January 6, 2013

Return to Formula: Why The Hobbit is Both Exhilarating & Dissapointing

At one point in Peter Jackson's new film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" two villains square off in an epic showdown. How epic are we talking here? We are talking everything around them burning creating an arena of fire. We're talking blaring choral music on the soundtrack reminding that this brawl is gonna be serious. And finally we get characters that we care about/despise battling in slow motion. It's satisfying, thrilling, and well, nothing you haven't seen before. And this scene pretty much sums up the entire film.

You see the film follows the blue-print of it's predecessor "The Lord of the Rings" so completely it almost feels like you're not watching a new film, but just the ridiculously long deleted scenes of the ones that came before. Of course if the ones that came before were incredibly Oscar winning borderline masterpieces, that's not a bad thing, but it's also kind of a reminder that's it not anything new. That's not to say the story isn't different. Instead of destroying a ring, now we have a fellow of money hungry dwarves going on adventure to reclaim their piles of gold the terrible dragon Smaug took from them. Yes, even in Middle Earth, CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME. Joining them on this journey is hobbit handkerchief aficionado Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the wise wizard.

Here are just a couple of the stylistic elements from the LOTR trilogy that make into this "new film."

  • Epic sweeping vistas accompanied by swelling orchestrations. 
  • A wide variety of evil creatures including trolls, goblins, evil ghosts, and maybe orcs but I may be getting those confused with the goblins. 
  • Heads getting lopped off.
  • Heroes jumping from different platforms inside collapsing caves.
  • Jokes are made about zany wizards doing too many drugs.
  • A groovy visit to the waterfall mega chill resort / Elf hangout spot Rivendell
And yet despite all these similarities, some of which are rooted in the text, the film still works. I mean the ingredients may be generally the same, but the end result is a different meal. Around the halfway point (1.5 hours in mind you!) I found myself really invested in the adventure of it all. The whole thing just really clicks and even though now and then you're like, damn, I saw this scene in the previous movie, it's still awesome. 

So if you were wondering, "The Hobbit" is a lot of fun. But, it also seems completely in director Peter Jackson's comfort zone, so much to the point that's it feels like he's not really trying to show us anything new. It should be noted that Jackson got his dwarf on and didn't agree to make the film until his haul from the Rings movies was adjusted so there is kind of a sour element to it. Also visionary director Guillermo Del Toro was linked to the project for a long time before leaving due to delays. On the screen I was marveling most the of the time, but also felt myself longing for a movie that like Bilbo Baggins, wasn't afraid to go on a random adventure.

As for my theory on it that I wouldn't dig the movie because of Game of Thrones, the film is so different from Thrones it doesn't really matter. But what does matter....Winter is Coming!

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