Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

There are certain things a person has to do to maintain their "nerd cred."  They have to keep up on the names of television shows that are suddenly popular.  They need to know phrases, memes, and quotes from a wide variety of sources.  They need to see specific movies.

To my eternal shame, I somehow managed to go without seeing the first of the Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  This was recently amended, so I suppose I should discuss what I thought of the movie.

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat:  it's a fine movie.  It can easily hold a person's attention for the extreme length of time it takes up.

However, that doesn't mean it doesn't contain a massive amount of filler.

There were several points in the film when I suddenly felt that I was watching an entirely different movie.  Radagast the Brown suddenly shows up partway through it and hijacks the story line to be about a hedgehog that some giant spider-like creatures desperately want to kill...and then suddenly leave for no reason.  He explores a ruined keep and discovers a necromancer and ghosts, which is mentioned once later, and then never brought up again.  An encounter with stone giants, creatures that you'd think would've shown up or be mentioned in the other three movies, is completely forgotten once the scene ends.

There also seems to be a need to repeat a lot of stories.  I lost track of how many times the "does he belong here or doesn't he" plot thread got brought up regarding Bilbo tagging along with the dwarves.  It reached a point towards the end that I wanted to say aloud "come on, how many times does he have to NOT abandon them and actually survive really dangerous moments before they conclude for the last time that he's not dead weight or a coward?"

Now, let's get some positives out of the way.  The cast, of course, is great.  Each character- well, almost each character gets a well defined personality that makes them separate from the rest of the characters we meet.  There are a few dwarves who don't seem to get much characterization other than "is fat" or "pushes around other dwarves" but when you have this many cast members, I suppose it can be forgiven.

The settings, naturally, are absolutely gorgeous.  The landscape of New Zealand perfectly suits the films and has a truly grand terrain full of craggy mountains, lush fields, and wide pastures that suddenly end at jutting rocks.  The costuming, to my untrained eye, is well done, and while there are moments that the CG felt a little "sped up" to increase the intensity (usually around large four-legged creatures), it blended extremely well with the live characters.

Now, I guess I really just have one complaint about the film.

Nothing really happened, and nothing got resolved.  I realize it's part one of a three part trilogy, but let's look at other trilogies.

In the first Matrix movie, Neo learns the truth about reality, struggles to live up to the idea that he's a chosen one, and then unlocks his powers to lead up to the other films.  X-Men set up the world, introduced a largely sympathetic villain, and then resolved that bit of the story before moving on to other things (granted, the villain keeps showing up, but still).  Luke blows up the first Death Star, but Vader and the E

Here's what I remember about The Hobbit:

The dwarves all show up at Bilbo's house and eat all of his food.  Bilbo decides he wants an adventure and leaves to join them.  There's an encounter with trolls that ends with them being turned into stone and a few people get fancy swords.  They encounter a warg and then run away from orcs and wargs.  They meet the elves and then run away from the elves.  They get caught by the goblin king, kill the goblin king, Bilbo gets the ring from Gollum, and then they're attacked by an old enemy of one of the dwarves, so they run away from him with the help of some eagles.

Nothing really got resolved.  Plot threads were tossed aside, there was no real villain introduced early enough in the movie to make me care about the later encounter (and then that encounter doesn't even really end, it just gets postponed further), and other than Bilbo getting his hands on "the ring" and his little sword, I can't really think of any major plot points that get brought into play other than "oh, the elves now know about the plot to reclaim the dwarven homeland."

Like I said, it's a good movie, but if someone just told me that paragraph above, I have this nagging feeling I could go into the second film and be completely caught up.  Oh, and "dragons can be awakened by birds pecking on cliff faces."

Good, but not great, I'll have to get around to the second one to see if my attitude towards this trilogy changes to bring it up closer to the first trilogy.

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