his amused men; a hundred other moments I could name: there is a fineness and acuteness of characterization here transcending even the best character moments in The Hobbit.

The allure of the Arkenstone is a potent motif, but the Ring is one of the great metaphors of world literature. Smaug is a colorful and formidable character, and in a sense there's obviously more to him than Sauron. But the mechanism of his defeat, seemingly pulled out of nowhere, by the hand of an unknown character, seems a bit anticlimactic, compared to the magisterial climax of the story of the Ring and its lord.

Rings is full of glories and terrors unrivaled by The Hobbit. The fall of Gandalf at Khazad-dûm; his triumphant return; his final confrontation with Saruman. The Nazgûl.

I could go on for literally thousands of words without breaking a sweat.

This all makes good sense. I'm thinking that the bottom line is that the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are basically different animals, although maybe in the same general family.

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Tolkien is on record as hating allegory, and made a good deal of the difference between "allegory" and "applicability"--that is, you could apply the War of the Ring to WWII, but you shouldn't seek a one-to-one correlation.

He did say he hated allegory, but then again my favorite Tolkien work of all is "Leaf by Niggle," which is nothing if not allegory. So his practice didn't match his preach, as they say.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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Leaf by Niggle is fun. I understand the idea of hating allegory in storytelling in the sense of viewing the story as "this always directly means this and that always direcly means that and there can be no other way of interpreting it", but I don't quite understand the idea of throwing out allegory from storytelling altogether. Some great story's have allegory within their structure, even if its not *always* used within said story.

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Overstreet said:

:The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I've wondered the same thing over the years.

There might be a case to be made there, but Michaud doesn't make it. His arguments are crude and silly, and he doesn't seem to understand The Lord of the Rings at all. Particularly frustrating is the way he repeats the totally groundless canard that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory of World War Two, which I thought had been left in the 50s where it belonged.

There's a case to be made, but it's really a partial truth.

The Hobbit is neater, less flawed, more perfect than The Lord of the Rings. It's a fantastic book, truly.

But Rings is grander, more glorious, more beautiful, more heartbreaking. As Tolkien pointed out, The Hobbit is an adventure, undertaken voluntarily for personal gain. Rings is a quest, undertaken out of duty for the sake of a greater good, at great personal cost.

Bilbo, Thorin, Hobbit-Gandalf and a number of other characters in The Hobbit are charming characters; but there is nothing in The Hobbit comparable to the friendship of Frodo and Sam, the devotion of Gimli to Galadriel, or the strange friendship of Gimli and Legolas.

Gollum is a wonderful curiosity in The Hobbit, but becomes a complex, tragic figure of pathos and grandeur in Rings. Gimli is worth all of his father's companions as a character.

The temptation and redemption of Boromir; The stubbornness of Gimli at Lothlorien; the reluctance of Aragorn to leave his sword outside Theoden's hall; Sam defiantly dressing down Faramir before his amused men; a hundred other moments I could name: there is a fineness and acuteness of characterization here transcending even the best character moments in The Hobbit.

The allure of the Arkenstone is a potent motif, but the Ring is one of the great metaphors of world literature. Smaug is a colorful and formidable character, and in a sense there's obviously more to him than Sauron. But the mechanism of his defeat, seemingly pulled out of nowhere, by the hand of an unknown character, seems a bit anticlimactic, compared to the magisterial climax of the story of the Ring and its lord.

Rings is full of glories and terrors unrivaled by The Hobbit. The fall of Gandalf at Khazad-dûm; his triumphant return; his final confrontation with Saruman. The Nazgûl.

I could go on for literally thousands of words without breaking a sweat.

Thanks for this SDG. I'm currently re-reading THE HOBBIT this week and it really is a charming and truly enjoyable book, but you really nailed it. Of course, I think there is also something to be said about the way that THE LORD OF THE RINGS taps more fully into the legendarium of THE SILMARILLION as well. THE HOBBIT is wonderful, but by being written when it was, Tolkien wasn't quite sure what he had on his hands yet, hence his later emendations to "Riddles in the Dark".

One other thing I'm struck by in THE HOBBIT is the elliptical nature of much of the narration. The characters are described as spending hours talking, or the text quickly rushes over other passages of time in paragraphs. This is part of what makes it such a good story to share with children. I cannot wait to share it with my son when he is a bit older. Also, the narrators voice is quite prominent. He constantly alludes to his readers as existing in something like 20th century Britain and also foreshadows bits like the Battle of the Five Armies, etc.

It makes me think that any kind of adaptation of this into film is going to have to take liberties, and there IS plenty of room--particularly in the story of Gandalf and the Necromancer--for expansion etc. Whether Jackson's films are less true to the "spirit" or "themes" of Tolkien, as Jeff alluded to in his piece on the Rankin/Bass HOBBIT film, is an argument that still remains to be made (and perhaps is true), but whether any ellaboration represents a "betrayal" is something that I don't think is warranted with this particular book. Jackson seems to be true at least to the spirit of Tolkien's revisions to "Riddles in the Dark' in making THE HOBBIT a part of the larger whole. Whether that sacrifices THE HOBBIT's strengths as a whimsical and propulsive adventure story remains to be seen (for me at least--I won't see it it until this weekend here in Thailand where we're spending our December). But I can at least understand Jackson and Walsh's drive.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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That's awesome.

Interesting how Kili and Fili are the only dwarf name-set on the same major limb of the tree (the non-grey-beard limb). Bifur and Bofur, Dwalin and Balin, Oin and Gloin -- they're all on opposite limbs.

As for Dori, Nori and Ori, since there are three of them they can't all be on separate branches, but Nori and Ori are on one and Dori is on the other.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Robbie Collins at The Telegraph:

The Hobbit barely leaves the driveway. It lasts for 11 minutes short of three hours, and takes us to the end of chapter six in Tolkien's original novel, which falls on page 130 of the official movie tie-in edition. That's half an hour per chapter, or one minute and 20 seconds per page. The work of the sombre Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr, whose grinding tale of apocalyptic poverty The Turin Horse ran to a mere 155 minutes, feels nippy by comparison.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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One thing the two films might have in common: taters.

Though now that I think about it, I can't recall if there was any tater-eating in The Hobbit. There was, of course, a bit of tater-eating in The Lord of the Rings that went viral:

Great. Now I want to see someone remix footage of The Turin Horse with that song.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Ooooh, oooh, embargo lifted at 12:01 making it Thursday. I get to be firsties:

Review here: http://1morefilmblog.com/wordpress/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-jackson-2012/

Podcast here: http://www.filmgeekradio.com/2012/12/the-thin-place-27-the-hobbit-a-not-so-unexpected-travesty/

SHOW NOTES:

0:00 – Intro; “certain technical aspects of the film…”

12:45 – “Do you even know what this story is about…?”

22:00 – “It felt dumbed-down to me.”

26:02 – “The Hobbit is not a prequel.”

30:00 – Speaking of Gollum….

33:30 – The change we hated the most.

40:30 – Surfaces vs. Deep Roots.

45:00 – Growing vs. Changing

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