The Hobbit: An Unwieldy Journey (But One I’d Take Again)

***For those concerned: The Hobbit spoiler alert!***

As an early riser and notorious napper, I usually fall asleep during midnight movie showings. This time was different: I didn’t nod off one bit during The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘s intimidating 169 minutes. Maybe I just need to see more movies I’m ridiculously excited for (Star Trek Into Darkness comes to mind–Khaaaumberbatch!).

That’s not to say The Hobbit was a good movie. It’s a flabby movie that can’t stand on its own. The Hobbit attended to so many stories (make us care about the dwarves’ quest! set up the Lord of the Rings! get us closer to the Lonely Mountain! hell, climb a mountain! fall into a mountain! battle scenes, battle scenes! GET TO THE GAME OF RIDDLES! and then, battle, battle, battle!), it felt more like a book than a movie in its dips and turns, and not at all like the book it was based on. But it’s not a bad thing for a movie like this to stand almost entirely apart from its children’s book origins. (Seeing this movie as the history behind that story works well.) There were a bit too many times that the dwarves were played for comic relief (“look how incompetent they are”) that jarred with their skilled, fierce warrior moments. Bombur in particular was played too often for, sigh, “fat humor.” We know nothing about this dwarf beyond his love of food and ability to break whatever he’s sitting on. Character, um, developed?

I have some nerve to complain about the character development of one of 13 dwarves: for a movie called The Hobbit, it didn’t have enough of the hobbit himself in it. Bilbo Baggins disappears a bit too long in the middle, and Martin Freeman plays such a delightful Bilbo, too; somehow, I believe he is the earlier incarnation of Ian Holm’s Bilbo, all while Freeman makes ample use of bemused facial expressions and mannerisms familiar to Sherlock and The Office fans. He fits well in the role. I wish I saw more of Bilbo in general, but more specifically, I wish I saw more of Bilbo being incompetent on the journey, which he really wasn’t (the help with the troll situation so soon forgotten?). If Bilbo revealed more weakness as an adventure companion, I might’ve found the Thorin-Bilbo conflict and resolution more compelling.

For all of these complaints, I still loved it. I loved whizzing around on Radagast’s rabbit-led sled, watching Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel, and Saruman hold council together, traveling across so much varied terrain with this generally delightful party. And I loved the emphasis on home as something worth fighting for and something that bonds the hobbit and the dwarves. The Hobbit was unwieldy but the various story lines had something to offer, especially to someone like myself who’s already enamored with the world and eager to play in it. Concise, cohesive movie be damned–I enjoyed the journey and look forward to taking it again.

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2 thoughts on “The Hobbit: An Unwieldy Journey (But One I’d Take Again)

  1. Great critique Sarah! I haven’t seen the film (sorry, movie!) yet, but I certainly will.

    The Lord of the Rings was always going to be a hard act to follow – The Hobbit was written as a childrens’story whereas LOTR is an epic encounter between the forces of good and evil. I read the LOTR trilogy in my teens, and had a mental picture of the tale that stayed with me for years – with a few exceptions (e.g. no Tom Bombadil, too much emphasis on digital fights such as the Balrog in Moria, etc) the film was true to the picture that Tolkein had painted for me – remarkable writing!

    I’m looking forward to the Hobbit, but on a different level – I read a UK review that concentrated on Ian McLellen’s characterisation of Gandalf – apparently he enjoyed the opportunity to play the character as a more ‘fun loving’ Gandalf ‘boogieing through Hobbiton’.

    Thanks for sharing your experience of the film – sorry, really must call ’em movies when conversing with someone in the USA 🙂

    • Thanks, Paul! And that’s definitely true about The Hobbit having a tough act to follow. It seems to handle the weight of the LOTR trilogy by very consciously setting itself up around them. When you see it, you’ll see what I mean. 🙂

      And Gandalf is much more whimsical in it, too. In an interview I watched Ian McKellen said similarly: especially after playing the too serious Gandalf the White, he enjoyed having more fun with Gandalf the Grey. 🙂

      No worries about using the word film! Film works here too. 🙂

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