|The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / Warner Bros / 2012|
Before I crack on with my thoughts about the film, apologies on the long delay since my last post. The month of January proved to be a particularly hectic one as far as University work goes and so I've been somewhat forced to neglect my blog. I went to see the film a few weeks after launch - my first attempt to see it at an Odeon was unsuccessful as the unacceptably abysmal seating near the front of the theater led to me leaving and demanding a refund (which, in fairness, was forthcoming). Fortunately I was luckier the second time round as my girlfriend treated me to a viewing at the 'Giant Screen' in Birmingham's Millennium Point. This cinema really highlights how shambolic the Odeon franchise is (for more Odeon hated see my piece - An expose of Odeon cinema). For a cheaper rate than a standard Odeon ticket you get a state-of-the-art iMax screen, premium seats as standard as opposed to the shoddy upgrades offered by Odeon and free use of their 3d glasses when necessary. This film was never going to fail to entertain me. Since that fateful day my dad returned from work with a shoddy pirate of 'LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring' (Warner Bros / 2001) and my brother and I - who were to that point entirely ignorant of Tolkien's elaborate universe - slapped on the movie, I have been enthralled by Peter Jackson's interpretation of the trilogy. Interestingly, since the conclusion of the original trilogy I have been entirely unimpressed by Jackson's directorial output. 'King Kong'?! 'The Lovely Bones'?! 'Tin-Tin'?! Actually to be fair Tin-Tin was pretty good. Oh, he just produced it - sorry Pete! Anyway, continuing this decline since LOTR, 'The Hobbit' falls very much into the Star Wars bracket of prequels - greatly diminished in quality from the original trilogies. I had a few notable issues with the film.
As soon as I heard Martin Freeman was in the lead as Bilbo Baggins I was apprehensive to say the least. Ever after his portrayal of Tim in 'The Office' I have found his portrayals outstandingly bland and I feel like he lacks Bilbo's inexplicable charm. Yes, you could argue that Bilbo himself is quite dull - pre-absconding from the Shire at any rate. However, does Freeman have the exuberance to be Bilbo following his transformation into the Goblin-Slaying, Sting-wielding super-thief we see at the story's close - no, not at all. For me, Freeman is a television actor and should, unlike Bilbo, remain in his allocated territory.
I found Jackson's attempts to demonstrate the whimsy of the original novel quite irritating at times. For example, the Goblin King character was completely lacking in any menace, instead there to induce a plethora of slapstick jokes. The laughable nature of this high-ranking antagonist is highly inconsistent with the deep malevolence of the bad guy's from LOTR. I understand that Jackson wants to show how 'The Hobbit' was written for a younger readership than LOTR. However, in doing this he is alienating the people who originally fell in love with LOTR back in the early noughties for its being a relatively adult depiction of a fantastical realm. Here there is very little sense of threat - the stakes aren't very high as it seems as though all the character's are nigh on immortal when facing off against such limited foes.
It was also quite difficult to actually empathise with the central quest of the party of adventures. There is a strong sense that rather than being motivated by reclaiming their ancestral homeland or even just primitive revenge on the dragon, the dwarves are concerned solely by that capitalist sickness to take back their lost riches no matter the cost in blood. Did the dwarves themselves earn this fortune? No, they inherited it. What will they do with it? Keep it in their overflowing vault until the day they die. The gold and jewels serve no purpose, they are an end as opposed to a means - the root virus of the capitalist sickness. Andrew Carnegie once said that 'A man who dies rich is disgraced’. I have always been particularly moved by this sentiment. The dwarves do not wish to build schools with their fortune as Carnegie did - the greedy bastards just want it to pile up and gather dust. The way they treat Bilbo is equally unbecoming, bursting unannounced into his pristine home, eating bare his stocked-up larder and generally acting in a churlish and disagreeable manner.
What did I like about this film? The visuals are as breathtaking as ever and Jackson clearly still has an eye for fine-detail on set. The action could at times be very enjoyable, particularly Bilbo's run in with the spectacularly unnerving Golum. Am I excited about future installments? My nostalgia infused love of the franchise means I'll inevitably end up going to the other Hobbit movies once they are released. However, I don't expect much. I feel like they could've quite easily adapted 'The Hobbit' to be a single 150m film, however Warner Bros are clearly all too aware of people like myself who will fork over their money regardless (or in my case, have their girlfriend fork over money). Despite this, it still satisfied my craving to step back once again into Middle-Earth.
Found it 3-hours of complete boredam or loved it more than LOTR?! Let me know what you thought in a comment!