Thursday, December 13, 2012

First Impressions -- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I just got home from a showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (as I'm writing this, not as you're reading it) -- and I'm going to write down some thoughts in no particular order that popped into my head during the high-frame-rate, 3D preview screening of this anticipated movie.
Full disclosure -- this was a VIP prescreening with free booze -- which is why I'm at home with a buzz hating Elijah Wood writing this while you're probably standing in line to hate Elijah Wood at the midnight opening. Spoilers ahead!

1. I was really looking forward to Elijah Wood not being in this movie. It was nice to see Ian Holm in freaky shiny young make-up, but if I had heard "My dearest Frodo..." one more time in voiceover, I would have expected Frodo sick in bed playing NES baseball and a whine of "Is this the kissing part?" to interrupt the middle of the movie. A little too much frame for me, and even those five minutes of Elijah were enough to turn my stomach. At least he didn't giggle.
Yes, I know I'm an angry drunk, but I dislike Elijah Wood even when I'm sober.

2. It was worth seeing because Ian McKellan as Gandalf is always worth seeing, even when the script is a little watered down, which I think this one was. Stretching one book into three movies is a feat, and it really showed -- particularly with the "It's not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid" ending on the peak when the giant eagles saved the day (again, though story-chronologically first). I'm sorry, but I just won't ever buy cheering for someone else's touching moment when you just got battered all to hell eighteen times in a row like those dwarves just had. In that moment, wouldn't you rather lay there being insanely grateful you're still alive than give one fleeting lick than a halfling saved the day?

3. Cate Blanchett stole the show again. She's so amazingly beautiful and eerie and must actually be half-elf.

4. The stone giants were SO COOL. Thranduil's stag was badass. Mr. Anderson Elrond was charming as ever. Radagast was strange and perfect. Also: Bret! There should have been more Bret McKenzie as Lindir.

5. I don't know if it was the HFR, the 3D, or the three neat whiskeys -- but a lot of the movie looked choppy when that's exactly what it shouldn't have looked like. Some of it looked AMAZING, like Rivendell and Galadriel and the Shire, but a lot of the action looked like a video game. And, like, not a new game; like, Shadow of the Colossus -- which is a great game -- but graphically outdated. This is not a bad thing because it's going to make an AWESOME GAME, especially the goblin city level.

6. Gollum is one of the saddest, most complex characters ever portrayed -- but the moment of Bilbo's pity was not as powerful as I would have liked it to have been. Bilbo was good, likable, but he lacked depth and internal conflict. I will probably change my mind about this as I see the film over and over again and detect his nuances, like I did with Aragorn, but I'm left unsatisfied at the moment.

7. Did we really need all those dwarves? It may have been worth it to cut a few out during the adaptation so that viewing audiences could get to know at least a couple of them. Happy, Grumpy, and Gluttonous would have been better than Thing 1, Thing 2, and Bad Who-Hairdo. And Thing 3, Thing 4, and Other Bad Who-Hairdo.

So what's my conclusion? Ehhh, it was ok. It felt a little bit like seeing Episode I -- obviously geared more toward kids, less of a story and more of a pageant of days gone by. Surely a massive accomplishment and a lovely entertaining film, but I won't cherish it so dearly as the other Lord of the Rings films. I blame Elijah Wood.