I realized last night after I went to bed that I haven’t actually reviewed The Hobbit movie yet, and this is heinous since I saw it just after it came out. So, thoughts! But first, background: I would consider myself a moderate to serious Tolkien nerd. When I was in middle school and high school I basically was reading one Tolkien book or another continuously. MULTIPLE re-reads of LotR, plus the Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales, The Unfinished Tales, etc. I didn’t teach myself Elvish, but I got pretty good at the script for awhile and made friends illuminations of their names in Elvish. (Don’t remember now if it was Quenya or Sindarin.) I think the LotR movies are generally quite good adaptations, with some major exceptions, ie TTT Faramir or the Abomination of Which We Will Not Speak Lest My Blood Pressure Skyrockets. I seriously appreciate the depth of knowledge which P. Jackson brought to bear on the films and so much of it was visually gorgeous and fitting with my vision of Middle-earth. I started crying at the beginning of FotR because I had been so worried about how they would do it and it was right
At this point I have only seen The Hobbit once, though I would like to go again. What’s important to remember is that movie-Hobbit is not book-Hobbit, far more than movie-LotR is not book-LotR. Which is fine, because honestly book-Hobbit is pretty thin as a story. It has the problem of fairy tales in the sense that things aren’t always explained or linked together. Moreover, because Tolkien had not yet fully connected The Hobbit to the world he had begun creating in The Silmarillion, some of the worldbuilding sits awkwardly with the rest of Middle-earth. Jackson has combated this issue by bringing in material from the Appendices* as well as from the Silmarillion. In some ways, I think these movies will be as close as we ever get to a film of The Silmarillion, which is hopelessly unfilmable. Which is to say, though movie-Hobbit is not book-Hobbit, the extra material is 95% Tolkien. I, for one, was not at all bothered by the additions and changes which help to fill out both the world (getting to see the White Council, yay! Except Saruman was clearly already evil which he shouldn’t be at this point, and that was annoying. Also Radagast is not right–too flighty and nervous when he should be earthier) and the motivations for the characters (why are the Dwarves so set on getting back the Lonely Mountain anyway?).
The other thing that this version of the story does is link itself explicitly to LotR. In that sense, what Jackson is doing is quite different from what Tolkien did because of the switched timeline for the creation of the movies. That is, for Tolkien, LotR was a sequel to the Hobbit whereas for Jackson The Hobbit is a sequel to LotR. I actually liked that–liked that Jackson took the time to set up the link with LotR, as well as including a number of small jokes for fans of the movies to catch (ie Gandalf bumping his head on the same chandelier in Bag End).
One of the things I was worried about with The Hobbit was the fact that throughout LotR Gimli was really just played for laughs. It was one of my minor but persistent issues with the movies and I was worried about the fact that PJ now had 12 Dwarves to make into buffoons. And sure most of them are kind of ridiculous. But Balin (son of Fundin, Lord of Moria, which I could not stop thinking about during the movie), Dwalin, and Thorin were written to show more of the nobility** of the Dwarves. They have a real gravitas to them that carries the heart of the movie. (Also, RICHARD ARMITAGE IS AMAZING AS THORIN. And now I am a hipster RA fangirl, thanks to North & South.) I really, really liked the fact that they all had Northern accents–Scottish, Yorkshire, etc. It helped to give the sense that they shared a common culture, even though they were from different clans.
The cast is just generally amazing. Martin Freeman was absolutely born to play Bilbo and as I said, Richard Armitage, eeee. Lee Pace as Thranduil was just weird, also the moose. Elk. Elf-moose. Whatever. But Martin Freeman!
And the moment when the Dwarves start singing the Song of the Lonely Mountain–chills up my spine. It may be worth going to see The Hobbit in theatres, SIMPLY for that one song. Because it is incredible.
HOWEVER, despite all of the things that I liked, there were a few significant issues. First of all, the battle scenes were ridiculous and boring. They could have each been cut by 5 minutes. Also, Jackson messes with the troll scene and I am just NOT OKAY WITH THAT. The troll scene is so key to not only The Hobbit, but LotR and he CHANGES IT AND IT IS NOT COOL. JUST NO.
This one is harder to quantify, but…I didn’t cry. I got all fangirl squeey when Ian Holm said the first line of the Hobbit and if I had been less exhausted when I watched the movie, I might have had a more emotional reaction to it. But–compared with LotR, where I cried multiple times per movie, the movie was did not have the same impact. Jackson does obviously does not need more Oscars and I’m fuzzy as to whether the movie was even eligible for this year. But I would also say that I’m not surprised if it’s not even nominated for anything. It’s not–engrossing? affecting? ground breaking?–like Lord of the Rings was and I think everyone knows it.
But Martin Freeman is wonderful.
(This is kind of a side note, but I think it’s interesting that responses to the movie 1) vary so widely and 2) don’t seem to fall down the lines of Tolkien nerd/not nerd. I know some people who really really like Tolkien who HAAATE the movie and think it guts everything that was good about the book. And then there are the people, more like me, who have some things they would like to change, but all in all think it was a promising beginning. I do not have a theory about this–it’s just something I’ve noticed.)
* The Appendices to Lord of the Rings, for those who are not as hopelessly nerdy
** Oh, FINE.THEIR MAJESTY; (language warning there).