Two thirds of the way through Peter Jackson’s reinvention of J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT and I can’t wait for the final chapter next year. I can’t wait for the Expanded Edition of this, next November in Blu Ray 3D. But then… I’m in love with what Peter is doing.
Some critics and viewers are disturbed by the liberties that Peter, Guillermo, Fran & Phillipa have taken with “the original text,” but Peter is truly conceiving the story in the same way Ray Harryhausen reconceived JASON & THE ARGONAUTS, taking what he liked and infusing imagination and creativity to give the legend new heights. On a first viewing – it can be an overwhelming experience. I’m still not entirely sure what to expect in the final third – but when we can see the whole story & have become used to the ‘inventions’ how will this trilogy be seen?
I’ve seen THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG three times now. I have to admit – I love the 48 FPS 3D. There’s things that look odd… Like the live action scenes with the Dwarves, Bilbo, Gandalf and Beorn… But it’s odd to me because I know the image is wrong. Those Dwarves are taller humans and when we see them in close ups they feel big… but seeing them all together at the higher frame rate and in 3D… well, it’s a powerful illusion that you know isn’t real, but they’re there. But when the film comes to the CG characters and environments… it’s truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Smaug in Erebor is just one of the cinematic delights I’ve hungered for my entire fan life. AND HE’S FUCKING AWESOME!
I always wanted Peter to do THE HOBBIT before he did LORD OF THE RINGS. When he and I first started talking about his cinematic adventures in Middle Earth, I was quite adamant about telling the right story first. But in doing the exact opposite – Peter realizes that he’s educated the entire world visually and dramatically with THE LORD OF THE RINGS – and that he had an opportunity to do something with THE HOBBIT – that is quite a bit beyond Tolkien’s original classic.
The problem is that the magic ring that Bilbo finds in THE HOBBIT… well it doesn’t fuck with him the way it did either Isildur, Gollum, Frodo, Boromir or Samwise. Instead, those aspects of the ring seemingly didn’t take hold of Bilbo till we meet him in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, and even then… it’s a bit mild. In fact, THE HOBBIT is a very different animal of a book from THE LORD OF THE RINGS. For many, that’s the reason they loved it so. It wasn’t dark & somewhat oppressive. The world of Middle Earth wasn’t covered with the belching blackness of Mount Doom. Elves were not getting the hell out of dodge all culty style.
It’s still hard to put final judgments on the “story” as we’re still missing the conclusion of this tale, but I can see things in progress that I’m quite curious to see how they pay off in the final film. But I love what Peter is showing me in these movies.
I’ve always wanted more Smaug. We’re getting it. I always was annoyed at how pussy the Dwarves were. I mean, they’re at a secret entrance to their homeland… and when Bilbo is obviously in there with Smaug moving around – and they know it… how do they not give a shit. I mean, Bilbo had saved them twice at this point… but beyond that – it’s EREBOR… their home. There’s the whole Dwarf Scent issue and Smaug does have a well trained snorter. So the changes for me elevate the characters leading into the big war to come. And I like that – plus it means I get Smaug in 2 movies!!! Of course – I would love a 3 hour film that was a 200 year time lapse showing Smaug wallowing and playing with his treasure and sleeping and such. Just cuz, it’d be friggin adorable!
In the book, I certainly never really missed Legolas, but when watching this film… I couldn’t help but just go gaga over the absolutely insane Elvish action – and the idea of a female Elf badass being added to the story? Well, I’ve been very worried about it, but given that Evangeline Lilly looks like a feminized elf version of Errol Flynn from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD… and may I say… Evangeline Lily is a smoking hot badass elf woman. Is she necessary? I can’t really say yet – as this is the intro to her character and I’m curious to see what comes of her in the 5 ARMY WAR that is coming. The Dwarf/Elf flirtation. I’ll be honest, it kind of made me giggle… cuz as I’m closer to dwarf stock – the notion of an Elvin kick-ass warrior woman taking interest. Well… it is far more tolerable than I was expecting… but after I watch this chapter about 30 times, I’m sure I’m going to be absolutely fine with it.
How can I say that? Well, when I saw THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY played at BNAT14 – there were several nitpicks that I had. Problems with the Goblin designs, there was something about how the Goblin King was introduced that I wasn’t quite in love with and… Oh yeah, I was seriously bummed that the Eagles didn’t talk. It’s one of my fave conversations. But as I’ve watched that first chapter of this epic tale repeatedly throughout 2013… and as I watched the extended edition, I found myself letting go of stumbling blocks in my mind and embracing the sheer joy of having one of my favorite tales retold to me by a filmmaker that I really and truly enjoy. I still wish he’d have the friggin eagles talking though!
So – what stumbling blocks do I have on a first viewing? Not a lot. The new take on the Smaug confrontation and the involving of the Dwarves… well – I was initially shocked by the alteration as my brain knows the way J.R.R. had it down… and the cutting to Gandalf vs ‘you know who’ - initially it was like… NO, DON’T CUT FROM BILBO & SMAUG… But then… There’s a showdown on the Gandalf side that had me nerding at mach 27. Cutting to what Gandalf is up to is pure candy for me. Even when I was a kid reading the book – I couldn’t conceive of what that wandering wizard was up to – and getting to see that… it is clear that Gandalf has been playing this ever-watchful custodianship over Middle Earth for some time…
For some of you, perhaps you wanted a brief stay in Middle Earth with THE HOBBIT, but for me… this film is wall to wall heaven. My briar patch.
It was killing me that I saw this in 2D. I’m shaking in anticipation of watching it a half dozen times in HFR 3D – but then I love that format – seeing the first HOBBIT that way was a thoroughly unique experience. Seeing the second was superior in the format. In 2D, I found the barrel sequence and some of the Erebor/Smaug stuff difficult to follow, with the HFR and 3D… suddenly it was as though I couldn’t blink… I could feel the action being absorbed completely.
Also – I don’t know what it is about the HFR experience, but it actively makes me dream the movies… lucidly. I wouldn’t be surprised if my feet started growing and sprouting hair.
I held off writing this review because… frankly I wanted to see the HFR 3D experience. Then, I got sick – and just didn’t have a clear head to write with. I’m glad I did. Now let’s see… what else should I chime in on, with the film?
Oh yeah… I haven’t even begun.
Ok – Let’s discuss Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. A completely invented character. She’s created to tease the romantic yearnings of the Elvish Boba Fett, Legolas. But more than that, to show off the previously untapped potential of a badass female elf warrior, stuck in a class system that denies her the obvious desire… and she gets to feeling for Kili. Personally, I’ve got a bad feeling for her, because… -ANYWAY – What do I think of Tauriel? OK – so I was a complete LOST geek following that show, that said, I never fell for Evangeline Lilly on the show. She had too much shadiness in her back-story – and as a lover of Film Noir, I saw her as a femme fatale and it’s best not to fantasize about those gals… next thing ya know, you find a liking for a femme fatale – and then the next thing ya know – you’re dead. Well here… You know. There are times where suddenly a brand spanking new fascination gets born – and ya know… When Tauriel hits the sunlight – and she is suddenly a stunningly beautiful warrior elf that happens to remind me of the exact color palette as Errol Flynn in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – she’s full on 4-strip Technicolor gorgeous! If only she had the rhinestones! The entire time she’s onscreen I’m just smiling like a dork. I just love her! I’m very curious to see how she fares in Lake Town… cuz, really… I wouldn’t want to be in Lake Town in the next film. I mean. It’s gonna get warm, don’t ya think?
That brings me to the dangling dwarves of Lake Town. Fili, Kili and Bofur. Of all the plot changes I’m rather stunned by it is this. Mainly because I can’t yet see where Peter’s going with this. I mean, you have Legolas and Tauriel there… You’ve got Bard who is awaiting his moment of ascension with stoic relish. “Please oh Please don’t go into Erebor!!! Don’t wake up the Dragon!” Oh Bard… I love you. You’re Briar Rabbit of the HOBBIT series. But here’s the rub. How do you get the information that Bilbo has to Bard so he knows where to look before finding that badass black arrow from his forefathers… where do I get one of those? Ok, so this brings me back to talking birds – which are extremely handy in the Tolkien text, but Peter Jackson doesn’t tweet. Seriously. He doesn’t. So his birds no talkie. For the record, I miss Bilbo’s monologues to his feathery companion… But it’s ok – I’m fascinated by how Peter plans to get that info there. Aren’t you? Maybe there’s like some crazy ancient dwarf equivalent of giant cans and a big underground string that makes a call. Who knows? That thrush was an awfully convenient fantasy device in lieu of telecommunication or carrier pigeons.
The Woodland Elf realm. I bet there’s a lot o extended scenes here. It seemed a bit truncated. I mean, you could have had Bilbo wandering around invisible for at least 2 movies. And having Martin Freeman muse about the lifestyles of the Woodland Elves like a Hobbity Robin Leach… You know… again, I can’t help but feel these movies are too short. I know, that is “CRAZY” talk, but really… I cherish every moment that I get to spend in Middle Earth. Sometimes it doesn’t quite grok to my memory of how the story goes, but this is the HFR 3D version of this tale and it’s a pleasure to learn the new telling of a well loved tale.
The Arkenstone. A storyline that was completely cut by the Rankin Bass telling of THE HOBBIT – but is a part of THE HOBBIT that always deeply textured the story. I won’t comment too much, because much of the Arkenstone drama is yet to come, but I can’t help but wonder if Bilbo already has it… or if he does indeed find it while Smaug is off to find a nest of kindling to heat up. Jackson has definitely charmed to the TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE-esque undertones that Tolkien laid down, but is beefing it up a tad. Which I get, because Jackson is going a bit Bogie with his Thorin… making him younger and more haunted than I ever imagined, and it’s only natural when dealing with the greed over a mountain of gold. Btw – I totally see Ken Stott’s Balin serving as Thorin’s Walter Huston… The cautionary wise ol dwarf that remembers the poison of gold as well as its pleasures. Come to think of it… Martin Freeman has a genuine Tim Holt kind of charm about him too! Taking his modest amount back to his happy Hobbit hole indeed. Wonder if Professor Tolkien ever read the 1927 novel THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE?
Now for El Jefe… I mean Azog the Defiler. That first shot of him that comes in the film in 48 fps 3D… My jaw dropped. Azog looked so awesome. Now that he’s obviously going to be the leader of proto-Sauron’s legion to capture the gold to finance his war of the ring that he feels is coming… I wonder how brutal Thorin’s fall is going to be… will it be at Azog’s hand (singular obviously)? Will Thorin beg for his life Bogie style? I’m so curious. I love how we’ve only seen Azog as this revenge happy albino orc with that Peter David Aquaman thing going on. He was a thug with a pack of orcs… then, while hanging out shitting bricks over a giant bear in the woods, out of the brush comes… The Warg Express with a message that proto-Sauron wants his ass front and center – and then… OHHHHHH… AZOG is gonna whup some serious ass in Film 3. I really can’t wait for the War of 5 Armies. It just was never given justice in THE HOBBIT. It’s a friggin War. Sit me down and show me how it went down. I want all the gory details. YES! FILM 3!!! Expanded edition 3D Blu Ray on my WALL SCREEN please! I love how evil in this film is so much more painterly even than in LORD OF THE RINGS. I love the style of the CG Orcs and the mix with practical on set Weta Workshop work. The beauty of the fantasy images that are being created down there in New Zealand is powerful dream material. The likes of which we've never seen until this crazed Kiwi filmmaker just unleashed with these films. It's amazing how quickly the game changed.
Looking at these films in the annals of Fantasy Filmmaking – they are monumentally awesome fantasy storytelling. It’s audacious brave stuff. I mean with THE LORD OF THE RINGS – Peter really bent over backwards to just try and get as much of what was in the books up there. With THE HOBBIT – I get the creative joy he’s having. Here he sees a chance to create something more colorful, more outwardly creative and inventive. Fleshing out THE HOBBIT, using Tolkien’s own notes on the notion as a guide, but his own thirst for cinematic holy fuck to do scenes that he hopes captures the imaginations of fantasy lovers so in his senile days he gets dazed by what we see 30 years from now.
I absolutely acknowledge that there’s a portion of the audience that just is not down with Peter’s vision, but man. Look at what the hell is on that screen. I’ve watched the cartoon countless times. Read the book a few times in my life. I dreamt of a Harryhausen version of THE HOBBIT as a boy. Been a fan of artists that were hooked on Tolkien and illustrated this universe. Watched WILLOW and was glad it wasn’t THE HOBBIT. Watched EXCALIBUR a zillion times and knew that was absolutely not the style the films needed to be, but Peter Jackson is brave enough to give a tad of silliness to the dwarves, as well as just pure magic of them. Like how the Dwarves climb up one another to break into the armory. That’s Dwarf physics at work. Like that glorious moment where Bombur outruns everyone after getting a glimpse of Bear-form Beorn! And my fave, the Bombur Barrel lunacy! I mean… I hope THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Pinball machine is nothing but the Barrel Scene… Or better – like 3 different tables each focusing upon a different major sequence. Cuz obviously an Erebor – Smaug and Ghidorah Smaug must make an appearance! The DnD geek in me freaked over a momentary Gold Dragon on screen. But really... Remember what we got with DUNGEONS & DRAGONS film adaptation... THROW ME THE ROD!!! This is majestic work! This is fantasy on a level that makes me pleased as punch!
For me – This is more than J. R. R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT – this is Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT… There is a wild cinematic glee present in this film. I’ve heard folks try to claim that Peter is bored with these films, but that’s their projection. I can hear Peter giggling in the background of entire sequences of this movie. This is a film made by a filmmaker that is genuinely giddy. Of course, that could just be my projection, as the film leaves me positively giddy. So when’s the trailer for THERE AND BACK AGAIN? The next production diary?
I’m just so pleased that MGM got their shit together and that Warner Brothers helped move mountains of legal bs – and that these films are coming out. And now that Smaug is out of the bag, the trailers for the next one will probably promise us awesome – and I wonder how EXTENDED Jackson is going to do that. I mean… We have Bard and his family, The Master and his folks, Fili, Kili & Bofur, Tauriel & Legolas there. Man. I can not friggin wait!
I’m just happy that after this, I get to await Star Wars movies again. Wondrous times.