Greetings my dear fellow! It has been an age since we have been on an adventure together! Now I should warn you now, there may be some talk in the form of *Spoilers* in this prosaic discussion of the new Hobbit film. Though how you can really spoil a film based on a book published in the 1930’s is another discussion all together!
I should also point out, before I start, that I did actually enjoy the film. It was in all a well produced film that was pretty epic. There were just a few decisions in the process that I didn’t understand. I will be going back to see it again, and see if I fall in love with it like I did the Fellowship, but at the moment I’m not 100% convinced.
The first thing I don’t understand is how some of the people I know can be so sycophantic about it. Yes it’s a great film, I really liked it, but it’s not perfect. I’m probably going to get lynched by a few people for saying this, but they could have done better. The Hobbit was the first book I read as a child and I adore it, I was a little disappointed with a few things they did that changed the feel of it for me. It okay to like something without going all out to ignore some glaring mistakes and bad decisions. You don’t need to tell me how awesome it is, I know; it’s incredible that this film has even been made, it’s something I’ve waited for for years. But I don’t want to just blindly use superlatives to talk about it, let’s discuss it. Sometimes it seems that just because it’s Tolkien, Peter Jackson, Games Workshop, ADB, etc. (I could co on) that it has to be awesome, there is simply no room for alternative.
(Here be spoilers!)
One of the main things that frustrated me a little bit was the opening. Sufficed to say I think I was fairly underwhelmed by the whole beginning portion of the film and was starting to get worried. (It’s okay the rest more than made up for it!) In the Lord of the Rings, we open with a perfectly epic narration to the history of Middle-Earth explaining why Sauron was bad and what had happened, while still leaving enough room for the imagination. All voiced by Cate Blanchett who has a perfectly suited, haunting voice. In “The Hobbit” they tried the same thing again, this time showing what happened to Erebor and basically giving up all the information about what the company were going to go and do, save Erebor! In the book, you are placed in Bilbo Baggins’ point of view, having no idea why these Dwarves were turning up on your doorstep, but enjoying the confused ride as more slithers of information popped out. In the film, you are then left with all the dialogue of this part of the book chucked all together which actually detracts from the epicness of the opening sequence. It also leaves Bilbo as a bit of a supporting character, stood in the background, rather then the lead which he later becomes. It would have been far better to have choice flashbacks like in the book, revealing secrets and depth as we go. (Now I know that you have to change bits in books for screenplays, but this is one time where the original would have actually been better for a more engrossing film!) This is also done as a rather obvious nod to The Lord of The Rings, as Bilbo is recounting the story to Frodo (set just before his birthday party), which leads me to my next point.
Why tie in the films so blatantly to the Lord of The Rings films, then change bits of filming which make those films now seem ‘wrong’? For example, in the Lord of the Rings, there is a flash back to when Bilbo finds the ring. In that film he is crawling in the dirt and discovers the ring, dusts it off and says ‘What’s this? a ring!’. In the Hobbit, the ring falls out of Gollum’s pocket, lands perfectly on a stone. Shortly later Bilbo walks past, picks it up and quietly puts it in his pocket without a thought. It just seems like an odd thing to chance, now the continuity of four films is called in to question. There are a few other examples like this that I don’t need to go in to, such as the mountain trolls being turned to stone in completely different poses to how Frodo and the Fellowship find them in LOTR.
The main thing that bugged me was that Gandalf did not give Bilbo a shove out of the door! He even mentions that he did in the Fellowship of the Ring! Why was there need to change that?! It has such a small effect on the overall story, but is such a quaint part of Tolkien’s mythology. A shame…
Though it must be said, apart from these things, the casting was brilliant. Martin Freeman plays a perfect Bilbo Baggins and I can’t think of anyone better suited to the role. The Dwarves were all perfectly cast, Thorin dark and brooding and the rest giving the needed comic relief. Howard Shore also produces another great soundtrack, that I am currently sat listening to while I write this.
One final criticism that I must voice is this. 48fps must be avoided at all costs! It seems these days that film directors are constantly seeking the next gimmick rather than focussing on great story telling. 3D has taken over, and it can be used quite well in parts, but 48fps is simply awful and must be stopped. The main problem is that it makes everything look like a documentary (which is in fact where Peter Jackson saw the technology being used and decided to use it for the Hobbit). It completely ruins the cinematic experience and gives too much away. Rather than being sucked in to the screen with previous formats and being immersed in the story, you are instead left feeling like you are watching behind the scenes footage. It also gives far too much away. Okay, the wide angle scenery shots are fantastic. But once example of this technology failing the film is the fight of the giants. When there are wide angle shots of the giants fighting it is very difficult to see what is actually going on, despite the individual detail being brilliant. Then when it zooms in to the Dwarves stood on a giants leg, you can clearly see the difference from the CGI; the shot now clearly looks like the Dwarves are on a set. Simply put it is too real, cinema isn’t about reality, it’s about escaping it and therefore certain detail needs to be hidden from the eye.
Well that’s my thoughts on the film. As I say, I will be going to see it again (probably a few times to be honest). But I will most definitely be seeing it in 24fps and possibly in 2D as well.
Thanks for reading, and I hope I haven’t ruined the film for anyone!