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The Hobbit - An expected review about an unexpected journey
The Hobbit – thoughts about wizards, elves, dwarves and a Hobbit
After following the progress of the making of the movie (by watching the production videos, reading interviews and articles), I was very eager to finally be able to watch the movie. I had planned a little holiday just for this purpose (and I needed time off anyway). I went to Auckland for three nights and had planned to watch the Hobbit at least twice: once in normal 3D and once in HFR 3D - to see the difference.
A lot has been written about the content of the movies. Critics were quite critical and wrote lukewarm reviews. Of which I didn't really read any, because what do I care? I wanted to see Ian McKellen as Gandalf again and nothing a critic would write would have been able to stop me. I was looking forward to the experience and I have to say that I was not disappointed. I ended up watching the movie three times, twice in HFR and once in normal 3D on an IMAX screen.
Normal 3D vs. HFR 3D
What is better?
So, did I notice a difference between the two formats? I did. After having seen it in HFR 3D, seeing it in normal 3D feels like down-grading. Normal 3D seemed a bit chaotic in places and made some scenes look unnatural. The HFR version, however, made me feel like I was right in the middle of it. Everything was nice and clear and seeing Galadriel in this movie format was just breath-taking. The moment she appears on the screen and moves around, it just feels like you have been pulled into a real fantasy world. It feels like you could touch her if you only got close enough. All the characters do actually look wonderful but my favourite were and still are Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman. So this movie was such a treat because you get to see them all together in the same scene.
The movie is filled with beauty, but also with vile ugliness. The orcs and goblins truly look disgusting in HFR but that's what they're supposed to be like. You wouldn't want to meet those creatures and their wargs. I wonder what Lord of the Rings would have been like in HFR. Maybe it would have been a bit too scary!
So, in my opinion Jackson and his team did a fantastic job with that new technology. It looks great, the movie turned out to be very beautiful and it's a beauty that's hard to describe.
How about you?
Which version of the movie did you watch (or will you watch)?
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If you didn't read the books yet, then now is the perfect time!
Books and movies
Did you read the book?
The movie's characters
As most of you will already know: there are many characters in the Hobbit. 13 dwarves, one Hobbit, three wizards, two elves, lots of goblins and orcs and of course Gollum. Not all dwarves have big roles in the first movie. The only ones who really stood out for me were Thorin (as he is the leader), Balin, Bofur, Fili and Kili. Of course, all the other dwarves are introduced and have one or the other thing to say, but in my eyes, the focus of the first movie was on the characters I just named. Other people might have conceived it otherwise, of course. I am quite sure that the other movies will show more of the dwarves that did not say much yet. What I have seen of the dwarves so far was very good though. They are quite easy to keep apart, they all have a background story of one or the other sort (we don't know them all yet, though) and they have good dynamics, i.e. it's a pleasure to see those actors doing their job.
Then there are the three wizards. We already know Gandalf and Saruman from the LotR movies and the books. I was looking forward to seeing them again. Not much has to be said about them. Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee are two of the best actors of our time. And they are splendid. However, you do notice that the scene with Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond was filmed with Christopher Lee being in a different location. He does seem a bit detached, like he is talking to the air around him instead of to the other actors. I guess that was the only thing I found a bit disappointing because I loved the way Lee and McKellen interacted in LotR.
Galadriel and Elrond are incredibly beautiful. When you see Hugo Weaving with his usual looks, you just couldn't imagine that he actually is Elrond. He looks so magnificent as Lord Elrond. Cate Blanchett's beauty most likely did not need much additional work. She looked otherworldly, she acted wonderfully and her interaction with Gandalf is just beautiful beyond words.
So, what about the third wizard? It's Radagast the Brown, who is mentioned in the books but doesn't really have a huge role. I'm not really sure what I think about his role in the movies. On one hand, it's adorable that he cares so much for animals. He's a bit like me in the sense that he prefers the company of animals to the company of people. On the other hand, he is different from what I had imagined. And the idea of the sleigh drawn by rabbits... I don't know. I'll have to see the other two movies to actually get a full picture of his importance (nor lack thereof).
Then there is Bilbo Baggins. I have to admit that I never heard of Martin Freeman before and when I saw him in interviews, I didn't like him. He seemed arrogant, aloof and like he felt like he was better than the rest of the world. I wasn't sure whether I'd like him as Bilbo. Fortunately, he seems to be a good actor. So I like him a lot more as Bilbo than I like him as he is during interviews. He's doing a good job and Bilbo is likeable – but I don't think I'll ever count Martin Freeman as one of my favourite actors.
Azog and the Goblin King are two other characters that are worth mentioning. Of course, you don't see much of the actors' normal looks behind all the props and make-up but the acting is well done. Azog does come across as very evil and without a heart. He truly gives you the feeling that he is bad right to the core, vicious and cruel. The Goblin King is more like a something out of a comedy. Utterly ugly, evil, but also not very intelligent. I think, the evil guys in the movie are doing a good job and they hit the right spots.
Last but not least, there is Gollum. And Andy Serkis is doing a fantastic job. The riddle scene between Gollum and Bilbo is just amazing. You'll have to see it to understand the brilliance of it. You can't keep yourself from being amused even though it's such a life-threatening situation for poor Bilbo.
Who do you like best?
Which character is your favourite in the Hobbit?
The story and soundtrack of the unexpected journey
People who have read Tolkien's book will be familiar with the stories in the Hobbit and will recognise the parts that aren't in the Hobbit but somewhere else in Tolkien's lore. I am not giving away the story line here because some readers might not know the story yet and I don't want to spoil the experience.
Someone told me that reviewers that the movie was too long, that there was too much story telling and too many different stories. I think that's just rubbish. Of course, if people are used to certain other types of movies that don't have much of a story at all, then the movie will be a little overwhelming. You learn about the history of the dwarven Kingdom of Erebor, you learn about Mirkwood, about wizards, more about Hobbits, more about dwarves and some background of their difficulties with elves. You learn about a dragon, about orcs and goblins and about the background of Thorin Oakenshield. There are a lot of stories in the first movie, and more stories will follow with the other two movies. We're talking Tolkien here, not vampires or Harry Potter.
I felt like the movie was just right, maybe even too short. I'm looking forward to the extended edition and I especially hope that we will get to hear and see the dwarves sing a longer version of the song “Over the misty mountains”. The soundtrack, by the way, is fantastic. It is a well balanced mix of new tracks that are intertwined with familiar melodies. The soundtrack never feels wrong and the main theme is just glorious. If Howard Shore doesn't get an Oscar for that, it would be very disappointing.
If you are a fan of Tolkien, then you should enjoy the movie - at least I wouldn't see a reason why you shouldn't. There might be one or the other thing that is a little odd or disappointing, but you never really get a perfect movie that makes everyone 100% happy. Even LotR wasn't perfect (for me, it had too much Arwen and I would have loved to see the full dialogue in which Gandalf and Saruman talk about being white, grey and coloured wizards).
My favourite moments:
The song "Over the misty mountains"
Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman in one scene
The interaction between Gandalf and Galadriel, in which their faces tell the story without really needing words
Thorin Oakenshield's background story and his encounter with Azog at the end
The eagles - just glorious in HFR 3D
Good or not?
Did you like the movie? Was it good or not?
Did you see the movie? What was your experience like? Did you watch it in HFR, normal 3D or 2D? What were your favourite moments and was there anything you found disappointing?