Bibliomantic Book Club: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

The_Hobbit-_An_Unexpected_Journey_74The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Release Date
: December 14, 2012
Genre
: Epic fantasy, Is “Lord of the Rings” a genre now?

Summary: Bilbo Baggins is just your average hobbit who enjoys eating, smoking a pipe, sitting around, and that’s pretty much it. His quiet, peaceful life is very suddenly disturbed when Gandalf the Grey appears at his doorstep inviting him on an adventure. Soon his home is invaded by thirteen dwarves who are on a quest to reclaim their home from the dragon Smaug. A grand journey commences – encounters with trolls, capture by goblins, and of course the discovery of a certain all-powerful ring start us off on the first leg of the tale. Bilbo must learn to be brave and everyone must learn that friendship is magic.

The excitement and nostalgia levels were high among the Bibliomantics as we ventured to the midnight showing of the highly anticipated movie adaptation of The Hobbit. As we settled into the theater, we reminisced happily about our trip to see Return of the King at midnight. How Stephanie and Cassie-wa’s father had to drive us all squished into the car because we weren’t old enough to drive more than one person or after 10pm. How Cassie-la had walked up to a stranger and started eating his pretzel bites. (Okay, she knew him.) And then we mostly just realized that we are really old because that was NINE YEARS AGO.

It was surreal to be back in a theater at midnight – going back to Middle-earth. Despite our complaining about the pointlessness of the 3-D, our bafflement at how Peter Jackson could possibly stretch the story out into three movies, and even though it wasn’t perfect, I think we are damn glad that the story’s not over yet. Plus there’s musical numbers and shenanigans.

CASSIE-WA’S THOUGHTS

It was GREAT! It was GORGEOUS!! I absolutely LOVED IT!!!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to tear it to shreds.

As many other reviewers have noted, The Hobbit tries very, very hard to be Lord of the Rings. And it just isn’t.

I think the biggest problem with this movie is that it needed to happen first. The “look at this little adventure story” broadening into “HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THIS CRAZY EPIC STORY!” works so much better than the other way around.

In its attempt to be bigger than it really is, we do get some cool insight about what’s happening in Middle-earth. I think it’s important to show that that broad scope still exists, and that the pieces are falling into place for the events of Lord of the Rings… but I also think the WHOLE POINT of The Hobbit is that it’s a little adventure that takes place on a much bigger stage than anyone realizes. The players carrying out their roles can’t imagine the repercussions of their actions. Bombarding the story with overt “BUT LOOK AT ALL THIS IMPORTANT STUFF HAPPENING!” nonsense also diminishes the importance of the small story within its own scope.

So, like, we DIDN’T need to argue about the significance of a Morgul Blade for half an hour. Looking at you,  Gandalf, Galadriel (thanks for literally being the only lady in this movie, tho!), Elrond, and Saruman. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S AN OBVIOUS SIGN SAURON IS BACK AND DO YOU SEE HOW OBVIOUSLY EVIL SARUMAN IS JESUS CHRIST–ahem. In the middle of the movie the audience is treated to a lengthy scene featuring some of the oldest and wisest people in all of Middle-earth waxing poetic and basically tripping all over themselves with maximum dumb-ass-ed-ness. Unnecessary.

You know what else was unnecessary? Radagast. I liked Radagast. But, I mean, the dude spent like 10 minutes trying to save a hedgehog. I was really emotionally invested and am glad (spoilers) the hedgehog survived, but my point is I don’t think there needed to be a hedgehog at all.

Okay, and the STONE-GIANTS. There are already SO MANY episodes in this movie, and it does the falling/smashing/crashing thing really well with the Goblins, so what was the point of this? I would have taken a throwaway with someone being like “Is that thunder?” and then Thorin or somebody being like, “No, it’s Stone-giants,” and then in the distance we see great figures hurling rocks at each other, and we’re all like, “OH MAN, LOOK HOW VAST AND STRANGE THE WORLD IS.” And scene.

I actually hope that along with an Extended Edition they do an un-extended edition where they cut out some of this crap. Because come on.

(The Hobbit: An Un-Extended Journey? You’re welcome, New Line Cinema.)

Why is Azog (the “Pale Orc,” as they call him–I assume because we were already struggling to learn the names of the 15 protagonists) the bad guy again? Did we even really need a Big Bad for this movie? The Dwarves were already running due to the time constraints of opening the sneaky door to Erebor. Did they really need to be chased as well?

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what they did with Thorin’s back story. I’m kind of obsessed with it. But I wish Thorin had actually KILLED Azog back in the day, and then the bad guy of these movies could just be BOLG, AZOG’S SON. He could have been hunting Thorin down for killing his father! Isn’t avenging your father cooler than avenging your ARM?

Previously Goblins and Orcs have been portrayed as these hissing, fighting monsters who don’t seem to have a concept of family or loyalty or what have you, so it would have been interesting and different to have an Orc who actually cared about that stuff. And we could explore revenge cycles, which I think ultimately fuel Thorin’s quest more than anything else. Azog kills Thror/Thrain, so Thorin kills Azog, so Bolg wants to kill Thorin. OMG, they’re NOT SO DIFFERENT. Let’s get some more vaguely sympathetic bad guys up in here!

Okay, BUT, Bolg is definitely a character in the movies and presumably the main antagonist in the BATTLE (of course there’s going to be a battle!), so I’m going to call it now and say that Thorin will finally defeat Azog in a climactic mini-battle at the end of movie 2. (And probably Smaug will also bite it.)  In movie 3, Bolg will lead the goblin army to Erebor and *SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS* kill Thorin, who at that point will have turned into a total jerk about his gold JUST LIKE HIS GRANDPA. It will be pretty devastating to everybody considering how awesome he is now.

But if there’s one thing Lord of the Rings has taught us, it’s that power can corrupt even the cutest of Hobbitses. Hot Dwarves don’t stand a chance.

STEPHANIE’S THOUGHTS

I must admit, I am the one of this group who would not really classify themselves as a Lord of the Rings nerd. I read Fellowship of the Ring grudgingly in high school because it was assigned to us for summer reading. Pretty much everything I know about the series is information I’ve assimilated from my fellow Bibliomantics. But my nostalgia levels reached a peak as we went into the theater to watch The Hobbit. I thought it was gorgeous to watch and it was so wonderful to be back in that sweeping, epic landscape that is Middle Earth.

I’m obsessed with Sherlock so naturally I ship Bilbo/Smaug. I mean…naturally I love Martin Freeman. He was so adorable and hilarious and wonderful. Watching the dwarves destroy his house while bursting into an impromptu song to which they all knew the lyrics was an absolute joy. I also absolutely loved the more serious dwarf song about Erebor. Absolutely beautiful and with Martin Freeman in his room just listening….ugh, love it.

Also – I have a giant crush on Thorin Oakenshield. Seriously. He’s hot. I know Kili is the hot dwarf, but Thorin….yeah, he’s awesome. And I liked the part where he learned that friendship is magic. His backstory was cool (he literally had an oak shield!) and I love that I finally know why the dwarves went on this adventure in the first place and why it meant so much to them.

I was also thrilled to see Christopher Lee alive and popping up pretending to be not evil when OBVIOUSLY HE’S EVIL LOOK AT THOSE EYEBROWS. Too bad he was only in the most boring scene in the movie where the adults all talked about something and I longed for Bilbo and the silly dwarves.

And of course the best scene was Gollum and Bilbo playing a game of riddles in the cave. Andy Serkis is a freaking genius and Smeagol just broke my heart. He just wanted to play a game and Gollum twisted it into something dark. And when he realized his precious ring was missing…forget it. So heartbreaking.

Overall, I do think the movie was great. It was so easy to be absorbed back into the world. I love the dwarves even though I can’t keep track of them, love Bilbo, and love the singing. I have no idea why there are two more movies, but whatever! Bring it on.

KELLY’S THOUGHTS

So I haven’t read The Hobbit since the eighth grade. The only thing I vividly recall about the book was that the previous student crossed out Bilbo and wrote Dildo for the entire first chapter. Apparently, realizing how many times the name shows up in the text, the comedic genius gave up. This lack of context is in contrast to my LotR experience, as I read and reread the texts before all three films. Going into The Hobbit, all I really had was Dildo…er Bilbo Baggins, some barrels, and a bunch of hairy dwarves in my brain.

The beginning of the film was straight up nostalgia-inducing magic. Seeing the Shire appear, in all its perpetually green glory, so strongly evoked the feelings of wonder from the original films. And Peter Jackson knew it too – he milked the audience on that one. Gandalf bopping his head on the chandelier, Elijah Wood hanging out looking forever 21 (minus the sequined tube dresses), and the strains of quest music subtly laid in the background. We were being played – AND I LOVED IT. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds – my best friends were with me and it was like we were carried back in time by giant deus ex machina eagles to our nerdy high school days.

Okay, so then the dwarves arrived and ate all of Bilbo’s food and so he was like “Oi, they ate my 67 rounds of cheese so I might as well go on an adventure!” And then all the bad things happen to the dwarves and Bilbo, but nothing ever sticks. I know the Hobbit is supposed to be a children’s tale, but it’s just a little grating to have nothing really matter. If Jackson had made it a bit more slapstick, I think the constant danger followed by easy escape would have been more palatable. Though, I would like to commend either the absolute naivety or deviousness which allowed the line “they desecrated our sacred holes” into the final cut. Because it provided Stephanie and me a good ten minutes of hysterics. I honestly have no idea what happened during that time because I was too busy heaving with laughter. My best guess is that there was some walking, followed by an attack from dangerous beasts, followed by more walking.

As for the film aspect – the 3D was meh. And after three hours of it, I left with a splitting headache. Thorin Oakenshield was constantly given these shots with his head angled down and to the right, hair flowing in the wind, eyebrows prominent. Blah blah, he’s a stoic warrior who inspires every dwarf with his shocking resistance to death. (EXHIBIT A). We get it Peter Jackson – please use a different technique to demonstrate this fact in the next 8 films.

Overall, the film’s tone was too serious for me. It didn’t have a lot of emotional resonance either, except in the beginning when Bilbo is being called out for being scared of adventures (WHICH IS A METAPHOR FOR LIFE, Y’ALL). However – the section with Gollum was flawless. It was twistedly funny but also aching and tragic. It made all three hours of the film worth it. Except those stupid sentient rock-throwing mountains. Those guys were just assholes.

CASSIE-LA’S THOUGHTS

It seems important to note that we saw the film in 3-D at the normal frame rate rather than the 48 fps that a lot of people complained was weird and hard to get adjusted to. No robot Ian McKellen for us. Since we didn’t want to sit through a three hour movie getting nauseous and dealing with migraines (although after that rock giant nonsense headaches were inevitable) we chose this “middling” version. Except for some buttons popping off into your face though it wasn’t any different than if we had seen it in 2-D. Stop this 3-D nonsense movie-makers!

Peter Jackson and company seemed to capture the much more child friendly nature of The Hobbit beautifully. It’s no Lord of the Rings, nor is it supposed to be. Although the out of the frying pan (pun intended) nature of the plot was a little frustrating by the last hour. For example, this horrible thing happened and then they somehow escaped only to have something equally bad happen which they needed to escape all over again. Thank goodness for comic relief everyone, occasionally it was the only thing that saved the endless episodic messiness.

Can we please talk about the eagles deciding to *SPOILERS* rescue everyone from certain death by albino Orc only to drop them on top of a mountain there seems to be no exit off of? It’s cool, we saved you, now stay on this mountain to STARVE TO DEATH AND DIE!

If it were up to me (and as far as I’m concerned it should be) I would have cut about an hour and a half off the run time. At this rate, all three movies combined will be longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy despite being the shortest book of them all. Good thing for all those appendixes.

Thankfully, the actors more than made up for that. Martin Freeman was perfectly adorable as Bilbo, Ian McKellen was everything you loved about him before he became Gandalf the White and the dwarves all had great chemistry. And of course “Riddles in the Dark” was the most amazing part of the movie with Andy Serkis and his motion capture shining through yet again. Part of me is incredibly sad that we won’t see Gollum ever again. ::sobs::

One of the main problems I had with the film- and I wouldn’t call it a problem so much as something that couldn’t possibly be changed because it’s all Tolkien’s fault- was the enormous cast of characters. Unlike LotR where it’s pretty easy to distinguish between the Fellowship, it’s nigh near impossible in this film. So many dwarves, so little time. Not that I can remember them all by sight. Let’s see there’s Kili the sexy one, his friend Fili, and Thorin their extremely hot dwarf leader, and that’s all I’ve got. I’m a failure!

Yet another problem: Galadriel. Look at me, I’m Galadriel, watch me walk around slowly in a circle and add absolutely nothing whatsoever to the plot. I’m Galadriel, I am in every single Peter Jackson movie for absolutely no reason because I’m Galadriel. Ugh, fucking Galadriel. Thank goodness for the glorious-ness of Elrond’s eyebrows and Figwit (Oscar winner) to slightly rectify her existence.

As for the other films, I’m looking forward to seeing some more of Thranduil, particularly since we only got to see him nod beautifully a few times before he rode off into the sunset on his majestic moose. This is a real thing that actually happened. Also I’m curious to see just what will happen in the third movie considering that in the second film they will defeat Benedict Smaug. Or so we assume considering promotional photos show Bilbo stuck in gold and the film is called The Desolation of Smaug.

Completely high/unrealistic expectations that have been building since 2004 aside, I have to admit that I thought The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was pretty alright. It wasn’t amazing, it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good. It certainly didn’t desecrate any sacred holes.

WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
-Thorin Oakenshield, more like Thorin Do-Me-On-Your-Shield
-It’s fucking Middle-earth, we’re just happy we got to go there and back again
-Christopher Lee returning to be blatantly evil to everyone but the smartest people in the world

WHAT WE LIKED LEAST
-Pointless rock giant nonsense
-Episodic plot becomes more frustrating than Galadriel
-Didn’t really need to be in 3-D unless you like buttons popping at your face

Join us next month when we review our January Bibliomantic Book Club Book: The Archived by Victoria Schwab.

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