The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

Last night I went to see the Hobbit.  I was so excited that I could practically burst – I know, I need to get out more!  Anyway, I will start by saying that I really enjoyed the film.  I had reservations and I’ve been mulling it over.  A lot.  The following is my rambling reflections.

I went to see the film with my husband and we’re both basically going to have to agree to differ on this one.  To be honest he wasn’t keen to see the film because he was unhappy with the book being split first into two and then three parts – thinks it’s exploitation.  Okay, he’s got a point, but at the end of the day film makers are there to make a profit.  So, basically, he went into the film with negative expectations.  I went into the film with quite frankly over zealous, huge, monumental-off-the-chart expectations and there’s the rub – it was never going to quite live up to that standard.  So we came away, with my husband admitting it’s a good film, but with reservations and me thinking it’s a good film also with reservations.

I’m going to try and articulate my feelings on it but it’s probably going to be far from smooth.  I will start by saying I don’t have a problem with the film being split.  The books are two entirely different cups of tea and to make sweeping statements about the length of the Lord of the Rings books with one film for each and the length of The Hobbit with virtually the same is pointless.  The Hobbit was written as a children’s story.  As such it’s filled with silly nonsense and plenty of action.  The Lord of the Rings is written for adults, it’s world building is paramount, it’s scope epic – children would be probably bored within minutes.  But that’s why I think the Hobbit can work over more than one film because there is such a lot going on in the story.  LoTR has loads of detail – people quite often bemoan the fact – but when you translate this into a film, yes, great for the sweeping backgrounds but, not quite as much action per book.  The Hobbit is quite full of different action scenes.  If the same attention to detail had been paid on this book I dare say Tolkien could have made it into three books.  Therefore to give each of these chapters relevance I can see no problem with two films.  The third film I’m puzzled about and am assuming it’s some sort of novel that brings together all sorts of relevant background information to link the books and provide us with six films that when watched together become an epic story?  Don’t know if that’s the case though.  Feel free to enlighten me.

What I did have a little problem with is the pacing.  To be honest, most of the film I think is perfectly pitched.  There’s some background at the beginning which I think is quite relevant and well done and then we move onto the introductory chapters in the Shire.  Personally, this particular part of the film was too long and it felt like it dragged.  I mean, meeting the dwarves is great and seeing them rampage through Bilbo’s home while he hustles and bustles about is brilliant.  But it’s simply too long and you reach a point where you’re thinking, okay, move on now!   There were a couple of other scenes that were a little similar where there’s prolonged shots of people looking meaningfully at each other while you sit there thinking wtf.  Most of the other scenes didn’t feel quite as prolonged but I would suggest that the film could be reduced by about 30/40 minutes – it almost feels like a justification of the fact that the book’s been split.  It’s not necessary.  Two hours is a perfectly reasonable time for a film – particularly when there’s two more films to follow.  Stop apologising and just get on with it.  One of my biggest disappointments in recent films were the final two of the Harry Potter series where the Deathly Hallows was split.  I really just don’t like those two films.  The first is just down right boring and the second is none stop action.  It doesn’t feel right for me and it spoiled the end to a brilliant series of books and film interpretations.  Probably because of the whole start, middle and end, which when split over two films generally leads to a bit of a dull first film.  The Hobbit isn’t like that.  The Shire scene isn’t the best in the world but it pretty quickly moves on.  So, again, I don’t think the film would suffer the same as the HP films did.  I just don’t think the length was necessary and it feels like you’re watching an extended version – which is okay once you love the film and are gagging to see all the extras.

There were two other points that sat a little ill with me.  Firstly, it appears that these films are going to be turned into sweeping epics like the LoTR.  Now, you can call me a purist if you want but the Hobbit is far from a sweeping epic.  It’s a quest, a journey to recover a mountain claimed by a dragon.   The LoTR is an epic because it involves the survival of the whole of middle earth.  Great sweeping battles pitched against menacing foe with a dark ruler who plans to take over the entire world spreading rot and ruin.  It’s not the same is it.  ‘Oh, I want my mountain back and my home’ or ‘mm, lets save the world as we know it’.  The Hobbit just simply isn’t epic.  It’s a great story with a bunch of amusing characters bumbling along trying to stay alive and have a bit of an adventure.

And, that brings me perfectly to my final point, which is that in keeping with the LoTR and in order to please fans of the film, etc, etc, we have a completely different nature of dwarf to that in the book.  Again, I’m not being purist.  I can see the reasoning behind a number of changes within the film which I won’t be so indelicate as to mention here.  But, the dwarves are like bloody warriors.  In The Hobbit they’re, frankly, less than useless and would be quite undone if it wasn’t for Bilbo.  In An Unexpected Journey they’re all like swordsmen and experts with the bow and arrow – too much of a reflection of LoTR I felt and a little bit unnecessary.  Perhaps it was felt we would think all dwarves are like Gimli who was quite capable after all, but the ones in this story are not really battle hardened are they?  I can live with it and see why it’s been taken down that route.  But…Anyway, if you think when The Hobbit was based in relative terms, this is before anybody new they had a problem, right?  So, think of the FoTR – it’s got a lovely feel to it at first, everybody living their lives in blissful ignorance of the menace growing around them.  So, given The Hobbit is much earlier – it should have a much lighter feel also shouldn’t it?  – instead of which, it does have rather grand sweeping fights underground and other things brooding.   Again, can see the reasoning behind the brooding but….

Okay, that’s my main criticisms.  Think this film should have been shorter.  The nature and feel which has been changed.  The Dwarves are all, with a few exceptions, heroes.

Now, that all sounds really critical which isn’t intended.  I enjoyed this film and intend to go and see it again (and probably again, who am I kidding). The music was uplifting where it needed to be.  The return to middle earth was brilliant.  The shooting of the film is masterful.  We got to revisit old places and friends.  Gandalf was his usual amazing self.  Bilbo was played brilliantly I thought and Gollum absolutely stole the show.  I think it’s great I really do.  A masterful creation.  I have no doubt that people will love this film – as will I.  Just needed to think a few things through.  There’s still loads to look forward to after all and I can’t wait to see it again!