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!



The Hobbit readalong

Posted On 19 August 2012

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I’m taking part in the Hobbit read along being hosted by Writers’ Bloc.  This is the first week reading up to Chapter 6.  Questions this week are provided by Writers’ Bloc (numbers 4 – 6) and Inkeri (numbers 1 – 3).

I wanted to read this again before the film comes out and I’m actually really pleased I decided to join in this read-along (it’s been a long time!)  Not surprisingly I have forgotten more than I ever remembered but I’m enjoying the experience and having reread Lord of the Rings not too long ago it makes it an interesting experience comparing the two.  Be aware that if you haven’t read The Hobbit then the following post will undoubtedly contain spoilers so you might want to stop reading from here onwards – you could instead go and pick up a copy and join in!

The questions this week are as follows:

1. In the book Bilbo gets visited by 13 strange dwarves, and just lets them in to eat his cakes and drink tea. In the modern world it would be really weird if people just started barging in your home. Why didn’t Bilbo just tell them to go?

I guess this boils down to two things really.  Firstly, etiquette.  There seem to be a number of conventions which simply must be followed and it would be rude not to – that’s the way I’m reading it anyway.  Secondly, obviously many years ago, and probably due to a number of things, such as the fact that your nearest neighbour could be a long walk or ride away, I think people had to be more hospitable.  Exactly what sort of reaction you would get if you turned up at my door would depend on the mood and time of day/week that you showed up.  I’m sure I would be polite (well sometimes I would!) but the fact is that, like Old Mother Hubbard, sometimes my shelves can be pretty bare – particularly if I’m about to go and shop for the week.  You’d be lucky if you found a few cake crumbs!

2. Where would the dwarves and Bilbo be if Gandalf wasn’t with them? It’s seems to me that it’s him who saves them from the scary situations.

I must admit I was thinking exactly the same thing.  Gandalf just disappears and then seems to turn up at exactly the right moment. Funnily enough I was thinking he seems to be using much more of his ‘wizardly’ ability in this story than he did in Lord of the Rings and it’s just as well for Bilbo and the dwarves that he is doing so because they seem to be bungling and bumbling along so far!  In fact, without Gandalf this would be a much shorter book as they’d have all been stewing in a pot by now!

3. Bilbo plays a game of riddles with Gollum. He ends up winning by asking “What have I got in my pockets?”, which Gollum is unable to answer. Do you think it was fair, as it wasn’t actually a riddle?

Well, I don’t really think it was a fair question but I suppose you could argue that appearing in front of somebody and threatening to eat them if they don’t win your little game is hardly fair either!  I think my mind would go blank under those circumstances.

4. For those of you who haven’t read The Hobbit before, is the tone of writing one you’d expect from a book that has been loudly proclaimed as a classic? And for those of you who have read it before, how did it feel – like coming home to a much loved book, or were you surprised by how much you’d forgotten?

Well, I’m enjoying comparing this to Lord of the Rings.  Obviously The Hobbit doesn’t have the scope of LOTR and for me it does feel somehow not quite as ‘grown up’.  I read that Tolkien wrote this for his children and reading it you can imagine that he wrote this so he could read it to them at night.  I am surprised how little I remember (although it was a while ago).  I remembered the trolls – for some reason that particular scene just stands out for me.  I’m also surprised at how quickly we seemed to jump into the action and for that matter how many mishaps have so far been experienced by this little band of merry men.

5. We’ve seen quite a few songs so far. Do you pay attention to them, or do you skip them altogether? Do you like how silly they are, or do you think them an interruption?

I distinctly remember disliking the songs in both The Hobbit and LOTR the first time round and actually skipping them entirely.  I seem to have much more patience on the rereads.  Whether that’s linked to the fact that I’m not in such a desperate rush to get to the end of a book when I’m rereading I can’t say.  All I know is that I read them now and just simply find them quite amusing, not to mention they sometimes tell a bit of a story.

6. What has been your favourite scene, so far?

I’m a bit torn with this one – between the scene with the trolls and the scene where Bilbo meets Gollum – although I think it’s because I’m picturing and hearing in my head Andy Serkis – he really did make this character great to watch.  To be honest though I think I’m going to stick with the trolls (this scene was over much quicker than I actually remembered though!).  I love the bit when Bilbo tries to pickpocket one of them only to have the purse itself blow the whistle on him.  Plus all the picking him up by his toes and shaking him about – I don’t know whether that shows a flaw in my character – but it just made me laugh.  Even as he was going to pick the troll’s pocket I was thinking ‘what, no!’  What a maniac.  It all turned out okay in the end but only due to the timely intervention of Gandalf!

Back next Sunday for the second instalment.  See you then.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit