(NOTE: This is not technically a critique, just a series of impressions. Also, SPOILER ALERT. No, seriously, don’t read this if you haven’t seen it yet and want to be surprised.)
So last night I finally got to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy prequel to The Lord of the Rings. This morning, when I woke up, these were some of the thoughts running through my head:
- First of all, how amazing was it in 3D? I’m not talking about the new 48 fps format, because it wasn’t available in the Philippines, but the 24 fps 3D blew me away. 3D is so easy to get wrong, and terrible when it happens (The Last Airbender, anyone?), but this view of Middle Earth was breathtaking, and yes, I ducked reflexively several times when stuff flew at my face.
- Speaking of gorgeous views: every single scene was a visual treat. I’m not just talking about the idyllic, pastoral Shire or even the too-beautiful-for-words Rivendell. I’m talking about the utter believability of the Goblin Kingdom, the sheer realism of Gollum’s cave, and the majestic giant eagles whose feathers you could almost touch. Middle Earth lives and breathes in The Hobbit. Peter Jackson has done Tolkien’s world justice once again.
- I’m happy to be able to say that without reservation this morning, because last night I was freaking out about the stone giants. (I kept myself from watching the trailers except one, so they were a surprise.) The purist in me was just about pulling my hair out thinking they were just invented for cinematic effect, but it turns out THEY DO EXIST. (Well, in Tolkien’s world, at least.) I had completely forgotten about them, because in the book, they didn’t interact directly with Bilbo and the rest. That doesn’t make for good action, so I understand why Peter Jackson took artistic license. I can deal with that. I mean, I’m already dealing with Kili, the dwarf dreamboat who probably has Tolkien blowing furious smoke rings in the afterlife. I get that they need a Legolas-type to sell more tickets so that Peter Jackson can keep making movies, which means I would be happier just dealing with it than being insisting on accuracy. So okay, fine, bring on the hot dwarf. (Let me just get this out: Even dwarf women are supposed to have beards. How is that civilized scruff of Kili’s considered satisfactory?)
- However, there is one bit of artistic license I have absolutely no problem with. I’m talking about the Elf on a moose. That image is forever tattooed on my mind. Elf king on a GIANT moose. I find it equal parts hilarious and awesome. I want to high five whoever thought of that.
- Speaking of Elves, hail Cate Blanchett, the most Elvish Elf ever. She is phenomenal. Gandalf, Elrond, and Saruman are played by brilliant actors with powerful presences, but whenever she was onscreen, I couldn’t tear my eyes off her. She is every bit as enchanting as Galadriel is supposed to be, and I could probably listen to her narrate the end of the world in that calm, regal voice of hers and not feel an ounce of panic.
- While we’re on the subject of voices, I would follow Thorin Oakenshield to the Lonely Mountain and beyond if he would just keep singing to me. I loved Richard Armitage in that role. He is a somewhat less humorous character than he was in the book, but Tolkien wrote a children’s novel, and Peter Jackson’s movie is much more adult.
- However darker they made the movie, they still put in a lot of fun. A key aspect of humor is the element of surprise, which is why I loved that this movie still made me laugh even when I already knew what was going to happen. (Whoever thought Gollum could be adorable?) Martin Freeman is a great choice as the hapless Bilbo, and his body language and physical comedy is pitch perfect. Same goes for the dwarves (yes, fine, even Kili).
Obviously, I loved this movie. Even more obviously, I am not the most unbiased audience there is, and I probably never will be. Still, for a while there I was honestly worried that the countless problems that plagued the pre-production period would ruin the movie, and I am so relieved that it didn’t happen. It was great fun to be reunited with beloved characters, settings, and music, and even more awesome to see new wonders and be tantalized with the promise of more. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is amazing, and now fans like me have to gird ourselves for the year-long wait until the next one is released. God help us.