For my 100th blog post, I'm welcoming Louisa Klein to Flight of the Dragon with a review of the newly-released "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". I cannot express the depths of my jealousy - it doesn't start screening here in Australia until the day after Christmas! Everyone's talking about and I can't see it. I guess I'll just have to wait... In the meantime, we have Louisa's review. Enjoy!
This is probably the most difficult film review I've done since Lost in Fiction started. To cut a long story short, I do think you will find this movie FREAKING EPIC, adventurous and entertaining. All actors are great, even those with minor parts. Special effects are BEYOND AWESOME. That said, if you, like me, are one of those fantasy geeks who know every word of the Hobbit by heart, you'll be, if not disappointed, at least a little bit perplexed.
First, let's not forget that the Hobbit, contrary to the Lord of the Rings, was a novel expressively conceived for children. Tolkien declares it several times in his letters, his publisher, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, printed in 1937 a first edition of The Hobbit after his ten year old son 'reviewed' enthusiastically the manuscript Tolkien had sent over. The Hobbit therefore entered the publishing world as a book which nowadays would be considered 'midgrade'. A light-hearted children's book.
The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien's fantastic world. The only 'main plot' is the killing of Smaug the dragon, nothing more.
The film is very, very different, to a point that in the UK is for children who are 12 or older so, almost a ya movie. To make a children's story palatable to young adults and adults and to stretch a short book into three episodes of over two hours each, you have to add a lot of stuff and Peter Jackson added an awful lot of things Tolkien would have never ever even considered.
First of all, there is no character named Finbul and no horde of warg riders who pursue Thorin & Company. And Azog, the white orc who is seeking revenge, actually died in the Battle of Azanulbizar. Azog's son, Bolg, does appear in The Hobbit to get revenge, but appears only at the Battle of Five Armies at the end of the story. This whole orc thing is really too reminiscent of Lurtz and his fellow Uruk-hai pursuing the Fellowship in The Fellowship of the Ring. It also transforms a children's story into an unnecessarily violent action film but, hey, we are aiming at teenagers here, right? They want some action.
And what about the infamous Necromancer? When Tolkien wrote the Hobbit, he didn't have a clue of what would come next. In fact, as he clearly states in his letters, he thought of it as a standalone novel, not the first book of a series. Although Gandalf mentions the Necromancer several times, The Hobbit has no passages in which any character actually encounters the Necromancer, and the Necromancer's appearance is never described. (In The Lord of the Rings, the identity of the Necromancer is revealed to be Sauron, who, according to Tolkien's descriptions and illustrations, took the from of a giant man with burnt, black skin). Tolkien didn't know who Sauron was at the time, nor had a clue about Gollum's magic ring which, in the Hobbit, it's just a clever trick to give Bilbo an easy out of the goblins' mountain.
As for Galadriel, here again played by the beautiful and talented Cate Blanchett, she does not appear in The Hobbit. And that's because, when he wrote it, Tolkien hadn't invented her yet. Plus, Peter Jackson hints that Gandalf and Galadriel had like a fling or something when they were both younger I mean... Aehw!
Speaking about the other characters, they are, well, mostly the funny characters of a children book. Thorin’s quest for the treasure of Lonely Mountain comes across in The Hobbit as greedy and selfish by contrast with the cause that binds the protagonists together in the Rings novels, and the quest’s progress is a series of embarrassing but exciting misadventures. Thorin wants, to put it clearly, his money back. He is far from being a noble warrior; dwarves are, in the Hobbit, a bunch of odd, gold-oriented funny characters, created to make children laugh.
The book explains how Bilbo became an unlikely hero, and how he got his hands on the One Ring, but it rarely portrays his quest in a positive light, given how much time Thorin and his company spend puffing themselves up, then getting into trouble and requiring rescue.
The conflict between the original Hobbit material and the material generated by Jackson and his collaborators might, again, leave the real purists perplexed, but doesn't it make "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" a bad movie. At its best, it recaptures the Rings movies’ breadth, detail, and staggering sense of beauty. Jackson retains the sense of an entire world created on a vast scope for a film.
If you are looking for good two hours of real entertainment, this movie is definitely what you are looking for!
About Louisa Klein:
Louisa Klein is 25, lives in the UK but was born in Germany and brought up in Southern Europe by a German dad and an Italian and French mum, which made her a little confused at first. She has a degree in Medieval Studies and a postgraduate one in Marketing. She’s been working in publishing on and off since she was 17 and currently is a freelancer and a storyteller: her first is the urban fantasy “Supernatural Freak”. At night she puts on a mask and fights British crime. She gets very little sleep.
You can find Louisa at any of the links below:
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Freak-ebook/dp/B00A81H31U/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1355525226&sr=1-1&keywords=supernatural+freak
Book blurb: When paranormal expert Robyn Wise is offered an outrageous sum of money to cure a boy who is turning into a dead tree, she's very sceptical. A politician ready to pay that much to make his son stop growing branches instead of hair? Come on! She's more likely to be abducted by aliens. This is a trap. Or much worse. And, of course, it's much worse.
The child is turning into a dark portal, created by a powerful entity determined to absorb Fairyland's power. This means that not only queen Titania and her court are in danger, but the very balance of the magic fluxes.
She'd rather stick a pencil in her own eye, but to learn how to destroy the portal, she has to sneak into the Wizardry Council, a place full of wizards who are hiding something—though it’s certainly not their dislike of Robyn.
There, she discovers a secret that could help to overthrow Fairyland's enemies for good, a secret that puts her in the midst of an ancient and deadly war, and not as a bystander, but as the main target.