Fandom Friday: The Hobbit

(I'm assuming that non-sports posts are ok in the Fanpost area. If not, I'm happy to delete).

Yes, I know it's not actually Friday, but for the sake of alliteration, you have to make a few sacrifices.

I finally watched The Hobbit yesterday (IMAX 3D, 24 fps) and overall, I was not disappointed. It was as gorgeous and epic as we've come to expect from Peter Jackson doing Middle-earth. There were some changes made to the original story, but unlike with Lord of the Rings, the changes served to expand the universe rather than alter it. Also, the changes did not come at the expense of other material that had to be cut.

For example, in the book, Radagast the Brown is mentioned only in passing. Here, by giving the brown wizard an entire scene to chew, we get a lot more information than we would have via exposition from Gandalf. I also thought the scenes in Dol Guldur with the Necromancer and the Witch-King's shadow were nicely realized (and very familiar to people who have seen the Lord of the Rings movies).

Some things felt a bit clunky. There was too much of an attempt to tie this story to the events in Lord of the Rings, to the point where it bogged the pace down, and got away from the central story in The Hobbit. The book is a perfectly good self-contained story of one adventure, not a prequel to Lord of the Rings. The inclusion of Galadriel was, IMO, nothing more than a cynical attempt to introduce a female character into a story that features none. The prologue was much too long, although maybe that was necessary.

Two final nitpicks about characterization, which I'm sure nobody else agrees with.

1. I think Martin Freeman is miscast. I think he's a brilliant actor and I've appreciated his efforts to be the bumbling everyman (i.e. Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example) or the sympathetic sidekick (i.e. Dr. Watson in BBC's Sherlock series). But his Bilbo seems to be Arthur Dent who turns into Watson over the course of this movie. While that's certainly an entertaining journey, it feels wrong somehow. He also doesn't capture the inherent mischief and charm that Ian Holm brings to the older Bilbo.

To give Freeman his props, however, he is brilliant in the scenes with Gollum, which must have been especially hard considering he was probably talking to a green screen the entire time.

2. The movie's Thorin Oakenshield is not the Thorin of the books. In the books, he's just as disgusting and petty as the other Dwarves, with the exception that he's noticeably taller and he's a good warrior. He's not a particularly good leader of men and his primary motivation in wanting to defeat Smaug and take back The Lonely Mountain is greed. The movie's Thorin, on the other hand, is more handsome and well-mannered than his Dwarvish cohorts. He's an effective and natural leader and an exceptionally good warrior. His motivation for the quest is entirely noble too, i.e. he wants to reclaim his people's homeland.

I assume this was a deliberate attempt by the writers to give The Hobbit a more traditional hero, in an Aragorn-esque king-in-exile figure, all dignity and noble spirit. That's too bad, because The Hobbit is really Bilbo's story.

I'd love to hear more thoughts from those of you that have seen the movie.

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