“In a Hole in the Ground, There Lived a Hobbit.”

There’s a slim possibility I might end up seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with my folks, so I figured I should probably get around to finally watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

1

It wasn’t really worth the wait.

DISCLAIMER:

Minor baby spoilers. Also, while I’ve read The Hobbit before, it was roughly a decade ago, and I didn’t exactly care for it. (That is to say, it took me three times to even get through the book.) So I won’t be spending much, if any, time comparing the source material and its adaptation.

SUMMARY:

A bunch of dwarves want to reclaim their home from an evil old dragon. Gandalf the Grey helps out, and informs Bilbo the hobbit that he’ll be helping too.

NOTES:

1. Today’s review is going to be brief because, frankly, I have other stuff I need to work on, and I don’t know I cared enough about this movie to spend more than a thousand words on it. But let me say this: I’m pretty sure I would have liked An Unexpected Journey a little more if I knew the difference between any of the dwarves.

dwarves

Like, okay. There’s Thorin “Angsty Pants” Oakenshield, who’s the leader of the pack. There’s a fairly good looking dwarf who shoots arrows a lot. I’m pretty sure his name is Kili. Cute Boy Dwarf Kili has a brother with some kind of rhyming name. Fili maybe, or Bili. There’s an old dwarf and a young, goofy looking one. I don’t remember their names at all. And then there’s . . . everyone else. Keep in mind that’s about eight dwarves I can’t tell you anything about. None of them had distinct personalities or talents or even faces that stick out in my mind, and as such, I didn’t really care about any of them.

I’m not saying I have to love these guys, but after roughly three hours with them, I feel like I should have some sense of who the characters are. That’s not always easy with such a large company, but it can be done — hell, it WAS done in The Fellowship of the Ring. And I think character development is particularly necessary in a movie like this where, really, not a whole hell of a lot happens.

2. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of action . . . once you get past the unnecessarily long prologue (well, prologues, really) and the twenty-minute dinner scene. But even then, the action quickly gets repetitive and often feels a bit, I don’t know, trumped up? Like Peter Jackson knew there really wasn’t a lot of actual plot to his story and was like, “Well, here. Let’s have some more orcs attack! That’ll make it spicy!” Many of the action scenes were dull and just didn’t feel organic to the story itself.

I wasn’t utterly bored out of my skull — I mean, I wasn’t quite having a McCabe & Mrs. Miller moment — but I would honestly say I didn’t really get into this movie until the Riddle Challenge between Bilbo and Gollum.

gollum

And since that happens maybe half an hour before the film ends . . . well, that’s not good.

3. On the plus side, I really enjoyed Martin Freeman quite a bit as Bilbo.

bilbo2

Bilbo’s kind of a fussy little thing, and I’m not entirely sure I like him all that much. Like if he were real, I don’t know that we’d be friends — or at least he’d be the kind of friend who constantly drove me crazy. (Bilbo’s very Type A. I’m . . . Type C, I guess. What do you call someone who loves making plans and lists but also hates putting up shit and generally approves of clutter? Perhaps I’m a Type A myself, just an extraordinarily lazy one.) Anyhow, Freeman keeps Bilbo entertaining instead of purely annoying. He has some of the best facial expressions, and I think his comedic timing was very decent.

Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are also quite good. But I already knew that since, you know, I’ve seen the original trilogy, and I can’t say that this film afforded them any opportunity to break new ground with their respective characters.

4. I can say that I greatly question Bilbo’s decision-making skills. He does a 180 on the whole adventuring business that I just don’t buy. (It is literally overnight.) I mean, I’ve been there; as a cautious and somewhat anxiety-ridden sort of person, I’ve talked myself out of plenty of things I secretly wanted to do and regretted the hell out of them later. That said, none of those things included evisceration and incineration as very real possibilities.

Bilbo, buddy. How about we try baby steps into the wild world of adventuring, shall we?

5. And I can’t say that I entirely love Thorin.

thorinB

I mean, I don’t hate him. He has a good moment here or there, but ultimately his whole character strikes me as a crankier and less interesting version of Aragorn. I don’t know that I blame Richard Armitage for that, though. It didn’t seem like he was doing anything particularly wrong in his performance, and anyway, I’m not sure who would have made Surly Pants Oakenshield a more charismatic or engaging character for me.

6. I also wasn’t a big fan of Radagast. Or the talking trolls. Or the Great Goblin.

(I’ve decided not to post a picture of the Great Goblin. I feel like watching him and his giant ballsack neck once was enough, thanks.)

7. Finally, I kind of hoped watching Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth would be a little like going home again . . . in a good sense . . . but I just didn’t have the same sense of wonder that I had ten years ago. Or, surprisingly, even very much nostalgia. I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t watch this one on a big screen, or because my expectations were higher after a decade, or if the change in frame rate screwed things up for me. (I didn’t watch it in 3D, and if I do end up seeing the sequel in theaters, I won’t watch that in 3D either. I saw a 3D trailer for The Desolation of Smaug when I went to see Gravity, and Jesus CHRIST. I could barely follow what was happening on screen.)

The Unexpected Journey isn’t a terrible movie. It’s not, but man, it sure as hell isn’t LOTR, either.

QUOTES:

Bilbo: “Good morning.”
Gandalf: “What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it to be or not, or perhaps you mean to say that you feel good this particular morning? Or are you simply stating that this a morning to be good on. Hm?”
Bilbo: “. . . all of them at once, I suppose.”

Mopey Pants Oakenshield: “Forgive me for doubting you.”
Bilbo: “No, I would have doubted me too.”

Bilbo: “Why don’t we have a game of riddles, and if I win, you show me the way out of here.”
Gollum: “And if he loses? What then? Well, if he loses, precious, then we eats it. If Baggins loses, we eats it whole!”
Bilbo: “. . . fair enough.”

CONCLUSIONS:

Martin Freeman is excellent. Otherwise, eh. Here’s to hoping there’s more excitement in the next installment. (One would hope, considering the evil old dragon actually makes his appearance in that one.)

MVP:

Martin Freeman

TENTATIVE GRADE:

C+

MORAL:

It’s totally cool to volunteer your friends for dangerous missions that they have no interest in partaking in and really aren’t qualified for in any way. Cause, you know, they’ll have a change of heart. Why wouldn’t they? Incineration is fun!

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12 Responses to “In a Hole in the Ground, There Lived a Hobbit.”

  1. fatpie42 says:

    “I also wasn’t a big fan of Radagast.”

    WHAT????

    Well you may as well give up on ALL the Lord Of The Rings movies then. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best thing in ANY of the boring-as-hell Lord Of The Rings movies we’ve been expected to stomach.

    And yeah, that great big dinner scene? One of the most faithful adaptations of anything in Tolkien’s books so far. So yeah, I guess that explains why so many fans of the LOTR movies hate it. 😛

    Also, the Gollum scene? I have mixed feelings. In the book “The Hobbit” Gollum is a really scary monster that lurks in the darkness. Bilbo just didn’t seem remotely frightened enough. I have trouble understand the idea that the Gollum scene was some massive highlight. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t even remotely faithful to the books.

    • Well, I didn’t find the LOTR movies boring, so . . . I guess I don’t have to give up on them? But yeah, I’m afraid I just don’t see Radagast’s appeal. Honestly, he seemed hugely cartoonish and kind of annoying.

      I didn’t hate the dinner scene the way some other people did, but for that long of a scene, I feel like we should’ve had better dialogue or character development or something. Then again, I’m not a Tolkien fan and I like the LOTR trilogy, so maybe you’re right — it’s no big surprise I thought the scene itself was flawed.

      I suppose Gollum was basically the same Gollum he was in the LOTR movies, which is the version I know and like. So I was happy to see him here. I thought he and Martin Freeman were fun together. And I just love riddle challenges in stories, I guess.

    • Jim King says:

      Radagast sucked. I agree with the assessment of him being the LOTR equivalent of Jar-Jar. We hear almost nothing of him in the books, but there’s no reason to think he’s such a clown.

  2. Dave Nielsen says:

    One thing that irritated me about this movie was that, even though it’s based on a children’s book, when you have people being stabbed and slashed there should be blood. When Gandalf takes out that goblin king the goblin doesn’t bleed at all. No one else does either.

    Well you may as well give up on ALL the Lord Of The Rings movies then. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best thing in ANY of the boring-as-hell Lord Of The Rings movies we’ve been expected to stomach.

    He’s the worst thing about the movie by far. Basically the Jar-Jar Binks of The Hobbit.

    And yeah, that great big dinner scene? One of the most faithful adaptations of anything in Tolkien’s books so far. So yeah, I guess that explains why so many fans of the LOTR movies hate it.

    I liked the dinner scene, and in fact my enjoyment of the movie pretty much ended when they left The Shire.

    It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t even remotely faithful to the books.

    I thought it was kind of bad because I’m not a fan of the too-cartoonish look of Gollum. Even if you didn’t know it already you’d suspect he’s pure CGI. (I know Andy Serkis played him, but when they CGI over that they gave him Simpsons-esque gigantic eyes. You could argue the ring altered him but that doesn’t really work for me.)

  3. Jim King says:

    I feel like we should’ve had better dialogue or character development or something.

    It was just a fun scene and part of establishing Bilbo’s character, the character of the dwarves, of Gandalf, the Shire itself. I hate the kind of Cliff Notes type of storytelling you always seem to crave – where only dialog and actions that specifically drive the plot along are included. Maybe this is the influence of TV? And the internet? (A lot of people claim they both have affected the attention span.) It would be a bit like a story told by telegram.

    • As a general rule of thumb, I think the best stories are clean and concise and leave all the unnecessary material at the door. I wouldn’t think to attribute this preference to television or the internet, though, and I certainly wouldn’t liken it to CliffsNotes or telegrams — if anything, I’m inclined to argue that it comes from various writing classes and workshops, and particularly the Elmore Leonard school of thought: “I try to leave out the parts that other people skip.”

      But this is mostly just a general practice or guiding philosophy — we all like movies that include unnecessary scenes or irrelevant dialogue. This just wasn’t one of mine. This particular scene was okay — I’m not arguing it was the worst scene in the world or anything — but I did find it a little dull. I guess it helped establish Bilbo as fussy, but I got that in two minutes. I didn’t want or need twenty minutes belaboring the point. (Approximating time here. I don’t remember how long each scene actually lasted, and I don’t feel like looking it up.) Same with the dwarves being rowdy or Gandalf being . . . well, Gandalf. I didn’t need all the dialogue in the dinner scene to be plot-relevant, but I did need to find it funny or snappy or complex or interesting, and it just wasn’t any of that for me. Which is, on the whole, how I felt about the film itself: not terrible but not at all engaging, either.

  4. Dave Nielsen says:

    I forgot to mention, re: Goblin King. He taunts Gandalf, basically saying “What are you gonna do, bitch?” and Gandalf stabs him in the eye, cuts open his huge gut, and slashes his throat. Now, after this had been done to you, would you then make a lame quip. He says “Yup, that’ll do it.” Come on!

    • I know! I almost mentioned that in the review — I hated that part of the movie. What’s funny is they do the exact same joke in Jason X . . . the movie where Jason goes to space . . . and it works for me there because, you know. It’s Jason in space! It is the definition of camp. But here . . . it just seemed all wrong and not funny in the slightest.

  5. Macabre says:

    With the exception of the last thirty minutes or so, I found the first Hobbit movie quite boring, so I wasn’t looking forward to the second one. My friends dragged me to it, though, and it’s a huge improvement. The second one is much more entertaining; there’s more excitement and more action. Unlike the first installment, the second movie maintains a forward momentum. Everything with Smaug is especially thrilling. If you get dragged into seeing it like I did, I think you’ll enjoy it more than expected.

  6. Dave Nielsen says:

    How much did Smaug have to do/say in the book? Not much, I bet.

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