As usual, I’m skipping the hype at movie theaters and went straight to my iTunes player for the movies I want to see. In this case, it’s the long anticipated Peter Jackson prequel of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Currently planned as a triology, Peter Jackson is attempting to drag out more content from a single book than the epic Lord of the Rings saga, which still feels incomplete. This post reviews the first part of the new triology.
The Hobbit covers up until the wolf chase and bird rescue scene. Up until then, we see the mis-adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the 13 dwarves and our old friend Gandalf the Grey. Since most of us probably have the Lord of the Rings as being the freshest from memory, we re-introduce the actors from Lord of the Rings in Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Bilbo (Ian Holm). Although I never bothered finishing the book, I do not recall any mention of Frodo at this point of the series. But I suppose for those who never even bothered reading any of the books and only have the films to relate to, it’s a refresher on why we should even care for these characters.
The story segues from Frodo departing to meet up with Gandalf and we see a far younger and grounded Bilbo. Peter Jackson attempts to re-establish Bilbo’s character by making him into someone who apparently has no wander lust. I found this aspect of Bilbo’s character unnecessary in relating back to the Lord of the Rings as we only saw Bilbo as some guy who had an erection for a ring. But Peter attempts to emphatically suggest that Bilbo is just your “plain ol’ hobbit” with no motives outside of smoking and getting fat.
Suddenly, the dwarves barge right in and we have your standard, almost contemporary house party. Yes, the dwarves are a lively bunch, who in reality resemble Stephen Spielberg’s Gremlins, since they eat and do nasty things after midnight after they eat. The make up job for the vast majority of the dwarves for me was pretty unconvincing and quickly lowered the serious level for me on this film to that of Snow White and the Huntsman. Already, we see postmodern bad taste humor with the frat boy mentality of the dwarves whose only remarkable characteristic personality-wise is getting equally fat with the hobbits (so wonder why they didn’t just try to move in with the hobbits to begin with?)
Anyway, Aragorn Part 2 arrives (Thorin Oakenshield) so we have our handsome knight. His features lack any dwarvishness so for the remainder of the movie, I think of him as just a regular human until someone like Gandalf stands next to him. Regardless, we’re hear his little tale and there’s all this unnecessary doubt being cast onto Bilbo. Bilbo is your stereotypical reluctant anti-hero. Well, at first. But of course, we can see that this will be changed. I mean, we know what the fuck will happen so no amount of alluded doubt can dispel given knowledge. At any rate, they try (rather poorly) to create the illusion that Bilbo does not want to go. I buy that for the most part. Except that the reasons we’re given is akin to how Japanese or religious nuts can justify any argument by giving a bottom line like “We’re Japanese!” or “It’s god’s will!” In this case, Bilbo’s expatiation for being lazy is that he’s a hobbit and a Baggins of all things.
But this is where we, as the audience, are supposed to extrapolate further character from these givens. What the hell is a Baggins? Why are dishes so important? None of the movies thus far have ever done a reasonable job talking about what being a Baggins is supposed to be. And this is critical because the biggest turning point in the movie is where Bilbo goes from the reluctant, house bound, pipe smoking freeter (it’s a Japanese thing; go look it up) into someone who out of nowhere gains wanderlust.
Yes, there is a small speech between Gandalf and Bilbo that briefly explains that Bilbo is a Took (which frustrates me even further because they put more effort in describing how Tooks are relevant as opposed to Baggins) and therefore has the ability and natural instinct to be an adventurer. However, when Bilbo himself receives a panic attack from reading the contract, the psychology of looking at his hobbit hole and previous reluctance is on par in badness with Anakin Skywalker’s spontaneous turn to the Dark Side. In short, we have not established any logical reason why Bilbo should suddenly and drastically do a 180.
Yet he does and we get to suffer through him acting as a literal wallflower through the vast majority of the film. For the most part, he’s just there until the director mandates that he comes forth from the shadows. Is this supposed to be the case? Are we meant to think that hobbits are just ignorable creatures? Was this intentional? I mean, if we’re meant to not realize he exist, then you gotta commend the director because I often would forget that Bilbo is in the picture at all.
Anyway, we see that Bilbo’s comforts no longer are available to him. After a single scene, he’s suddenly an adventurer and we quickly forget about another major characteristic that defines what a hobbit is. Then comes the most annoying scene/sequence/character in the entire movie: Radagast the Brown. Seriously? Was it necessary to introduce this goof? Was it necessary to put all the little furries in? I realize that The Hobbit originally was intended for children, but did Peter Jackson have to reinforce this interpretation in the movie? Shouldn’t the huge fan base that came out of the Lord of the Rings be any indication that we crave something serious?
I think it’s interesting that we can finally put a face to other wizards in the Tolkien’s world. However, he just came out of nowhere. Then he disappeared into nowhere. WTF? Even Arwen had a better purpose in Peter Jackson’s movies. This guy served no purpose whatsoever. He wasn’t comic relief, he wasn’t anything. He was filler because Peter Jackson looked around and asked, “Gee, how can I bloat a movie that should probably take at most 2 movies with useless side trivia?” Even the elves who appeared out of nowhere to help during the Battle of Helms deep had a coolness factor. I mean, if this character existed in Peter Jackson’s interpretation for children, is it wise to tell your audience that he was doing drugs? Talk about mixed messages!
So the dwarves stumble upon some trolls. Here’s another pivotal scene from the book. But it’s a very odd scene because unlike all the previous trolls in the entire franchise, these trolls actually talk! I was honestly hoping after they caught all the dumb ass dwarves that they would have asked, “Umad?” That would’ve at least made my day.
But instead, we get some goofy looking CGI things that added more frat boy crude humor into the series. At this point, I no longer felt like I was watching anything from JRR Tolkien, but instead re-watching Snow White. However, Snow White had the redeeming feature of Charlize Theron acting as the uber sexy evil queen. My dick shriveled up seeing that this was going to be a bad bromance. The thing is that you knew as a fan of the series that the dwarves would be captured. However, why turn the event into something with lowbrow humor? The original cave troll was an epic creature and pretty darn frightening. These trolls resembled nothing like the other one outside of crappier CGI effects. Maybe it was us getting trolled to say the least by buying into the hype.
Anyway, Gandalf predictably rescues their asses once again and I suppose everyone levels up from the experience of Gandalf power leveling them. Now, Bilbo most of is the one who gains at least one level from this situation as he gained treasure and a cool dagger. Not to mention he leveled up his skill in pickpocketing so we saw some growth in him. The rest of the company outside of Gandalf, who should be renamed Gandalf the Dick Manipulator, probably gained nothing. If this were a game where attributes also increased based upon leveling up, the dwarves would clearly be reducing their intellect and wisdom per episode because they just seem to get into far worse predicaments as they go along.
Next we have a little meet up scene where some orc guy who hates Aragorn Part 2 inexplicably makes a predictable comeback. Since Aragorn Part 2 was NOT prepared, we’ll prolong the fateful battle for probably the ending of the last part in this series. Anyway, your worg-replacing-car-chase scene ensues with our hippy pot smoking friend Radagast serves as your proverbial distraction, allowing our heroes to slip into what looks like a cave. Here, I honestly wasn’t sure how close to the original flow Peter Jackson was going to take the story. When I saw the cave and orcs, I immediately assumed that Peter Jackson was going to skip over the meeting with Elrond and go directly into the goblin city scene.
But that’s all part of this schizophrenic, selfish interpretation that Peter Jackson in his attempt to destroy the memories of Tolkien’s work is slowly wrecking upon us. He puts in these little elements that I think is attempting to throw off people who are more familiar with the original work to create a sense of (unnecessary) tension.
Anyway, that said, we’re all lucky (for now) as we finally make it to Rivendell and are re-introduced to Agent Smith. Come on, you know it’s Agent Smith! I’m just waiting for him to bust out with the “Mr. Anderson.” Okay, so that hasn’t (disappointingly) happened yet and we get to see some tensions arise between the dwarves and elves. But look who else gets make their cameos? Why it’s Galadriel and Sarumon! Since when did they ever appear in The Hobbit? Well, I guess once Peter Jackson decided he needed more unnecessary filler. But I guess part of that is okay since Galadriel actually looks sexier here than she did in the previous movies, not to mention that this movie needed a shot of female. I couldn’t take another bad beard shot at this point.
But let’s move on. We get small foreshadowings of Sauron and things to happen for the upcoming (or past coming depending on where you are) sequel. We can only guess that the evil environment depicted in The Hobbit has a connection to the events in Lord of the Rings. But that’s what happens when you have to re-write your own history. I honestly don’t know what real use this has in the scheme of things outside of making the connection between both series, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how all this plays out.
Regardless, the dwarves scurry away and Gandalf has to play catch up. I’m not sure if that really happened in the book but it’s supposed to explain why he wasn’t around when the dwarves got captured by the goblins. Oh, sorry. That happens almost next. But just before that we get one of the weirdest ideas I’ve seen for a giant ever. We get a storm giant battle. WTF are storm giants doing here? I have no recollection of that whatsoever. In fact, why are storm giants fighting with each other? If they were attempting to squash the dwarves, yeah, I could accept that. But all we get is a simple, “It’s like the legends of old!” type of line to explain this nonsense. Of course, the real purpose is yet more fucking filler with some supposed cutting edge fight scenes that accidentally cause the dwarves to seek shelter.
That whole scene reminded me of the equally bad and useless dinosaur chase scene from Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Naturally, we can accept some of the fantastic elements to The Hobbit considering that The Hobbit is, after all, a fantasy story. That said, “story” elements like this really do nothing for me except to make me realize how much time and money Peter Jackson and Hollywood tend to waste on things. Honestly, nothing really comes out of the scene outside of the fact that it supposedly motivates the dwarves to seek shelter underground. But as you could clearly see, the storm giants were themselves part of the mountain. How can you trust any mountains at this point to be safe when the very mountain you were climbing was a fucking giant? Wouldn’t you want to get the fuck off the mountain rather than into the mountain? What if the cave was part of a storm giant and the guy moved his knee? Wouldn’t they be crushed by the transformation?
Okay, so finally we’re inside this shelter and we see poor Bilbo’s nutsack shrinking to the size of an ant’s head. Finally, we get back to some character building to show that Bilbo is just a plain old dude who should’ve stayed in bed that one fateful day. Maybe the storm giants acted as a slight plot device to give him some motivation, but the focus was entirely wrong. There was so much clusterfuckiness with the fight that Peter Jackson ignored the psychology of Bilbo’s fear during that whole sequence. Why didn’t the trolls and orcs also scare the living shit out of Bilbo up until this point? We know he doesn’t want to fight, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a coward neither. But suddenly this scene shows up out of nowhere and again serves no purpose outside of attempting to remind the audience that Bilbo is just a fucking boring ass hobbit.
Without giving the audience a chance to really absorb the thought process (or lack thereof) behind Bilbo’s even more revealing manic depressive 180 degree spinning thought process, the dwarves and he are once again tossed into yet another fire pit with the goblins. Okay, so we’re back on track with the plot. Fortunately, the goblins here mostly are consistent with the ones we saw back during the Lord of the Rings. Most importantly though, we’re here to see the Giant Goblin, aka Prototypical American Obesity.
This guy was just….I don’t know how you put it? Lack of trying perhaps? I mean, the Dark Crystal looked far better than this CGI puss infested piece of nose drip. It’s like the people who animated this decided to regress to the original animated version of The Hobbit and resurrect the exact feeling from there. By now, I really thought all I was watching was an updated version of that cartoon. Of the 3-4 things I was looking for to, this one of them. What a pile of demoralizing butt fungus this scene was.
On top of that, the Great Goblin came off sounding far more intelligent than any of the dwarves. He might be Great but he’s just a goblin. Goblins are fucking stupid. That’s why they suck and live underground and people can kick their ass. Yet their lair is pretty damn advanced with all the networks to host their complex living structure. I was pretty impressed by the little Salacious Crumb thingee acting as a precursor to SMS. Even the dwarves, who supposedly are great craftsmen, can’t figure out how to rebuild their fucking home.
We take a little detour when Bilbo gets into a fight with a goblin and he stumbles down a shaft, leading into Gollum’s lair. Yes! Finally, the best character in all of the series makes his return! And once again, Gollum proves to be the only character in the entire Peter Jackson line up that has a fully developed personality that requires little obvious dialog. Although I cannot remember reading about Gollum discovering the body of a goblin and clubbering him (as Dusty Rhodes would say) with a rock, it’s actually a great character development piece that added a lot to Gollum. We’ve known what a sneaky little bastard he is, but we never understood his vicious side. I’m not talking about when he occasionally attempts to assassinate Frodo, but the fact of how he managed to survive so many years.
It’s a pretty dark scene that makes us inclined to really hate Gollum. Yes, the goblin is a victim and supposedly evil because of his nature. However, there is a youthful appearance to this particular goblin and that bonking some hapless creature over the head is probably a pretty low act in most people’s books. Also, one nice little bit is showing how Gollum loses the ring and Bilbo immediately finding it. Again, not entirely factual but it’s such a short scene that I don’t think it hurt the overall story compared to some mushroom inhaling hippies (ahem).
We get the whole riddle sequence and both characters play it off very well. The riddles are told faithfully and are some of the best aspects of Tolkien’s writings. So the fact that Peter Jackson left them intact is a great thing. Also, when Bilbo unfairly asks Gollum about what’s in his pocket, Gollum going ballistic but slowly realizing what’s going on demonstrates that he’s far more intelligent (and dangerous) than we’re lead to suspect. This definitely was one of the highlights in the movie and I think because they managed to establish so much around Gollum from the previous films, it wasn’t difficult to demonstrate more to his character here.
Anyway, we return to the dwarves’ plight with the Great Goblin and as usual Deux Ex Machina shows up. This really did happen! And yes, Gandalf is Tolkien’s Deux Ex Machina! However, we’re given yet another gratuitous epic chase scene that didn’t seem as epic as the one from The Fellowship of the Rings. The whole cavern chase sequence was just another clusterfuck of scenes spliced together to establish yet another time waster for the sake of action bonefication. Best part was the revisiting of King Kong where we see the giant drop. Come on now! People don’t have broken backs, legs, arms, teeth, etc. when they fall 100 fucking feet from the air! And on top of that, you can run full pace after being pretty much crushed by a shitton of boulders. Trustorybrah.
As the dwarves manage to survive and Bilbo manages to slip on the ring by accident, entering in the pre-shadow world without really realizing it. Or perhaps he did? I mean, WTF? Shouldn’t he fucking freak out like Frodo when suddenly everything around you becomes a 60’s bad LSD trip? Anyway, poor little Gollum tries to run after Bilbo and Bilbo manages to go in the correct direction despite not knowing before how to escape. We finally get to one of the most important messages Tolkien attempted to convey in his book about compassion. Here, I think it’s a real mixed bag. Gollum in this scene looks desperate and confused. But as try I could, outside of perpetually rooting for Stinker, here I found no real good reason to pity him. Am I supposed to fall for everyone’s overly large animated blue eyes? This was a case of show and tell, but there wasn’t enough show and might even had needed some telling.
Also, let’s ask why Bilbo would want to kill Gollum here. Out of convenience because he stood in the way? And why was the act of mercy shown at this point? I imagine that Bilbo could’ve killed him during the riddle part. Or perhaps if Bilbo (as the original story I believe told it) had discovered the magical properties of the ring, he might’ve tried killing Gollum beforehand. But that would’ve been out of desperation.
The thing for me is that killing out of convenience doesn’t seem to be Bilbo’s MO. He’s a smart guy and a pacifist to boot. Considering that he always had that option to leap over Gollum, I thought this piece wasn’t really well established. I felt there wasn’t any good reason to pity Gollum outside of the fact that he blocked the passage, but that’s not a great reason all things considered.
Either way, Bilbo leaps over, pisses Gollum off because he got a boot to da head and makes a lifetime enemy. Fortunately, Gollum is piss poor because he should’ve hired some blokes to do his dirty work for him. But I guess Gollum is just one of those hands on kind of guys and I surmise that he wanted Bilbo to go sleep with his fishies some day.
Now, the dwarves are back on the road with Gandalf and the whole group is together. Bilbo slowly is attempting to establish that he’s a worthy party addition by showing up and attempting to dispel any doubts of him in the company. Again this really bothered me. I get that he’s listening and all that, but Bilbo doesn’t strike me as someone with a chip on his shoulder. He’s polite and has a kind heart at the basis but outside of some far out ideology, I don’t see any logical explanation why he wants to dispel his lack of initial loyalty to the dwarves. Because he needs to show him whom the real alpha male is? What does he get out of all of this? I mean, the contract he originally signed was pretty much shit. Where’s his keep?
Well, of course, we never get a chance to ponder over the most crucial aspects of the story since once again our attention must be filled with more gratuitous action. This time, Aragorn Part 2’s arch enemy makes his appearance and we get the worg chase scene. The dwarves scurry up the trees (which happens really fast; even in Tolkien’s version, I’m still having a tough time believing dwarves scaling trees without a great amount of difficulty) and are cornered.
Yet as we’re closely approaching the time limit for this movie, we need an epic fight scene. Hence, Aragorn Part 2 decides to retardedly jump down from the tree and risk everything that the dwarves are attempting to achieve by challenging his arch nemesis. Of course, he gets one shotted because he’s probably a level 5 compared to this orc and his worg, who are fucking bad asses so Deux Ex Machina #2 jumps in.
Yay for pivotal change of character!
Bilbo gets his cut of the action but pretty much is almost as a failure as most of the rest of the dwarves but it’s enough to rally the troops. They decide to zerg the worg, who I thought had far more numbers, and manage to do some damage. But it’s not enough so we get Deux Ex Machine #3: the eagles!
The eagles carry the dwarves to higher ground and we get a tell-not-show speech from Bilbo finally explaining his motives: “I love my home. Your home got fucked. Therefore, I want to help you get your love fuck home back.” What a fucking syllogism! How do hobbits survive with such irrepressible links in their logic? Are they related to Japanese women? Thorin decides that we need to emphasize the bromance part by giving Bilbo a very manly hug and we’re left wondering once again why the fuck the eagles didn’t just drop these guys off where they’re supposed to go!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!
But all this just plays a minor part as one of the dwarves mutters something nearly incomprehensible, leading to a bird flying to the point of destination and being the responsibility for awakening a fucking dragon. Not just any fucking dragon. Fucking Smaug. He’s fucking epic. He fucking is the reason why kids fear dragons. Puff was like Woodsy Owl for most of us. But Smaug inflicted nightmares.
So we’re now led to believe that it’s because of a fucking bird trying to eat why most of Middle Earth would almost get destroyed? Uhhhhhhhhh…….
Anyway, as you can tell, this movie was your prototypical hole filled action/fantasy script produced by Hollywood’s uber marketing machine. It has helped further denigrate the Tolkien legacy into a bigger cesspool of interpreted propaganda with Peter Jackson almost sleeping through the entire process. The movie felt like just rehashes of the film maker’s cinematic cliches, except stooping lower and lower to grab a giant scoop of the world’s brain dead thirst for visual effects.
That all aside, I enjoyed myself. I will probably go and see (or buy) the follow ups. Despite my caustic review, I have to look at movies like this with two sets of lenses. One is my natural instinct for attention to detail. The other is the kid inside who occasionally enjoys turning off my instinct and just being enthralled by the wonder of the camera lens. This is the type of movie where I can watch it over and over again because it has high entertainment value.
All the shitty arbitrary plot devices easily can be ignored because this is the type of movie I can slot on while eating dinner or playing a game and letting this roll in the background. Contrast that with say Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises. Prometheus isn’t a movie I want to watch while having supper. Face being pounded into hamburger resembling what probably was my hamburger before being cooked? Woman getting her stomach ripped open to extract a blood exploding octopus freak?
And The Dark Knight Rises while watchable over eating, isn’t something that is easily re-watchable. It’s slow and plodding at times and there’s a lot of down points which can be boring. But it’s also a movie you probably want to watch with a great attention to detail because there’s a lot going on, perhaps too much for the brain to handle when it just wants some fast paced, non-offensive action here and there.
I could deal without the return to the childish insinuations for which I think this movie partly was aimed at. Fortunately, those moments weren’t enough of a Jar Jar Binks to completely ruin the remainder of the movie. However, I truly hope that they minimize those elements especially with the upcoming sequels to this.
Lastly, I lied about the “quick” aspect.