The Hobbit, There and Back Again… Eventually

Posted on March 19, 2013

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This blog should really be titled “The Hobbit Who Sank the Titanic” because I really credit this debacle for sabotaging my blogging momentum. This has been sitting in my “Drafts” folder in various iterations for quite literally months. I was doing a 3 parter Countdown to the Hobbit theatrical release, if you’ll recall, the week prior to the movie and the conclusion was scheduled to go down opening day before I watched the movie, with a subsequent review later.

A delightfully geeky trek through movie history and Legos… what could possibly go wrong?

A few things. First off, I didn’t quite get the blog written before I saw the movie. And I kinda messed up by completing my largest build at the midway point. I had a lot of smaller builds to show off, but after the 1625 piece behemoth that was Lego Helm’s Deep, it felt very anti-climatic. It was too late to dream up a custom build. I mean, a free style Great Eye would be pretty sweet right? Maybe a Lego map of Middle Earth?

But the biggest issue? The movie totally sucked. I mean, maybe by regular movie standards, it was okay, but … ugh. I was not happy. If it’s possible to feel only mildly violated, then I totally felt that way. I was actively avoiding writing the grand finale of my series because I had nothing to offer but a pretty negative review and some lackluster Lego builds. (I take what I bring to the table very seriously, if you hadn’t noticed.) The problem was: I couldn’t write anything else until I could check off this checkbox. While other, more pressing and personal blogs have been percolating in this brain of mine, they just simply were not going to be addressed until I mentally marched the happy little Hobbit in my brain, so to speak, to his final destination.

Given that today just happens to be the release of the home movie offerings, it’s time to put this to bed and check this one off my list, even if nobody really cares anymore. I know, this is old news. (Humor me, please.)

Let me tell you, as someone who wears the title of “geek” proudly, I just didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong with the film. I mean, Tolkien is a geek staple; his work is nothing short of a legacy. He is one of the founding fathers and progenitors of everything superficial that I sink my time into. And furthermore, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is generally considered one of the most successful and powerful movie trilogies ever made, among the geek culture elite and even the “normies”.

So how on Earth could The Hobbit be less than amazing?!

hobbit

That is a question I genuinely want an answer to. We had a lot of the same ingredients as the LotR triology, after all, including Peter Jackson and his super friends. After having a few days to process what just happened, I have a few concrete thoughts on why this movie bothered me.

1.) Radagast

Disclaimer: I have not read the book in its entirety in at least a decade. That is, I am in the process of re-reading it now because I am trying to find something that will justify what I sat through for 3 hours.

That said, when Radagast appeared for the first time, I felt… embarassed. Dismayed? I mean, the man had a bird’s nest in his hair and bird sh** covering the side of his head. He sort of had a an oddity about him and was ever so doting on small animals, in an almost creepy sort of way. Frankly, he seemed like he was insane, and not in a fun way like the Irish guy in Braveheart.

David O'Hara should have played Radagast

David O’Hara should have played Radagast

And then… he has a bunny propelled sleigh. Now, I do recall that this is actually straight from the book, but the cringe factor was no less real, and I would be, by all rights, someone more forgiving of such things. I don’t know that even David O’Hara could pull off riding such a vehicle without coming off as ridiculous and silly; it just didn’t work in the film.

2.) Thorin’s 13

I’ll give you that it is difficult to pull off an ensemble cast of 15 characters (most of them dwarves), though the Ocean’s movies managed to do large ensemble and make it work to an extent. I don’t think the dwarves themselves were a problem; the problem was that The Hobbit broke one of the rules from it’s preceeding trilogy: skip the overly silly bits and NO SINGING. By and large, with a few small exceptions, Lord of the Rings (the movie) cut out the endless songs from the text and avoided sillier characters like Tom Bombadil. Early in The Hobbit (the film), there is not just one song (the first alone, the dwarves singing of the Erebor and the flight from the Misty Mountan, would have been fine) but two. The second song, “That’s What Bilbo Hates” is a painfully silly tune, made worse by juggling the dishes about like circus clowns, and it sets the wrong precedent of the majority of the dwarves being little more than sight gags. Their efforts to evoke the same charm and humor of LotR fails pretty miserably, as the dwarves are often reduced to campy slapstick, practically begging for laughs that just don’t come.

Most of these guys... not funny.

Most of these guys… not funny.

Thorin Oakenshield, the head of the dwarves and rightful king of Erebor, works fine as a stoic, hardened warrior type, but frankly… he’s kind of an ass. He hates the elves, hates other dwarves, doesn’t like the hobbit; he’s so grim that he’s the dwarven version of Tard, the grumpy cat, and as a viewer, it’s like eating sandpaper after a while. Granted, they are setting up for the Battle of the Five Armies (likely in the 3rd film), but they do little to break some of the tension at Rivendell in the film between the dwarves and the elves like they do in the book.

3.) With special guest star…

The cameos were excessive. The presence of elder Bilbo (who looked absolutely awful, by the way) made sense to establish that this was a prequel. Gandalf and Elrond were reprised by their original actors, as they should have been, as those characters were in the book. I already knew Galadriel was in the trilogy somewhere, but I didn’t expect her to be at the first visit to Rivendell. A bit pointless, but it was nice to see her and Gandalf interact since they never really do in the first movie trilogy. Saruman and Frodo were pushing it. By this point, we have gone beyond establishing the chronology of events to beating the idea over our heads, just in case we didn’t get it. Christopher Lee in particular had some absolutely horrible dialogue that felt contrived and pointless.

Would the White Wizard, prior to his corruption via Palantir use, be so quick to dismiss a threat to Middle Earth? I think not. I think I checked my watch twice during this scene, as I really just wanted them to get on with it.

4.) The George Lucas philosophy

Something George Lucas never seemed to understand is that the large majority of us preferred Muppet Yoda to CG Yoda. Something tangible, even if only an obviously rubber suit of lard (Jabba the Hutt), just feels better on screen than an abundance of CG. I recall an interview where he basically stated that he felt quite the opposite.

That seems to be the road Peter Jackson has taken. Lord of the Rings had actors dressed as orcs and all other foul denizens of Middle Earth, with a few CG creatures (and the larger scale battles, of course) to fill in the gaps. The Hobbit, on the other hand, felt like one CG encounter blended into another. There was no feeling of immersion here; it may as well have been a video game cutscene. The danger never really felt real because it was all so over the top, only movie logic could explain their way to safety. The dwarves, who all sort of blend together on screen, except for Fili (as his only distinction was the group’s archer), alternately rampage and bumble their way through one scene to the next as if on queue.

So… there you go. An exercise in irrelevance at this point, but I’m glad to just be done with it. Yes, there were parts that were well done, but I counter any and every argument with: bird shit. Because, frankly, that is all that matters.

What did you think of the film? Or has there ever been a topic that single handedly deep sixed your blog for any period of time? Leave love and discussions, per usual. I will follow up later with photos from the remaining Lord of the Rings Lego sets and a few of the Hobbit sets, as I don’t have access at the moment, though if you’re following me on Facebook, you’re more likely to see the good stuff.

Until next time, minions… 😉

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