I saw The Hobbit with my sister and her boyfriend on Saturday. We thought it would be a sold-out show, but we were wrong. Though the theater did eventually fill up nicely, it was damn weird at first. I mean, this is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, the best fantasy films ever (excluding Orlando Bloom as Legolas; p.s. Sorry, Orlando Bloom but you suck.) Anyway, I watched with wary eyes: the trailers made me laugh and then made me sad.
Below are my thoughts (also posted over The Weekly Take.)
The good thing about The Hobbit is that it has moments of awesome; the bad thing is, in a movie two hours and forty-six minutes long, those moments are rare. It is clear, though, that Peter Jackson loves Middle-Earth and had, at least cinematography-wise, a strong desire to return viewers to that lush, realized world. Whether or not Middle-Earth can itself withstand three more three-hour films is another thing.
The Hobbit, as a story, just isn’t as epic as The Lord of the Rings. It is a more mundane, and in a lot of ways, more human story; filling in the tale with multitudes of flashbacks and footnotes of Middle-Earth will not make the telling stronger nor more interesting. Indeed, The Hobbit suffers greatly simply because it just doesn’t get to the point soon enough: forty-five minutes goes by before Bilbo finally finally finally decides to get on this little adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves. It felt like Jackson was reintroducing viewers to a world that was already familiar.
That familiarity is part of the problem, too: to much of the time the heroes’ journey through panoramic scenes of snow-capped mountains and lush forests and grasslands felt too much like Frodo’s journey in LOTR, in look and scope. Again: this should not be a sick-epic film. It is The Hobbit. Treating it as if it had the world-crushing epicness of LOTR robs the film of its tension, and of its smaller-scale heroics (i.e. Bilbo mercifully letting Gollum live.) The nods and winks to the previous films were a little much too.
All that said, The Hobbit isn’t a total waste of time. Martin Freeman as Bilbo captures perfectly the hobbit’s hopefulness and heroics, but it is Andy Serkis as Gollum who steals the show in the eight minutes he has on screen. The riddles scene between Bilbo and Gollum is glorious – both funny and terrible.
The Hobbit isn’t a great film and, as far as prequels go, it relies too much on the same visuals of the LOTR films to feel fresh or to keep the viewer interested for three hours. Its good moments, however, are worth the watch and, though I go into the next two films even more warily, I still go.