Arman's stuff
The Hobbit

(Fri Dec 14 12:03:31 2012)

In short: great movie, who's this Azog guy?

Let me begin by saying that this is an exceptional movie. If you expect a movie as wonderful as The Lord of The Rings, you won't be disappointed. And let me follow that with the only warning you'll get - SPOILERS! I'm going to discuss this movie at length, so if you're spoiler-conscious, just stop reading now. Then go watch the movie and come back, obviously.

That being said, don't read the book before the movie. Just don't do it. When I watched Lord of the Rings, there were a few inconsistencies here and there, and a few plot points that really could have been better followed (the Ents decide not to help, then suddenly change their minds? What?), but overall, the movies followed the book well. In the Hobbit... well, I'll get to that.

The very first scene is not in any of the books. Well, I suppose bits and pieces are from The Hobbit and the very end of The Lord Of The Rings, but mostly not. It works, though, oh so very well. Not only does it give a comfortable beginning, it melds seamlessly with the previous movie, setting it up from the first few minutes as a prequel. I cringed just a little at the very beginning, but quickly changed my mind. The scene works wonderfully.

When Bilbo meets the dwarves, there are a few inconsistencies that stir up the inner fan boy - "Gandalf was supposed to come last, not third!" or "Only one dwarf wears a hat - and it's the wrong color!" - but overall, I didn't mind. A few inconsistencies here and there are perfectly fine, as long as the story fits well enough. Unfortunately, from that point on, all those little inconsistencies started adding up at an alarming rate. When Bilbo decides to join the group, he wasn't hurried along by Gandalf - he randomly decides, hey, an adventure, why not. In one scene, he's glad the dwarves are gone and he can move on with his life, and in the next, he's dashing down a hill. In the book, Gandalf calls on him and convinces him to go; he's so flustered that he forgets his pocket handkerchief. In the movie... it doesn't make sense at all. That's the first scene that I believe was sadly butchered; in the book, it set the tone for Bilbo's actions - he really didn't want to go, and was almost-but-not-quite tricked into going; in the movie, he simply doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind. Get these nasty dwarves out of my house, oh wait I guess I'll go with them, hang on this sucks let's go home, oh forget it you guys aren't all that bad... it's forced, at best.

Still, while that scene was merely wrong, the next scene was jarringly out of place. The first night away, Bilbo and the dwarves are caught in a torrential downpour, so bad that even Fili and Kili can't start a fire (and they are very good at lighting fires in the worst of conditions). Everyone blames it on bad luck, and generally it gets them all good and depressed. When someone spots a fire off in the woods, Bilbo (as burglar) is sent to determine if the owner of the fire is friendly, and if not, to burgle some food. He ends up being caught by some trolls; the dwarves, wondering what happened to him (and suspecting he is sitting warmly by a fire) slip into the camp one at a time and all get bagged by the trolls. The only one to even so much as drawn his sword is Thorin, and he is subdued quickly enough. The trolls argue over cooking them, and after a bit of confusion from Gandalf, end up waiting too long and getting turned to stone. Well, that's how it happens in the book, anyway. In the movie? Sigh...

It begins with rain - but by the time they set up camp, it's gone, and everyone is having a great time. Bilbo gets roped into rescuing two ponies - even though the dwarves know the thieves were trolls from the beginning. When Bilbo is discovered, the dwarves (all of them at once) rush the camp, swords flashing, for an over-the-top battle that includes stabbing a troll between the legs. They are eventually captured, but Bilbo manages to stall for time. Gandalf shows up with the dawn, breaks a rock in half, and the trolls begin their lives as statues.


The dour beginning is gone completely. Rather than protecting Bilbo as 'weak', the dwarves are all too ready to throw him to the trolls. And the fight scene... ugh. It sets the stage for the entire rest of the movie.

This is how the book goes:


A few bumps of action here and there, ending in a huge battle or three. Here is how the movie goes:


A few brief moments of down time, inter-spaced with random battles with characters that don't even exist. The first 120 pages of The Hobbit or so had a single fight - when the group was captured by goblins. The movie? There was a fight scene at every scene change! Why? What's the point? Was Peter Jackson trying to make the movie more accessible to people who really just want to see explosions? He needn't have bothered - there were no half-dressed women cavorting around (or, for that matter, a single female apart form Galadriel); that crowd wouldn't have stood for it to begin with.

Ahem. Anyway. To continue...

Ah, Radagast. I both love the scene... and hate it. Radagast, the brown wizard, isn't really touched upon in the book; he makes a brief appearance, mumbles about some dark force taking up residence in the woods, and wanders off. He's got a pretty sizable chunk of the appendix dedicated to him, though. Here? Here, he's an insane tree-hugger with bird poop running down the side of his head; he fights ghosts, rescues a hedgehog, rides a sled pulled by rabbits, and gnaws on the scenery. He's not eccentric; he's out of his gourd. He hasn't even seen his gourd. He would make a Loki/Joker team-up look like Hansel and Gretel.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the idea, and I like that his role is expanded in the movie. It just didn't need to be so... frenetic? I've always pictured him as serene, or at least reserved; more like a gardener that mumbles to himself than a cross-eyed freak who darts from one calamity to the next, cavorting and cackling. Oh, and another pointless fight scene! When he tells Gandalf and co. about the necromancer in the woods, some random orcs show up and are led on a merry chase by the rabbit-driving wizard, who is cackling like an escaped lunatic. I half expected to see him wearing a hospital gown and a wrist-band. He drives in circles, which lets Gandalf lead the dwarves back and forth a few times before he shoves them into a hole. Random elves show up and shoot two or three of the orcs, but it doesn't really matter because neither the orcs or the elves knew where the company was, anyway. Yay pointless fight scenes!

The group eventually made it to Rivendell. Rather than make friends with the elves and stick around for a month, as in the book, the group starves on a pathetic salad and eventually sneaks out of town, their relationship with the elves only worsened. It was about this point I stopped trying to follow where they were in the book, because I assumed that they would probably just stab orcs until they turned into a dragon, which they would then continue trying to stab.

Important lesson: dwarves stab things. If you don't let them stab things, they tell stories about stabbing things. Stab, stab, stab, stab, gold, stab, gold, stab, stab, gold. Give 'em a gold sward to stab things, and they're set.

Sorry, off on a tangent there... as I said, the stay at Rivendell was so far from the book that I could barely maintain a link between the two. It really was that bad. There was a decent scene from the appendix, explaining what Gandalf was doing while the others slipped off, but it didn't smooth over the fact that they were only there overnight. 30 days != overnight. I'm just sayin'.

Next up: the stone giants! Were there huge, weather-beaten giants lobbing boulders across a mountain pass as the group tried to traipse through? No! Silly reader! There were giant people made out of shale and granite, boxing, as the group tried to hang on to their knees! ...sigh.

In the cave, once the dwarves fell asleep, Bilbo tried to sneak out - I suppose he realized that his being there made no sense, and the best place to slip away was while the mountains were coming alive and boxing? I don't know. He was stopped when the floor opened up. Luckily, landing on your face makes you temporarily invisible to goblins, so he escaped. Well, until he stood up; a goblin spotted him. Suddenly, he learned some sword fighting skills, then fell into a huge hole in the ground. This makes perfect sense in context (no it doesn't). He fell into Gollum's lair, where the goblin met the slinking neck-wringer, to an unquiet end. Meanwhile, Gollum drops his ring. Frankly, I would have preferred if that part hadn't been shown; in the book, the ring was nothing but a trinket that Bilbo picked up. Suddenly, the ring fell out of Gollum's pocket - well, I hope it was his pocket. With nothing but two flaps, the only other place was between his cheeks, and I'm not talking about his face. Anyway, in the movie, the slow-motion fall from Gollum's pocket was the equivalent of a dozen cartoon signs marked "PLOT POINT!" and "This Is Really Important!" pointing at it.

My favorite scene of the movie was the exchange between Gollum and Bilbo. It was well done - a bit shorter than in the book, but Gollum was portrayed exactly as I imagine him - Smeagol and Gollum, sadness and rage, all mixed up. There were plenty of quoteable lines; when Gollum told a riddle, Smeagul grinned and shouted, "Ooo! I know this one!" Comic gold! There were a few omissions (Gollum didn't go back to his island, which gave Bilbo much less time to escape, which led to further scene changes...), but overall, it was probably the second best scene in the movie.

But, back to the dwarves. It seems that goblins are nasty folks - seriously nasty. Not in a bloodthirsty, creatures-of-the-darkness sort of way, oh no - more of a scabby, boil-covered, fat, greasy kind of way. I imagined them more like chattering monkeys - green, rough-skinned, loin-cloth-clad, shrieking, gibbering, pointy-eared monsters. If you do a Google image search for goblin, the results are exactly what I think goblins look like. Oh, but instead, we get pigs with hands. Sigh.

But appearances can be forgiven; what's in my mind is not what is in anyone else's. But then... of all the long, drawn-out scenes, this one takes the cake. I could see a fast-paced escape from the goblins. A bit of fighting, lots of running, some of their sticks-and-twine fortifications falling down - no problem. What did happen, though, went on and on... and on... and on. It moved from a skirmish with overwhelming numbers of goblins to a rollercoaster ride. Hey, lets just cut some supports, and hope that these ropes manage to swing us to the other side - and around corners, and even in zig-zag patterns that lets us fight the maximum number of goblins! Of any scene, that long, drawn-out, pointless fight deserved to be cut. There were several badly-done CGI scenes, way too many swinging platforms, and no real reason for any of it. In fact, it eclipsed some good points that the movie made - the goblin king tells Thorin that, as the son of a dead father and a king without land, he's really just a nobody. Which, frankly, is true, and ends up being the reason Bilbo sticks around in the end - he wants the dwarves to have a home like his own.

When they did finally escape, Bilbo managed to escape as well. However, there were no orcs waiting for him, which was a bit disappointing. He slipped out with nary a fuss, and joined the others. After a brief respite, the group are beset by wargs - led by a white orc. What white orc? Well, Azog, of course! You know, the guy who killed Thorin's dad. That one orc that, in the books at least, was killed by Thorin.


What's worse is that this orc shows up again. And again. And again. Apart from the trolls and Smaug's attack, he's directly responsible for every fight scene in the movie. It's as if Peter Jackson had a brilliant idea for a movie, and had it all planned out, but some jerk of an orc wanted more face time than a single flashback, and forced him at knife-point to include him throughout the movie. That's the only way this orc could have made it in...

Finally, the last scene of the movie ends with them atop Beorn's rocky crag. In the book, they're lost as all get out. Here? Well, it's the end of the movie, we have to be happy somewhere - so everyone stares off in the distance at the Lonely Mountain. Oh yeah, it's close enough to see from here. Sigh...

Now, don't get me wrong - it was a great movie. I can see why many of the choices were made. But, like many movies, there are parts where I see something has been cut for time's sake, followed immediately by something so long and drawn out, you wonder if the reel is on repeat. Go expecting a good movie - but don't go expecting it to follow the book as closely as the Lord of the Rings movies managed to do.

Also, if some parts of this seem a bit ranty (or more than usual, anyway), or if I've made some colossal blunder, it's because I'm writing all this the day after I saw the midnight showing, then stayed up discussing the movie with my wife... so blame it on sleep deprivation, ok?

<< Minimum Wage Increases

This blag is tagged: Hobbit, Movie, Review, All