The Hobbit: An Expectedly Awesome Movie

Let me preface this by explaining that I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I have read the books at least twice, own the Extended Edition of all three, have seen all the appendices, and kick most people's ass at Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. I have also read the Hobbit three times and was ridiculously excited about seeing this movie.

I was not disappointed.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a fabulous cinematic experience (though a little slow at the beginning, perhaps containing too much action towards the end, and was a little too dramatized in places). Visually, it was stunning, of course (though I could tell it was made for 3D as the camera spun around for effect). I got the feeling I was already seeing the extended edition (which I will still be buying when it comes out).


An Unexpected Journey captured the whimsy of the book, but also reconciled the disparities between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (books). I mainly refer to the Elves. Tolkien himself admitted that the elves of LOTR were extremely different than those of The Hobbit. This is due to the fact that The Hobbit was written first, as a children's story, and only afterwards did Tolkien expand Middle Earth to include the volumes of feigned history (LOTR, Unfinished Tales, The Silmarillion, etc). And so the merry Elves we see in the Hobbit book do not cross over into LOTR. I was pleased to see that Peter Jackson managed to capture the mischievous quality of the Elves through the use of music, dialogue, and that twinkle in the eye. What's more, in Jackson's representation, it's easy to imagine that the Elves we know and are awed by in the LOTR movies are the very same as the lighthearted ones in the Hobbit, but at the beginning of their downfall and colored with melancholy and age.


The costuming department really outdid themselves this time. Somehow they managed to make the Dwarves completely badass, and not a little punk, while being completely, plausibly, Dwarvish. Their hair, "beard jewelry", and even tattoos, mimicked their architecture style and gave the distinct impression of rich culture. Only Thorin Oakenshield was distinctly Mannish (but so fabulous that I couldn't bring myself to care. This is not to say that I was thrilled with all the plot points involving Thorin, but he's still quite the catch). I was also impressed that, with thirteen Dwarves, the storytellers managed to differentiate them and not confuse the audience. Their numbers are comical, not distracting.


As a musician (and one who obsessively listened to the LOTR soundtracks), I was able to tell when music was borrowed from LOTR. Let me start this part by saying that my favorite parts (in all the movies) were when characters sang in context (Pippin's song "Edge of Night", Aragorn's "Song of Beren and LĂșthien", Pippin & Merry's drinking song). I feel that these instances bring the spirit of the books to life in the truest way. Therefore, when I first saw the Hobbit trailer, I was immediately taken in by the Song of the Dwarves. Appropriately, this melody was used as their "fellowship" theme throughout the movie. An unexpected surprise was that the movie included "Blunt the Knives" (aka "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates") which was completely natural and non-contrived as a kind of Dwarvish drinking song and was absolutely delightful (I beamed giddily for a full five minutes).

Homage or Laziness?

There were places in the movie that I felt were direct parallels with LOTR, visually and musically (where the music was actually copied exactly from the previous soundtrack). I cannot decide if this is fitting or if it is a cop-out. Such scenes like the first wearing of the ring or the summoning of the Eagles felt like they lined up a little too cleanly with what we had seen before. And hearing the exact orchestration made me wonder whether Howard Shore wanted to bother with writing a different arrangement or if this was an appropriate stylistic choice. (It is well known, at least in my field, that certain characters or places have their own theme music, but at least at the beginning during the Shire scenes, Shore used different instrumentation than in LOTR.)

Overall, I am extremely pleased with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. If I had my way, I would slip into Avid and cut out a few seconds here and there, trim up the battles and extraneous dialogue, and add in another song or two. But we can't have everything, and I would rather have this version of The Hobbit (at least the first third), than none at all. Peter Jackson is more successful at consistency from the Hobbit to LOTR than Tolkien was in this particular instance (don't hate me, I said in THIS instance), and it feels right that, though not perfect, these movies exist. I am thrilled to be back in Middle Earth and can't wait for the next installment.

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