Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit: (OR... how I trash a print review)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (… OR… how I trash a print review.)

I have been known to occasionally savage films that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. I’ve used strong words like “insipid”, “Wretched”, and “miserable” while describing the Transformers movies, the Avatar film, and various other productions that didn’t necessarily deliver on what I was either expecting or wanting. I was, however, always “fair” regarding the merits of the film… from whether it had good special effects to the music soundtrack, I do try to find some light of positive energy to mention for those who actually read my blog.

With that said, we have a weekly newspaper here in this county and I often check the print for movie times, reviews, and other such stuff. It’s considered an “alternative” newspaper, which pretty much means it’s the most “liberal” minded paper. This includes their film reviews, which have featured both negative or positive reviews regarding the political content of a given movie. I don’t often agree with the reviewer, but never have I been more blown away by just how incredibly WRONG the review was  with regards to “The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey”, which garnered a whopping 2 ½ stars from this incredibly moronic writer whose expectations, knowledge, and taste is woefully poor at best.

Let us start with the assumption that “The Hobbit” is supposed to act as some sort of a prequel to Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. While filmed by the same director, written by the same author, same setting, and featuring many of the same characters… “The Hobbit” is a stand-alone story with an entirely different theme, many different elements, and entirely different mood. Elements featured in the later story are much less prevalent, and Bilbo Baggins is an entirely different main character than Frodo. The writer comments that the ONLY scene he felt was justifiably dragged out was the one introducing us to the older Bilbo from the original film and some dialogue between he and Frodo. Yes, the only scene that actually does NOT have a place in the book itself is the only scene the writer thought was justifiable.

The Hobbit was always intended as a CHILDRENS book! It came out long before “Lord of the Rings”, it enjoys just as much popularity and acclaim, and the writer is acting as if the Hobbit is a prequel “follow-up” to the second story as if this were Star Wars. The mood, the tone, and everything is supposed to be vastly different than that of the laborious and emotionally grinding pathos found in “The Lord of the Rings”. This isn’t some romanticized “return” to Middle-Earth, this is the very cornerstone foundation upon which the other works have been built.

When the writer laments that this “return” to Middle Earth focuses too much on the dwarves he displays an unbelievable display of ignorance regarding the fact that the story is about 13 Dwarves and a Hobbit!!!  The complaints are no more keenly proof of ignorance than in his expression that the audience is forced to sit through two (“Whole!”) songs by the Dwarves… both of which are incredibly important to the mood, story, and characters of the Dwarves themselves. No, this scene which actually IS important to the story is pulled out for far too long. The songs? The first is a flashback to the much beloved Rankin-Bass cartoon and is actually featured in the book itself as a playful number describing how the Dwarves take to a fun party atmosphere. The second is a lament to all that the dwarves have lost, all they’re missing, and what this “Unexpected Journey” is really all about. It’s also one of the most important turning points for Bilbo, who begins to see the importance of this journey and what it could mean to these men who are fast becoming his friend. The fact that this song touches Bilbo is lost to subtlety for the writer of the review, the fact that there’s something of an adventurer within the lead character is lost with regards to his youthful exploits and the playful jibes with Gandalf. For the writer of the review, there’s “No explanation” as to why Bilbo decides to join this quest. This is how to build a story, my dear critic… not with one-liners, gags, and prolonged exposition.

This is a sweeping fantasy film with fun adventure, chilling danger, monsters, a looming threat, and heroes who decide to take a stand when others might bend their knee or fall. An earlier article in the same paper discussed why we, as an audience, might actually need the kind of story that this movie is supposed to elevate… how a small person could make a difference in the world. The writer of that piece mentioned that it’s something we can’t do here in the real world, with billionaires and politicians in positions of power and how a small person will never have the sweeping effect the hobbits have in these films…. I recommend that the writer go back and watch those films, because those small people didn’t set out to change the world. None of them accomplished a feat that not a single one of us couldn’t do ourselves… whether we simply inspired through an example of courage, such as Merry… or inspired through a display of honor unexpected, like Pippen, or if we just cook a meager meal and help carry bags like Samwise, it is the small people that will always make a difference. It’s the small people who change the world in small ways, the ways which truly count, the ways which show the people in power who it is they are working to protect and serve.

The films length, which may seem daunting, is appropriate for the material covered. The writer fails to understand this, and so he tries to make it seem as though the material isn’t justified. Jackson includes some elements from other materials that Tolkien has written, and embellishes other elements to flesh out the story. What may have been spoken through exposition in the books is, here, shown in its entirety… we see the Dwarves driven from their kingdom, we see the discovery of the Arkenstone, we see the brief battle over the Mines of Moria, and we see Radagast’s discovery regarding the mysterious “Necromancer”. The book often features the disappearance of Gandalf here and there, but we see here precisely what is keeping him at various points. And through it all we see the growth of our two primary characters… Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins, each burdened with a certain sense of responsibility to those they have sworn to lead and aid, respectively.

That’s not to say some scenes couldn’t have been trimmed, because there are moments that maybe drag a little. The ones offered by the writer of the review were far from the worst culprits of Jacksons’ directorial and editing style, and I continue to look forward to the additional films from the franchise.

So, the writer of the review I offer you two hands with a single finger salute from each… you, sir, are an incredibly ignorant piece of manure. From acting, to effects, to cinematography, to the “new technology” you actually did praise, this film has exceeded in every conceivable manner.

5 out of 5.

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