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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Film Review: The Hobbit

I said Thursday I wanted to write more reviews, so why not start with the movie I went to see Monday? I have what feels like an unpopular opinion about The Desolation of Smaug: I liked it. Thoughts below the cut.

I'm a biased viewer. The idea of taking one book - a children's book, at that - and turning it into three three-hour movies, is ridiculous. In a bad way. And ya know what? I don't care. Here comes that bias. I'll never get enough Middle Earth.
But, being a trilogy that was never meant to be, the second act suffered at both ends story-wise; there was neither a good starting nor stopping point. An Unexpected Journey wrapped up in what felt like a natural way. TDOS ended on a cliffhanger that, considering the book's been around forever, isn't really a cliffhanger at all. So how did the movie ratchet up the drama and leave us questioning the resolution of the third installment? It made stuff up. It made a lot of stuff up. And I'll admit, even if I enjoyed the movie, I was left chewing nervously on popcorn kernels and wondering how the rest of the company is going to get to that mountain where unspeakable, canon things happen I'd rather not think about. Still...I loved the movie. And I'm usually a book purist (I had a conniption over the deviations in Game of Thrones season 3). For me, it breaks down like this:

Taking nine hours to tell one story isn't a problem so long as the story is told well. This three-movie format gives us more time to explore character development that was more implied than explicit in the book. I feel like we see so much more from each of the characters and they become more distinct than they were in print.

Added material should never detract from the story, or alter the core of a character, and the added material in The Hobbit keeps the characters true, and I don't think, ultimately, damages the integrity of the plot. We won't know until the third film releases, but I feel sure the ending will be the same as the novel. The same goes for added characters; popping a new female elf into the mix didn't do the damage I was afraid it would. So I have no beef with the new girl.

As for all the "bad" the reviewers are throwing around - Every movie has "oh, come on, that couldn't happen" moments. Every movie has plot holes. Every movie has flaws. Every movie rushes romantic feelings. I think The Hobbit has an inherent weak spot in today's movie culture of debauchery. Every show and every movie seems to have a central goal of unveiling even deeper veins of selfishness and perversity in their leading characters. Gone is the time of The Romantics when the goal of fiction was to elevate mankind to a new plane. The new goal, the point filmmakers are trying to prove, is that man is inherently dark, and they look to prove just how dark. Characters are "provocative," and "edgy," and nothing less than brutal will do. The Hobbit, like the LOTR, is about heroes, and ordinary people with incredible strength. And noble quests. And true evil. Not popular themes in current fiction. And let's face it, the characters are adorable. Really, truly, in every sense of the word, adorable. This movie never had a prayer with critics.

To add to that, I think Peter Jackson knew this, and didn't care. His Hobbit trilogy is for the fans, plain and simple. Nine hours, non-canon Legolas, heavy One Ring foreshadowing, fan-fiction-like forays into side plots and bonus scenes. It's fun, it's visually beautifully, and the cast is doing, as usual, a gorgeous job (And can I just say, for a second, how perfect each of them are in their roles? Amazing casting). Peter Jackson may take liberties, he may add his own touches, and he may go too far at times, but he's writing a love letter to Tolkien's creation, and that spirit shines through in the films; for that, I will remain grateful and look forward to watching the last installment in a year.

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