I know, I know, I know. Bad geek! Bad! I had wanted to see The Hobbit the moment it came out. I was hoping that I could even score free tickets to an advance screening (like I have for other movies lately). Sadly, the free tickets were not to be. The one screening my wonderful wife found were gone in 15 seconds and I couldn't have gone anyway. And Friday, well, Friday I had an eye doctor appointment and then we went to see Santa as a family. Weekends are bad, too, so I had to wait until a Monday. A Monday! I know, I need to turn in my geek card now.
But the time finally came and I settled in. After twenty minutes of previews (and I'm still wondering why they thought that fans of J.R.R. Tolkien would be interested in Stephanie Meyer's alien movie thing), the epic tale of Bilbo Baggins unfolded before me. And it was good.
For the most part.
So let's start with the caveats and the words of warning. I wasn't totally sold on the idea of splitting the story into two parts, let alone three. The Hobbit
is a much shorter book than The Lord of the Rings, so it seemed a little odd to me that Peter Jackson would divvy up the film, regardless of if he brought in extra material or not. But it's Peter Jackson, for crying out loud. I trust him with Middle Earth, so I was willing to let go of my minor misgivings.
But what format to see it in? I could have gone to see it in IMAX 3D at the Minnesota Zoo, but the last movie I saw like that (Tron: Revolutions, or whatever that train wreck was called) left me feeling a bit dizzy. So should I try for 3D? Or track down the nearest theater that would show it in 48fps 3D? I finally decided on just plain old vanilla 2D.
And it was great to be back in Middle Earth again! It was fantastic to see Gandalf and Bilbo again. I was ready to stand up and cheer the first time I heard a whispered voice in a dark cave. And it was a fun movie, with lots of adventure, some silliness, and that spectacular New Zealand scenery.
And yet . . .
And yet there were some minor details, things that bothered me. I "saw the seams" on some of the visual effects, particularly when Gandalf and the dwarfs were trying to escape from the goblins. I could tell when the CGI folks took over, which I don't remember happening in the Lord of the Rings movies.
But most of all, there was disconnect for me, and I think it's the fact that the source material was slightly incompatible with Peter Jackson's vision.
Let's remember, The Hobbit started life as a story for children. So while there is danger and adventure, none of it is quite as life-and-death as in LotR. And in some ways, Jackson remained true to the source material, by including the "Blunt the Knives" musical number and the goblin's torture song (!) in the movie. Radagast too seemed particularly suited for a kids' story.
But then there are the parts where Jackson was clearly trying to hearken back to the style and vision of Lord of the Rings, and it caused a little bit of cognitive dissonance in me. It didn't feel right.
Not only that, but I think the film suffered a little bit because the story of The Hobbit doesn't strike me as being quite as epic as Lord of the Rings. Yes, taking on Smaug will be awesome and yes, the journey is important for the dwarfs, but the movie seemed to lack a "Big Bad." Because of that, the movie didn't feel quite as big. And yes, I know who the Necromancer is.
Now that may sound like I didn't enjoy it. I did. And I'm looking forward to the next leg of the journey.