Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit Movie -- My Review

Along with just about everyone, it seems, I saw the first part of The Hobbit this weekend (note there may be spoilers here for any who have not yet seen the movie). While it didn't come close to being as good as any of the Lord of the Rings films, it was better than my low expectations for it. I had been dreading the comedy aspects of it more than anything else, but those ended up not bothering me so much. And what many critics disliked about it--the loads of exposition--were some of my favorite bits. I especially liked it when it showed historical scenes from when the dwarves lived in Erebor and when Smaug came.
Now, I've seen a lot of people rave about Richard Armitage as the leader of the dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield. While I didn't dislike him in the part, I felt he rarely changed expression throughout the entire film, making him a bit one-dimensional to me. I especially disliked the scene where the entire company is dangling from a tree over a cliff and he decides to walk away from them to challenge his orc nemesis, when it appeared he had the breathing room to turn around and help his companions to not plunge to their deaths, as they should have if the film had been a tad more realistic in its portrayal of action sequences.

That last is actually my biggest problem with the movie--the action sequences were so unrealistic as to be absurd, which pulled me right out of the believability. Lord of the Rings had done a decent job of keeping it real. The Hobbit doesn't bother with realism at all. I won't bore you with a listing of every scene that bothered me, but I'll tell you the worst offenders:

1. The mountain giants -- in the book, if I remember correctly, the giants are at play in the storm off in the distance, so the party decides to hide in a cave to ride out the storm. In the film the giants are 'warring' with each other and the party happens to be on one of the giants as it gets up and enters the fray. So much of what happens is utterly ludicrous and anyone would have died or at least been seriously maimed. The sheer quantity of rocks and fragments flying around makes it impossible that they would have come through unscathed, yet that is exactly what happens.

2. In the goblin caverns, they flee and go through several absurdly long falls into chasms, which with, you know, uh,...gravity...would have killed all or most of them. Yet it happens over and over again and not one of them gets so much as a scratch, it appears.

3. When the company climbs into the trees to flee the chasing orcs and wargs, the sequence goes off the deep end, with wargs actually knocking over trees just by slamming into them. Not only this, but each tree does a whole domino effect thing, with the company jumping from tree to tree as each collapses under the weight of those unbelievably powerful wargs.

The sad thing, in my opinion, is that there was simply no need to make things so unrealistic. I'm not one that needs the movie to follow the book faithfully. I understand that movies need a different type of story than books generally, if they are to succeed. But regular, believable action would have worked splendidly.


  1. I didn't have any problems with the action. The story is lighter and sillier and the making the action scenes sillier was a better way to portray that than adding actual silliness.
    My review today did warn people not to expect LOTR. This is a very different movie.
    I did think it was too long, but overall enjoyed it.

  2. I will dispute your point number 3 as I don't find it unrealistic at all. Bears can knock trees down. There are some parts of the country where the top soil is so shallow that it's actually very easy to knock over trees and they can domino. Given they're on a rocky outcropping, I don't find it hard to believe that's the case.

  3. These were sizeable trees, Joseph, and it took them only a few seconds to do it.

    1. It's not the size that matters, it's the root system. If the roots grow out and not down, it's surprisingly easy to tip them over. Given the size and number of wargs crashing into the tree, the result was not unreasonable.

  4. I'm really hearing different takes on the movie. I'm not sure what to expect when I get to see it.

  5. Shame you didn't like it so much; I never thought the movie would be so divisive in its reception. I thought that the suspension of disbelief held in the context that the story is being told to Frodo by Bilbo, and so things are going to be embellished to make for a more dramatic tale.


  6. Don't get me wrong, Jamie--I didn't dislike it. It just didn't have the same level of magic as LOTR. It's still far better than most movies made these days. If only I could have been hired as a consultant for Peter Jackson, I could have made the movie much better, though.

  7. Interesting. I am seeing it with my kids this weekend. I suspect I am like you and don't really need the giant action stuff, but I bet the younger end of the market does. I will report back when I've seen it.

  8. Hart, I like action sequences, and I don't mind them pushing the boundaries of reality just a bit (see The Matrix), but when it shoves the boundaries of realism off a cliff, that's when it bothers me.

  9. Hi Ted :) Thank you for your review of The Hobbit. I loved the book and still have it on my shelf to read again and again. What I understand about the story and possibly the film will echo the concept that it is Fantasy. The gravity in mystical caves might well be unusual and where giants and those other guys are concerned, there is no reason to expect them to behave the same as Humans. I am such a fan of Fantasy that I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the film and possibly I will agree with you on some of your observations. The first reason I love Fantasy is that it takes me away from the dreadful things that happen in the mundane.

    Wishing you a Happy Winter Season and hope you enjoy the festivities that your family enjoys.

  10. I do hope you will really enjoy it. For my own taste, the very fact that it is fantasy is what makes me want it grounded in as much authenticity as possible. That's what lends it believability to me so that I can mentally live within that fantasy world despite it's unusual features. I do this whether I write fantasy or science fiction, ensuring that almost everything about the universe is authentic other than the specific fantastic elements.

  11. I still plan to see this movie. It's good to hear both sides, but it never deters me.

    As for those domino trees, we have many older trees in our forests here (British Columbia) with shallow root systems, and they fall over rather easily.

    (The domino effect was used in Harry Potter in the maze and at other times (it's that closing-in effect when it comes from behind)

  12. I am not a big fan of prequels.

  13. I completely agree. And actually I had missed the tree domino thing until someone else mentioned it, but you're absolutely right - it was stupid.