Monday, December 31, 2012



“I’m going on an adventure!”

- Bilbo Baggins

Yup, that about says it all. No pun intended, but long story short: I’m very undecided on how I feel about Peter Jackson’s version of The Hobbit. First off, I have never actually read The Hobbit. But, I’ve got plenty of secondary sources: Ralph Bakshi’s 1970s animated version (Now, I’m a secret animation geek, as well as a bonafide Master of Communication and Media Studies…so I notice the effects of different animated media on storytelling…more on that later.) several audio tapes and CDs, and of course, accounts from people who have read the book.

   In Peter Jackson’s version, all the characters look great. Martin Freeman is a great Bilbo, Ian McKellan is once again wonderful as Gandalf, etc. Mainly, my complaints about this movie are not so much in visual aspects; Peter Jackson always succeeds there. But, in storytelling and pacing, I got more of Jackson’s usual slow story development and battle scenes so fast and confusing you miss all the CGI chaos if you blink.

 I get what Peter Jackson is going for. He’s under pressure to keep the Tolkien geeks happy, connect to a regular audience, and connect this film to his previous Lord of The Rings Trilogy. He pulls it together well! By comparison however, Ralph Bakshi (to my knowledge.) was never under pressure to make The Hobbit look like a prequel; so we don’t get lengthy scenes of Sarumon talking to Gandalf, or even learn the significance of the ring until Bakshi’s The Fellowship of The Ring and The Return of The King. In that way, Bashski’s versions work as standalone films, and part of a series. And, since it’s all animated, nothing really feels out of place. This is not my impression in Peter Jackson’s half CGI half live-action series. Granted, this
modern version  is essentially a prequel, so the connections must exist.

    Jackson’s scenery is awesome to look at, but there are moments like meeting the Goblin King where it was just disgusting to look at; the goblins, far from little green things, are pale and look like ugly bipedal hairless cats. The Goblin King is fat and grotesque. As far as the monsters go though, I will say Gollum was better this time around, and I thoroughly enjoyed his scenes. As I said all the scenery and characters are great, and it really puts you into that magical world. But, then along comes a battle scene, and it’s so quick I had no idea what just happened. One minute, Bilbo’s just talking to trolls; the next, the dwarves jump out and Bilbo’s fighting them too.

    If I remember my Hobbit correctly (And I probably don’t. Feel free to correct me.) I thought Bilbo just tricks the trolls by throwing his voice and pretending to be a troll until Gandalf rescues the dwarves. Although Martin Freeman plays a great nervous little homebody Bilbo (And his house is exactly as I imagined; as it was in Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, too.) there were little moments such as the aforementioned troll encounter where I didn’t expect Bilbo would behave the way he did. He seems a little too battle-ready; such as when he is swinging his sword around at Gollum.

    Gollum’s performance in the riddle scene was very good. You can really see how the technology of face rendering in 3D has changed over the years. I love Andy Serkis, and his wild-eyed Gollum character. He’s energetic, and fun, with a little less dark side this time around; but it’s still there because he loses “the precious”. And even Bilbo’s trickery is fun to see. I guess the sneaky nervous little Bilbo is the one I’m used to. This Bilbo character is good, but has little moments where I don’t think he behaves like he should, as I’ve said.

   But, that’s all part of the delicate balancing act Peter Jackson is trying to do here. Appeal to Tolkien geeks, and long-time followers of his versions, vs. keeping a regular audience interested. Overall, I haven’t had such fun at the movies since The Avengers actually (Though The Avengers was better!) and there were several moments where I laughed out loud. And of course, I just like the world of Middle Earth and it’s magic! Another thing I liked is that they were able to keep in the songs, starting with the dwarves trashing Bilbo’s house. It’s a really good illustration of Bilbo’s homebody nature vs. these strange ruffian dwarves. But, because there is no inner dialogue here, you don’t really see his motive to leave his house. It’s just: “I’m going on an adventure!” Sure, he explains later. But, you don’t see him stirred by the songs.

   Anyway, I enjoyed the movie! Anytime I’m reminded of a fantasy-adventure is good! Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is a little more adventurous I’d say than Ralph Bakshi’s classic animated one. That may have been a good thing, given the initial slow pacing of the movie. And I think Bakshi was a little less disadvantaged because he wasn’t doing The Hobbit as a prequel. Nevertheless, if you want fantasy-action, you go with Peter Jackson. If you want the storytelling elements, you go with Bakshi. These are just subtle differences I noticed, that do help to appreciate either of the films.

    Peter Jackson was obviously under pressure to show everything fast and visually with CGI. Bakshi could take time because his cartoon just wasn’t as expensive as Jackson‘s, and  Bakshi  used narration both to make it seem more like a book (Jackson couldn’t; although Bilbo is writing the on-screen events in his version, so… I actually don‘t see why not!) and Bakshi captures the characters’ smaller details: Like green goblins, instead of weird hairless cat goblins.

   One last thing is that I figuratively rolled over laughing at the end, and how shocked most people were. But, I can’t give spoilers. I’m a little like a hobbit myself; I don’t want to spoil the adventure. I love movies that have a fantasy/sci-fi angle, and seeing that big reveal was definitely an indicator of a bigger, faster, more action-packed sequel! This was definitely The Hobbit…but definitely epic and definitely Peter Jackson’s take on it! Big, action-packed, and over-the-top: 3 stars for this Hobbit adventure! It really made me take a second look at Ralph Bakshi‘s Hobbit, too. Sit down, have some popcorn, and watch both, if you can…when Peter Jackson’s comes out on video. Happy New Year everyone!
                                                              (Hobbit movie poster.)

(Slick Bilbo.)

                                                                  (Meeting Gandalf.)

                                                      (Meeting Gandalf...Bakshi's version.)

1 comment:

  1. Nice review!
    I really really liked the Hobbit. But I'm thinking it's because of my fondness for The Lord of the Rings movies. Familiar sets and music cues really tickled my nostalgic memory. That said, I could see how if this was someone first trip to Middle Earth, they might find it slow moving, then random, then trite with Deus ex Machina.