There’s a scene (relatively) early in The Hobbit that involves a hedgehog named Sebastian. And that scene was where I lost all hope that maybe the film *wouldn’t* be a bloated, indulgent slog. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s crucial foreshadowing & Sebastian has a key role to play in, like, hour seventeen, but I am not sure I’ll be sticking around to see it.
I had been, like every other fankid, super excited about this movie. More Middle Earth! Hooray! I was even down with two movies. Why not. Everything these days has been broken into two movies whether it needs it or not. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows started it, and in some ways was very Tolkien-esque in that half of that book was just people walking around & camping. So, fine. I can dig it.
But then, after principal filming had long ended, came the announcement — just kidding! It’ll be three movies! Which, I’m sorry, but no. You’ve written an adaptation of a single children’s story. You split it into two films, theoretically with appropriate emotional arcs & character development & plot. And then, in the editing room, instead of taking out things that don’t serve those arcs & that story, you throw in everything and the kitchen sink & bam! Three movies.
At which point I started to worry. But the trailer was beautiful, and, like I said, I’m a fankid, so I was trying to withhold judgment. I was even letting the whole 48fps thing slide, even though that much conversation about the format rather than the story made me nervous.
There’s a lot of exciting film out right now, and to be honest, in the last few weeks, seeing The Hobbit started to feel like an obligation. But we got a group together, we laid in provisions, and we went. And then there was Sebastian the hedgehog. And then I gave up. It’s telling that when the movie ended, my viewing party immediately started listing complaints.
But first, in the interest of being positive, here’s what I liked:
* Martin Freeman is perfection as Bilbo. He’s fantastically Tookish, and brings much more to the character than he was given in the script. Also, I really want his patchwork robe. Make it so.
* It’s beautiful. I saw it in 2D digital. I’m not particularly interested in the 48fps. As it is, a lot of digital is too sharp for me, and that’s still in 24fps.
* The second song the dwarves sing is killer. It gave me false hope.
…that’s about it. On the other hand, there are all of these issues:
* Did we really need a twenty minute framing device? Is Elijah Wood that hard up for work? (It might not have been that long. But it felt like it had been a shockingly long time before the “Unexpected Journey” title card appeared.)
* I can’t tell the dwarves apart. I mean, they all look different, & obviously Thorin delivers (except when he’s talking about how much he hates Bilbo, wtf man). Also, there’s the one who was a vampire in Being Human, so I can pick him out, as well as the ginger one who I think was his boyfriend.
But still, of thirteen central characters I can confidently name only one. Most of them, I would not notice if they died. Maybe the round dwarf, because then they would stop making fat jokes, but that’s about it. And it’s not like there wasn’t time. The movie is practically three hours long. There are flashbacks & inclusions of extra characters & tales that don’t drive this arc. This is a story about people trying to get their home back! That is compelling, emotional business! Too bad none of that made it into the movie.
* There’s no banter, there’s no memorable dialogue, there’s no real tension because we know there are another six hours or so worth of movie coming, so no one will die yet, & it’s not like we know anything about them as individuals anyway.
* There are whole scenes that could have been removed without having any effect on the story.
* What is up with putting Galadriel on a lazy susan? Does she slowly rotate all the time, or is it just when she visits Rivendell?
* Not enough Lee Pace.
* This is a Tolkien thing but seriously. The fuckin’ eagles. Every time they show up you think: this thing could have been over hours ago, if they’d just give everyone a lift.
* And finally, IT’S SO DAMN LONG. I thought we were at the final battle scene, and there were at least two more after that. And it’s impossible to sit there and not think about the fact that there are two more movies. Ugh.
It’s been probably ten years since I read the book, and since I have a terrible memory I only remember four things that happen:
1) The beginning, when the dwarves invade Bilbo’s house.
2) The bit with the trolls.
3) Bilbo & Gollum’s game of riddles.
4) Getting to the Lonely Mountain & Dealing With Smaug.
This movie includes the first three, so I guess I’m going to have to go back & reread the book so I can figure out what the next six hours will contain. And at this juncture, I’m not sure that I really care to sit through it.
I’d really like to see Peter Jackson have to go back & work with no budget again. This is a movie by a guy who has too many damn toys. This movie is not about the story. It’s all about racking up jobs for Weta, and while their work is gorgeous, this is a film where the story is in service to the technology. It should be the other way round. Obviously.
I look forward to the day when the whole three or four or seventeen parts have been released, & someone cuts it down to maybe two or two and a half hours. I expect it will be mostly Martin being fantastic, and Gandalf counting everybody like a schoolteacher on a field trip.
And it’ll be beautiful.