Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughts on the First Hour of "The Hobbit"


When Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” was released in December of 2012, I should have wanted to see it. I enjoyed the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy immensely, no small feat for someone who has always found Tolkien’s storybook prose mostly unreadable. Still, the ideas he conjured were wondrous and, in the hands of a gifted filmmaker hungry to do something epic, made for great trips to the movies.

Flash forward roughly a decade and the Emperor suddenly has holes in his underwear. Having spent the better part of those ten years in so-called development hell, Jackson returned to the franchise what made him and decided to once again take the reins in a two-film opus that told the story of Bilbo Baggins and his early adventures.  Then it became three films…based on a single novel that isn’t even very long. That was already a red flag for me, then that pesky Quentin Tarantino went and released a movie I actually cared about.

It wasn’t difficult to prioritize “Django Unchained” over Jackson’s film. Not only had I been looking forward to QT’s “southern” for well over a year, but I’m not exactly the biggest fan of traditional fantasy.

So, I went and saw “Django” twice, a friend and I reasoning that “The Hobbit’s” massive box office success precluded any need for us to contribute our funds to the effort. We didn’t know “Django” would also be huge. Not that huge, anyway.

Finally, I sat down at home with a DVD copy of “The Hobbit” and prepared to be at least somewhat as enchanted as I had been a decade before. And I waited…and waited…and moaned…and yawned…and laughed once…and finally at the one hour mark said, “Okay, this is where I officially check out.”

The scene in question featured some comedy relief slapstick bullshit characters with hideous appearances and goofy personalities whacking each other in the heads with spoons. Suddenly, I understood all too well.

The first three films, which actually take place sixty years later than the events in this new ones, were films about something more than a boring quest to save a city. They were about epic, sweeping change and the large and small characters swept up in that change. The humor flowed from the situations and never brought the story to a screeching halt.

By contrast, “The Hobbit” feels like a child’s movie with loud, obnoxious characters each displaying shtick before moving to the next set piece.  New characters are dull and uninteresting and characters we thought we knew are practically unrecognizable. Young Bilbo is a colossal bore with none of the emotional resonance of Frodo who, by the way, seems rather stoic and mature in his flashback sequences with older Bilbo. Gandalf seems centuries older and weaker than in the films taking place six decades later.

After a solid hour of tortoise-like pacing and nothing and no one to care about, at least the effects work should be top-notch, right? No. In fact, it’s terrible. I fail to understand how the CGI looks cheaper and less believable than in a film ten years older. The Orcs are laughably fake looking.

My first instinct was correct. Something about the trailer assured me I would be disappointed and I am. Just like the second Nolan Batman or the original Matrix, this film has insured I won’t be seeing the sequel. Hell, I couldn’t even watch the remaining two hours for fear of losing precious lifespan time! It's possible I've "outgrown" films like this, but I like to think even my waning interest in genre could have been pushed aside for another great Jackson film, which this most certainly is not.

 

 

 

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