The QFT staff sat down today to talk about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which they all watched over the weekend because they are slaves to SciFi and Fantasy awesomeness. Here’s what they got.
Eric: I think we should start off with our overall opinions of the movie. I really enjoyed the film. And I think having fun while you’re there is the most important measure of a movie
Eric: I thought he was kind of emo. And then there’s Noelle Stevenson’s take on the dwarves.
Jen: He was a hot old dwarfy dude with smoldering eyes. Yeah… I totally didn’t picture him that way when I read the book fifty times.
Chris: I thought he was hot too. He was also pretty dreamy in BBC’s recent Robin Hood series as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Eric: Yeah, that was my first comment to my wife.
Jen: I had a hard time watching Bilbo and not thinking of him as a body double for Love Actually
Eric: That’s interesting, given that his most recent appearances are in the BBC Sherlock.
Jen: I have a hard time not picturing him as the body double when I watch Sherlock too.
Chris: I had a hard time not picturing him as Watson. Actually, I only thought of him as Watson a few times
Jen: They included a lot of the Silmarillion . Have you guys read that? I tried several times. Nearly died of boredom. Maybe I should try again. I love all his other stuff.
Eric: I haven’t ever been able to read it for much the same reason. I know some of the material, but not all of it.
Chris: I nearly died of boredom just trying to get through Fellowship of the Ring.
Jen: that’s because you probably didn’t skip the part about Tom Bombadil. YAWN!
Chris: The Hobbit was a great book to me, but maybe because I read it after doing the play and I knew all the lines by heart and was anticipating them. Eff you Tom Bombadil!
Jen: Although I do admire Tolkien’s attention to detail.
Chris: He had World Builder’s disease, one of the most extreme cases known to man. I don’t hate the idea of Tom Bombadil, and I really enjoyed him rescuing them from the crypt. But when it starts going on and on about the full history it’s like, Gandalf H. Grey, Tolkien, you need to speed this up.
Eric: Actually, I liked Bombadil and the barrows. I was sad that FOTR film didn’t have the barrows; it added a lot to Merry’s attack on the nazgûl in ROTK.
On another note, I have to say that my least favorite part of the movie was the loudly whisper-cussing teens sitting behind me. Followed immediately by the woman who dumped soda on my head. A close third being the woman who caressed my head while walking past.
Chris: Caressed? Like….she did a little rub down? Was it with her hand?
Eric: Yeah. I was like, ew.
But seriously, what’s up with the “evil leader kills an underling for failure” scene? Does that kind of scene have any impact in any movie ever anymore? I wasn’t bothered by it so much till Saladin Ahmed brought it up on twitter today. Then I was like, you’re right, that was kind of a waste of time.
Chris: Yeah, it was superfluous. It didn’t do much for me beyond making me feel smart because I predicted it. But it did feel pretty forced for the same reason. Really I think it was just a characterization. They wanted to show who the “master” was that the orcs were reporting to, and what would a bad-ass albino orc do in this situation? He’d toss the underling to the wargs.
Eric: I guess so. But I think it all could have been done more effectively. I mean, did anyone in the theater NOT know that pale orc was chasing them from the moment Gandalf quickly looks away and almost “whistles innocently” after Thorin says the orc is dead?
Eric: On the other hand, while I don’t think that organized orc pursuit is necessarily the best choice, I do like the weaving in of the Mirkwood necromancer into the narrative, including the council held in Rivendell. With the caveat that this makes me wonder what modifications will need to be made to part two, but I guess Jackson can handle that by Gandalf walking off on his own so the dwarves have to handle themselves… again.
Jen: I don’t think Mirkwood will be a problem at all.
Chris: I did think that was a great setup. I remember hearing about Radagast before, but I didn’t realize how much of a bad-ass he was. I think he was actually one of my favorite parts, just because it was so over-the-top ridiculous with the sled pulled by rabbits that it was fun.
Jen: I did like the rabbits.
Eric: I did like the rabbits, although I think the rabbit/warg “chase scene” got a little silly.
Jen: Don’t you guys know that the general American population needs silliness and obvious reveals in order to love a film?
Eric: Ha ha. Ok, the silliness leads me to a comparison I was hesitating to draw. As John Scalzi pointed out, this is a prequel trilogy to a beloved speculative fiction property. That … hasn’t always been a good thing. And it looks to me like Jackson is taking a lot of the same steps that Lucas took for his prequels. The goblins and orcs and trolls are more talky-talky with silly bits that seem to appeal to kids. But it’s still trying to retain the gravity and epic-ness of the original. So I guess my question is, do you think that’s a fair comparison?
Jen: It’s a good point, I guess. I, personally, do not enjoy the talky talky bits, a la Jarjar Binks. I think most things in American pop culture are dumbed down for kids and I think it’s a disservice to the kids. For example: My son’s teacher was trying to get him to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants because they are on his official reading level. He chose to read The Hobbit and Sherlock Holmes instead. Am I going to stop him? Heck no!
Chris: Nice. But actually, the troll scene was fairly close to the original, except they only caught Bilbo, there was no fight scene
Eric: There’s a good argument for that, Chris, but it’s inconsistent with trolls in the LOTR films. I can think of only one instant in the entire trilogy where a troll makes a noise that’s remotely communicative. There’s a lot of growls, and yells, and there’s one point where a troll half whimpers when he sees something that can kick his ass. They don’t say any words. The orcs, also, while more talkative, are not half so glib as the orcs and goblins in Hobbit.
Chris: I completely agree, but that’s how Tolkien wrote them. I had the same thought at the time, “Its hard for me to picture these bumbling idiot trolls turning into war machines to fight.” In fact, weren’t some of the large battles in LOTR in the middle of the damn day? What did they do, wear sunscreen?
Jen: They were enchanted by Sauron and inbred.
Eric: That was only Sarumon’s Uruk-hai. The sunlight thing has been quite inconsistent in Jackson’s films
the rabbit/warg chase scene is in the middle of the day. In LOTR they’re pretty consistent until the end. Up till then we only see Uruk-hai in daylight, who were bred to be able to withstand the sun. An exception is the battle of Minas Tirith, and that was explained that Sauron was spreading his darkness to enable them to do that. But that last battle where Aragorn almost gets his head handed to him happens in the day. No explanation for that.
Jen: Aragorn is also hot. Actually, even though Thorin is proud and stubborn, I think I may prefer him to Aragorn.
Eric: Maybe there should be Aragorn/Thorin slash fiction. Thoragorn
Jen: I liked the goblin mines vs the dwarf mines.
Eric: Jackson did do a good job with settings. Lots of great stuff. I also like how Gandalf breaks the rock to get the trolls into early daylight. Tolkien’s way, that the trolls are too distracted, showed the stupidity of trolls. But it was nice that the win in the movie is more active on the part of the team. However, Jackson is seriously in danger of making Gandalf the K-9 of this adventure.
Jen: Aw… look! the wizard does care about us!
Eric: He keeps wandering off, but then DUH DUH DUH! he shows up as soon as the dwarves don’t have any other option.
You know, all this complaining leaves me in danger of leaving the impression that I didn’t like the movie, which is totally not true. I nearly ruptured my bladder “holding it” through the last hour so I wouldn’t miss anything. But I do have one other complaint. This may have been different in 48fps or Imax or 3d or something, but there were a few moments that were “hey look! We’re using a green screen!” rather than the seamless meshing I grew to expect from LOTR. Did anyone else see that?
Chris: There were a few places that it felt like more of a set than a real location.
Eric: The biggest example of that for me was at the end where they’re all standing together at the top of that rock. Which, incidentally, is also an example of bad blocking in order to get a dramatic shot. But in addition to the posing being unnatural, the background was a different part of the light spectrum than the foreground. I’ve come to just accept it as convention that these guys are always at the very tops of mountains for no reason.
Chris: That part was just dumb, in my opinion. I loved the movie, but there was some stuff that didn’t make sense. It felt like Jackson’s way of shoe-horning in a scene reminiscent of the end of FOTR when they can see Mordor at the end of the movie, and you’re like “Hey, it’s just right there, they’ll get there in the next film for sure.”
Eric: Good point, that might be exactly why he did it.
Chris: This draws the same criticism that the LOTR series got: Why the hell didn’t the eagles just carry them all the way? What, were they like “Hey, you can see your mountain from here, it’s like right across the street. You’ll be fine.”
Eric: Haha. Yeah, my wife even asked that, and she never even pays attention to plot holes before I explain them. I wrote it off as “the eagles didn’t want to get any closer to Smaug,” but… that’s not explained in the story; that’s me making up an explanation.
Chris: Exactly, it’s not explained. Which, with all the over-explaining being done, you would think it would be more prudent to explain that.
Eric: Ok, something Jackson did overwhelmingly right? Bilbo’s relationship with the dwarves. There’s not a monolithic dwarf personality.
Chris: It’s true, I did really like that.
Eric: I was genuinely touched by the moment where Bilbo almost leaves, and the dwarf says “I wish you the best of luck.” He didn’t expect more from Bilbo, but he also doesn’t resent him for not delivering more.
Chris: Yeah, that scene in the cave was great.
Eric: And although doing this next part makes me wish the orcs had sung “what pretty little birds” when they have the party treed, I LOVED the “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates” song in Bilbo’s home. In the Rankin/Bass cartoon, it was just a soundtrack while they really smashed the dishes. But in this one, the dwarves are a) showing off their skills and b) ultimately respecting their host while c) teasing him a little. That was just awesome. It showed a real skill with storytelling.
Chris: The dwarf song reminded me a lot of Aragorn’s song in ROTK.
Eric: Yeah, that was a good song too.
Chris: You know what scene bothered me a little? The mountain Fight Club. WHAT. THE. HELL. At one point I turned to my wife and whispered, “Did I just see a rock pick up another rock and hit another rock in the face with it?”
Jen: That’s in the book.
Chris: My issue wasn’t that it was in the movie. It was just the oddity of the fight itself. A rock picks up a rock and hits another rock in the face with it. I can understand not wanting to pull your “finger” off and throw it at someone. But your fist is made of rock. Why is it better to pick up another rock? So you don’t chip yourself?
Eric: Yeah, it was less “throwing rocks at each other” and more “I’m kick yo’ ass.” Wouldn’t be better not to be in a fight where you can literally knock each other’s heads off? I wasn’t that bothered by it, but it was kinda… “wha?”
Jen: You guys are so picky! The only part of the movie I didn’t like was when Gandalf turned to the audience and lectured us on being kind in small ways in order to conquer evil. Other than that, I think it was great fun and Thorin was quite pleasing.
Eric: Yeah, that was very “and knowing is half the battle.”
Jen: However – the best part of the movie was my 9 year old son asking questions in a very loud voice the best question of the night: “What’s the deal with the ring? He’s got to get out of there, why does he care about a dumb ring?”
Chris: That’s a fair question.
Eric: That wasn’t the most effective directing. It seems a little silly how that ring keeps “accidentally” falling onto fingers. However, it does help illustrate how the ring itself is trying to get away.
Jen: See, it’s not an accident, and that’s what I explained to my son. The ring has a mind of its own. It was sick of being stuck in the dark with Gollum and it willed Bilbo to take it. Remember, in the books they talk about it being able to change size. It can slip off your finger and betray you if it wants to.
Chris: The ring is
almost sentient, so you kind of expect it.
Eric: The scene does, however, show Bilbo to be clumsy.
Jen: He is clumsy. Look at those feet!
Eric: If he’s clumsy, why is he hired as a burglar? I don’t want a clumsy burglar.
Chris: Because Gandalf.
Jen: Because it was foretold!
Eric: Because of reasons.
Ok, this is not a flaw, but a wish. Hobbits are supposed to be awesome rock flingers.
Chris: Yeah, they are.
Jen: Maybe not when under extreme duress.
Eric: They’re supposed to be able to have inordinate accuracy and effectiveness using small stones as ammunition, so I kinda wanted Bilbo to lodge a burning pine cone in some orc or warg’s throat.
I did like the movie, quite a bit. Despite the giant bag of useless flesh hanging off the giant goblin-king’s face (which also reminded me uncomfortably of Boss Nass).
Jen: That was disgusting. I couldn’t look at him. I much prefer David Bowie as a goblin king.
Eric: I thought the music was good too. They used a lot of LOTR stuff, but also made it new.
Jen: Final thoughts: Movie was great fun. Wish it had been less silly in places, but most of all, Thorin was hot. Fili was hot too until he started to talk. What’s up with that girly voice?
Eric: Not all dwarves have to be hot. That’s dwarf racism! Dwarfism!
Jen: Oh man, Bofur was not hot. And it’s actually sexist. I’m making objects of them. Don’t talk. Just shut up and kill an ogre or something. Thorin, you talk and smolder those eyes into the distance. Yes, that’s it my precious.
Eric: You’re a sexy dwarfist!
Chris: I highly enjoyed the movie, a few minor complaints but when you get this kind of fanboy source material, you’re going to be extra critical.
Eric: I think the nitpicking we’re doing shows how good the movie is. We’re not looking at giant problems with the whole movie, with acting, or cinematography. It sounds like we all really loved it.