BY MICHELLE MEDFORD AND JULIE FREEMAN
The Hobbit is either a movie you’re dying to see, counting down the days and re-reading the book, or else not too concerned about at all. To help illustrate, we’ve brought together two opposing backgrounds to dissect the film. In one end, our Tolkienite, Michelle, and in the other end, our Tolkien newbie, Julie.
THE VISUALS: “Beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic”
J: I tried to go into this film with an open a mind as possible. Being a complete Tolkien neophyte, I had no idea what to expect in terms of story and tone. The one thing I did anticipate, however, was to be impressed with sweeping landscapes and fancy fantasy-genre computer graphics. I’ve been racking my brain for an appropriate adjective to describe of the film since seeing it the other day and all that comes to mind is… bad. It looked bad. I didn’t see it in the high frame rate that Jackson intended for it, and maybe that had something to do with the fact that some of the CGI looked like it was lifted from Army of Darkness. Even then, I’ll always prefer cleverly-built models over computer generated creatures. Some of the CGI shots were reasonably interesting to look at, like Rivendell and the blob-goblin guy, but when it was layered over actual landscapes, it just came off looking shoddy. I’m also pretty certain the necromancer came from the opening credits of the X-Files. Overall, the look of the film took me out of the story more times than I could count.
M: On the other hand, I saw the movie in IMAX 3D. I’m not sure I get what all the 48 fps hubbub was all about, because it wasn’t so bad; I just got a bit dizzy at times during sweeping shots (but I sometimes do during 3D anyway). As with The Lord of the Rings, my favourite shots were the long shots of gorgeous New Zealand landscapes. But unlike Julie, I actually enjoyed the CGI: My favourite scene of all was set in the goblin cave with its shabby but intricate wooden architecture and firey ruins. There were also some beautiful uses of lighting, like during the “unexpected party” in Bilbo’s home (but don’t get me started on those strange dwarf songs) and, obviously, the luminescent Rivendell. It was a gorgeous movie with countless poster-worthy moments.
THE ACTING: “The hearts of dwarves” …and company
M: I had no opinions about Martin Freeman before this movie. I knew who he was, sort of (Tim from the UK’s Office, doppelganger to our Jim), and that he’d been in a bunch of British movies, but I’d never seen him in anything myself. After this movie, I am a huge fan. He’s the perfect fit as Bilbo Baggins: timid with bursts of conviction and heroism, sprinkled with awkwardness and charisma. There are also some returning and always promising faces: Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum. Don’t get me started on Andy Serkis and his ever-impressive motion capture performances (he’s also back in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes due out in 2014… and I’m more than exited). His return as the former hobbit (yes, Gollum was once a hobbit) is even creepier, darker and more sinister than we’ve ever seen him.
J: I’m actually pretty excited for you for having discovered Martin Freeman, Michelle. I’ve always loved his relatable, awkward but dignified characters but it was a moment in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when he first sees the planets being built, that solidified him, for me, as one of the more talented actors of this generation. If anything made the price of admission worth it, it was his performance. He was delightful to watch on screen and managed, somehow, to make a ten minute scene about riddles a little more enjoyable. The other stand-out performance, for me, was Ian McKellen, who nicely achieved the wise, old wizard archetype without any Dumbledore smugness. He has a certain twinkle in his eye that makes you wish you could sit and have a pint with him. I’ve, obviously, never really seen much of Gollum before, but knowing it was done with motion capture instead of straight CGI makes the whole thing much more interesting. I’m going to investigate more of Serkis’ work, now.
THE STORY: “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure”
M: I read the book in time for the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge LotR fan (my boyfriend recently bought me the extended Blu-ray box set, just to upgrade me from my extended DVD box set–a most necessary purchase), I just have a never-ending list of books to read and the movie pushed The Hobbit to the top. I’ll start by saying, the movie is moderately different than the book. There are some entirely-new sub-plots (well, new to The Hobbit, but found in other Tolkien works), details added at crucial moments and significantly shortened or lengthened scenes, but the main storyline is still the same and key events are still there. While I appreciate how the writers were able to seamlessly add new elements to such a favoured classic and even add depth in areas that were lacking (I mean, it’s based on a children’s book), I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s a book that could have easily fit into one movie, as opposed to drawn out and filled in for three three-hour-long movies.
J: I’ve never seen a Lord of the Rings film I’ve never even read a book by Tolkien. Before you ask me for my nerd card back, remember that we all have our genres, and this simply isn’t mine. I still couldn’t tell you the difference between an orc and a troll or a dwarf and and elf, and frankly, I don’t really care to know. For example, are all elves meant to be smug-looking, slow-talking douchebags? Does wearing the ring make you high as well as invisible? If Gandalf could get a butterfly to call his giant-bird friends all along, why didn’t he just ask them for a ride from the beginning instead of using them as a massive Deus Ex Machina? And why did the pale orc have such a hate on for that particular dwarf lineage? I don’t say this to be disrespectful, I know this source material is viewed with a certain reverence, I only mean to illustrate the fact that, without any prior knowledge of the story or characters, there were a lot of things that must have gone over my head. If you’re one of the few people that doesn’t know much about The Hobbit prior to going in, this film clearly wasn’t made for you.
M: As a Tolkienite, I was mostly pleased. Though mildly torn at times, it was still as magical as I hoped it would be, and I’m ready to pre-order my tickets for the second installment.
J: I really wanted to like this more than I did. I’m going to try reading the book again to see if that helps, but over all, it didn’t do much for me.
Julie is a travelling ER nurse who communicates in pop-culture references and wants to live in a universe written by Aaron Sorkin. It’s important to her that you know she can’t possibly be a hipster because she loves basically everything, unabashedly. She tweets incoherently @Julieismagic.