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The Movie Scab Reviews: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
"The scab you're picking at is called execution."
--American film producer Scott Rudin.
Ack! Ack! Ack!
Monkey Boy gives The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3 Acks! out of 5!
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Couple of things you should know before we jump in:
Goodwill is a good thing to have, but if you take advantage of it, goodwill can turn into $@#% will.
I’m a fan of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
I’ve read all the Tolkien books and I’m a fan of them too.
What all that means is, goodwill and my fandom of book and movies have caused me and Monkey Boy to be unusually forgiving. So right off the bat I’ll say this to you: if you’re a fan of the Rings series, you’ll appreciate the movie. You’ll love the new hobbit, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves, especially the replacement heart-breaker for Viggo/Aragorn, Thorin (Richard Armitage); you'll hate the bad guys; you'll dig the story and the special effects. When you see familiar characters like Gandalf and Gollum, you'll feel all warm and fuzzy inside and spooge your soda pop all over your salty popcorn, and you may even appreciate just how clever the writers were (they do a fine job bringing the movies and the stories together). Go. See. Enjoy.
If you’re not a fan or if you don’t have as much goodwill stored away as Monkey Boy and I do, then read on.
For those of you who don’t know what The Hobbit is about, here’s the nutshell: a tea-drinking, heavy-eating, pipe-smoking creature called “a hobbit” (a small in stature but big in strength of character proto-Englishman, i.e., a short, white proto-human from England with good manners) goes on an unexpected journey with a bunch of pissed-off dwarves who want to take back their mountain home (and all the gold that comes with it) from the nasty fire breathing dragon that stole it from them a long time ago.
Important to know: The Hobbit is the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Samwise, Gollum, Gandalf, the very naughty ring, fairies, monsters, goblins, wizards, four hour movies, etc., etc., etc.
The Lord of the Rings created an enormous amount of goodwill with its fan-base, right? Right. The reason for that is because they’re well crafted, well told, well acted movies that the fans endeared themselves to. (And I don’t care if the Tolkien family thinks they stink. The Tolkien family can go suck eggs. The books never cured cancer. The movies won’t either, but like the books they sure are a lot of fun, so everyone who’s complaining, especially the Tolkien family, needs to lighten up.)
Now, from a movie-going perspective, The Lord of the Rings is an example of the best kind of gigantic popcorn entertainments that Hollywood can squeeze out of its stinky, slimy, filthy colon. These movies look good, smell good, and I bet they taste good too--fact is, they are good. The reason for that is actually very simple and perhaps somewhat unusual: by and large, the director, producers, screenwriters, cast and crew loved the books and tried, as best as they were able, to adapt them to the screen. They really did, for true and honest, respect the source material.
And now the self-same people have brought us The Hobbit, the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, after they made The Lord of the Rings.
Wait a minute.
Hit the brakes.
Search for key word.
Key word: After.
Now, some say, better late than never. But I say, “Make the prologue first. Duh.”
And this is exactly why Monkey Boy and I gave The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3 Acks! out of 5. It is nowhere near as powerful as The Rings and it never will be and here’s why:
Because The Rings came first!
And, yes, it all looks very pretty. (And, yes, God help me, I saw it in 3D, and I can tell you that it's totally unnecessary. The only thing the 3D did was make the video game scenes like the underground goblin chase scene look more like a sequence from a video game and less like a sequence from a movie, and honestly, I hate that kind of stuff. While it's clever from a technological point of view, from my perspective, sitting in a move theatre, it ends up looking like something out of Van Helsing, and I can promise you, Peter Jackson does not want anyone to compare his movie to Van Helsing because Van Helsing doesn't look like a movie, it looks like a video game, and I just compared The Hobbit to Van Helsing, so there you go.) And, yes, it's all terribly exciting, but the problem is, you see, we've seen it all before and the story is nowhere near as compelling (or as exciting) as The Rings, nothing new, nothing fresh, all been here, done that. The storytellers try real hard to make it matter, but, sorry, nope. It cowers like a naked, cold, hairy-footed hobbit in the massive shadow of The Rings.
Memo to filmmakers: shoot the prologue before the rest of the story.
Duh, duh, duh.
But, oh, you say, I’m being too hard.
Ok, fine, so let’s say Monkey Boy and I let the whole “make the prologue first” thing slide, right? The reason we’ll do that is because we know Peter Jackson, the director, is one the best storytellers in Hollywood, and then there’s all that goodwill that he and his marvelous crew created.
So why in the world did he do this in The Hobbit: reduce the evil, make it lighter, funnier, more child-friendly? Monkey Boy and I both agree that this is a huge storytelling mistake and I don’t care if The Hobbit is a book written for children and that’s why the evil within it is lighter, funnier, child-friendly. It’s the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, for goodness sake! The evil in The Rings is never funny and it’s scary as hell. The evil in The Hobbit is reduced to the Great Goblin getting gutted by Gandalf and just before he dies, the goblin cracks a joke. A joke. And it’s a bad joke. Not scary. Not funny. Just lousy. And, I'm telling you (trust me, I know what I'm talking about), the funny-lighter-evil in The Hobbit is not going to jell very well with the evil-evil in the Rings trilogy that, uh, came before the prologue, but uh… follows the prologue because, naturally, the prologue came first, but in this case it didn't.
Did these guys consult with George Lucas or something?
Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.
Then there’s this brilliant line from the movie, a laugh-out-loud riot: “The legends are true!”
What legends? Um. Hello? Did anyone in the movie mention the legends before?
Yes, this line comes directly from the brilliant Rock Monsters scene! And it’s just terrible, no setup, no sense, starts for no reason, ends for no reason, dumb, dumb, dumb. But it looked cool, right? And I know it's in the freakin' book, but please, at least set it up before you introduce it, for the love of Tolkien! That’s screenwriting 101 and the guys and gals who wrote this thing know that. They’re some of the best storytellers in Hollywood.
No wonder the Tolkien family hates these movies.
And what's with the heavy-handed Lady Galadriel/Elrond the faerie (Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving) scenes? Why does she walk like she's got a stick up her butt, this weird kind of slow motion-LSD float? None of the other faeries walk like that. And how come she talks as if she's high? None of the other faeries talk like that. In fact, this time around Elrond was everybody's buddy at the bar. I could have had a beer with Elrond in this movie. In The Rings? No beers with Elrond the faerie, no way because he was more powerful and ethereal, like Galadriel (weird and faerie-like but without the stick up the butt and the slow motion verbage). Holy crap, at one point I thought Blanchett was going to make-out with the camera. Talk about Galadriel/Blanchett worship. And that little line about her agelessness? What was that about? Were they afraid she looked older than the version of herself in The Rings?
Well. If they were worried about that, why didn't they make the The Hobbit before The Rings?
(Obligatory fanboy/fangirl/fanfaerie note: I know Lady Galadriel/Elrond the faerie are not faeries. They're Middle Earth elves. But I don't care. They're faeries to me.)
On a final note, I have to bring up the one book/three movies to three books/one movie for each book controversy: apparently, the Tolkien family has locked down the works of Tolkien so that future filmmakers can never again (?) make movies of his books—or something. Anyway, Jackson’s argument is, because of that they better use all the Tolkien material they have now, and thus, the appendix to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings—or something—is being utilized to expand The Hobbit. What does that give us? One book/three (long) movies. Now, if Jackson and his crew applied this logic to The Lord of the Rings, they would have given us three movies for each book, totaling nine (long) movies. Add The Hobbit and we would have ended up with a full dozen!
Is this really necessary? Really? At the end of the day? Three (long) movies based on one book? (Ring any stupid bells? The final crap extended one book-to-two movies in the Harry Potter and Twilight series anyone?)
Sadly, and as much as I hate to say it (because I really respect Peter Jackson), but making three movies based on one book is probably about the money and that’s why I said this in the beginning: Goodwill is a good thing to have, but if you take advantage of it, goodwill can turn into $@#% will.
The next Hobbit has to be a whole helluva lot better than the this one. You can only journey so far on goodwill. Eventually, and not unexpectedly, the audience will figure it out, and when they do they will throw The Hobbit into Peter Seller's swimming pool of crap (from The Magic Christian).
Matrix trilogy anyone?
Pirates of the Caribbean series?
Doesn’t Hollywood ever learn?
And so, to wit: If you’re a Rings fan with a lot of goodwill: see The Hobbit and, like I said, enjoy.
If you’re not, I’ll meet you in the bar afterward and tell you all about it.
My rating: 20 Hobbit sized shots of Wicked Wizard, followed by five Imperial pints of English Southern Brown Ale, two pints of Golden Coast Mead (from delightful San Diego), a number of very serious dwarf songs to mellow your buzz and then it's off to the movie!
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.