Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpectedly Mediocre Movie

Let me state upfront that I read The Hobbit as well as Lord of the Rings (LOTR) when I was young and multiple times after my initial reading. I also just reread The Hobbit a few months ago while waiting for the DVD to come out. I own the extended versions of all three LOTR movies, saw all three movies in the theater (more than once on Fellowship of the Ring) and watch the DVDs fairly regularly. As a fantasy/sci-fi dork with children who love the same genre I should have been the perfect consumer of The Hobbit. I was leery about the movie based on the reviews and the lead up to the film so I actually decided to wait until the DVD came out. It came out yesterday (quite quickly I thought from a release date in mid-December) and our copy came from Amazon on the release date so after dinner we sat down as a family to watch.

Very disappointed. Like couldn’t wait for it to get over disappointed.

I found The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie to be almost 3 hours of frustration. My kids mostly seemed to find it boring. Maybe I shouldn’t have reread the book last month because the movie was only loosely based on it and every time the movie went astray it distracted me. I guess the comparisons were inevitable but they are valid and comparing the two trilogies is like comparing a high school play with a Broadway production.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a bold, risky production that was shot all at once before anyone knew if they would have commercial success and the result was one of the best adaptations of a beloved book that you will ever find. I left the theater after The Fellowship of the Ring bummed that I had to wait a year for The Two Towers. I couldn't wait for the movies to come out each December and bought the DVD sets as soon as I could. I can say that I have not only watched the movies over and over, I have also watched most if not all of the hours of special features.

The Hobbit has the feel of cheap exploitation; hey we made a ton of money on the LOTR movies so let’s see if we can do the same thing with The Hobbit. I was quite concerned this would be the case after all the pre-production squabbling and then when it was announced that one book, The Hobbit, would be divided up into three movies while the much larger and more detailed LOTR trilogy was also done in three movies, I was definitely not excited. In many ways The Hobbit was just like so many other attempts to make a cheap buck by exploiting a beloved book. I enjoy the old cartoon version of The Hobbit more than what I watched last night.

There are so many places where the scenes just dragged on and either were clumsy attempts at linking the Hobbit to LOTR or ridiculous action sequences to spice up events from the book:

The backstory of the fall of the Lonely Mountain. The interminably long intro with Elijah Wood as Frodo. Every single scene involving Radagast was horrible, Radagast being turned into a failed attempt at comedy relief. The inexplicable gathering with Saruman and Galadriel in Rivendell. The random “pale orc” that was supposed to be Azog the Defiler was some of the worst CGI I have seen in a long time. The Great Goblin who looked like something from a kids cartoon rather than a fearsome beast. The escape scene from the clutches of the goblins that went on about ten times longer than necessary and included some just silly, over the top action scenes that were mediocre rehashes of the escape from Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring. The treeing of the dwarves by the goblins that devolved into a cheesy showdown between Thorin and the pale orc. Etc. Etc.

The whole thing was almost palpably painful. The few redeeming parts, like the riddle contest between Bilbo and Gollum, we not nearly enough to make up for the clumsy, drawn out, “cheap thrill” nature of the rest of the movie. The dwarves looked ridiculous, the wargs were a downgrade from LOTR. On and on. I would prefer they start all over with a new film and cast new actors (other than Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Martin Freeman as Bilbo who was decent), better to wait five years for a decent film than to roll out parts 2 and 3 from a movie that was already too long in the first installment.

The next two films are still pending. I am hoping that the production team can fix whatever fiasco happened with the first movie. Perhaps Smaug will be impressive enough to make up for the interminably long first movie. Maybe the final battle will be more than CGI silliness. We will see. I know this for certain, unless the reviews are over the top positive for The Hobbit, Part Deux, we will again wait for the DVD and this time we will rent it from Redbox rather than buying it.

No comments: