Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review of The Hobbit (Or More Like An Ode)

Well, I did it: I saw The Hobbit three times in theatres. The only other movie to win such an honor with me was Return of the King. But The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned it.

The Hobbit #2 continued the story of Bilbo Baggins and thirteen Dwarves as they travel across Middle Earth to reclaim the Lonely Mountain, the Dwarves' old homeland and store of many treasures, from the great dragon Smaug. Still hunted by orcs, the company manages to get chased by a bear, caught by talking spiders, and imprisoned by Woodelves in the first half of the movie. Some hobbit ingenuity and a fantastic orc/dwarf/elf fight-scene-on-a-river later,* they sneak through Laketown and finally make it to the Lonely Mountain--where, of course, Smaug awakens, as we know he will.

The fighting and acting and character development are all superb--did we expect any less? The cast was a bit of a surprise for me, a wonderful surprise, when I discovered that old favorites like Stephen Fry would make an appearance. Benedict Cumberbatch lends his excellent voice, and a whole slew of top actors populates the screen from Martin Freeman (who could get an Oscar just for how he wields his facial muscles) to Ian McKellan to Richard Armitage--who is about as kingly as you can get. James Nesbitt, an old favorite of mine from Waking Ned Devine and Millions, came back as Bofur with his comical hat. Lee Pace, who I'd never seen before, played one of the trickiest characters, King Thranduil, and pulled it off to a T.

If you haven't seen it yet (or are seeing it again), you need to see it in 3D IMAX. Though the IMAX was my third viewing, the beauty and action startled me right back into newness with the giant screen jumping out at me. As expected, Peter Jackson created a movie you could love just for the sheer visual quality. From the cinematics to the visual characterization of each culture to the movement through the scenes, everything has been crafted to dazzle the eye.

Not to mention the ear. Howard Shore returns with continuing excellence in The Hobbit's soundtrack. What both surprised me and pleased me the most was how unearthly were the compositions for the Woodelves of Thranduil's realm. Non-Tolkienites might not know that Woodelves are quite different from the Grey and High Elves of Rivendell and Lorien: baser and less glorious, having less a desire for the sea and Valinor. Ruling Woodelves for so long has in many ways corrupted the Grey Elf Thranduil; he is greedy and defensive, turned inwards to his own safety rather than outwards to the good he can offer the world with Elvish magic and beauty. The music's eerie quality as we travel through the woodland halls reflected this entirely and made Woodelf culture come alive in its unique way, a completely distinct feeling from our time at Rivendell.

I'll leave out a discussion of PJ's creation of a character, the Elf Tauriel, not because I have no thoughts but because they go along with many other thoughts about feminism and creativity and how we use our words. So you'll have to wait until tomorrow to get a dissection of that little scandal. As a story, Tauriel didn't ruin things at all and in fact gave PJ a chance to show some important things about Woodelf culture that people who have only seen LotR might otherwise be confused about. So hey, it's Peter Jackson: I forgive him.

Well, another all-time favorite movie of mine is out. I'll be buying the extended edition; you can count on it. If you didn't like it, please go somewhere else with your nasty commentses, because I don't want to hear them. (Just kidding. But really.)

Word count: 652.

* No really, this was my favorite scene of all time. Laugh-worthy and sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat-worthy all at once. Truly amazing.