Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Hobbit (film)

In the gap between Christmas and New Year, we ventured to Cineworld to take in the second-biggest blockbuster of the moment, +The Hobbit. I was outvoted on the choice having plumped for Life Of Pi, also book-based but with the advantage of being shorter! We watched in 2D.

The Hobbit book by J R R Tolkein was originally published in 1937 and is still one of the great classics of children's literature. A young and naive Bilbo Baggins is tricked by Gandalf the Wizard into joining a company of displaced Dwarves who are setting out on a journey, attempting to return to their ancestral homeland. I did read the book but probably twenty years ago now and did not have much recollection of the story. I soon found out that this was a good thing.

The Tolkein purist in our group was irritated by the addition of scenes and storylines that do not feature in the novel. Apparently, the whole sickly hedgehog/Sylvester McCoy diversion was invented for the film and it really didn't fit in, although the hedgehog itself was cute. I was disappointed by the lack of any depth to the characters. They are all flat and two-dimensional and despite the long running time, no space is given to their development. As the whole point of the work is for the audience to follow their journey, I think this was completely missing the point. Even Strictly Come Dancing understands that the audience has to care about the protagonists in order to stick with them! Plus points are (1) the New Zealand landscapes make for stunning scenery, (2) it doesn't feel as long as it actually is and (3) Richard Armitage smoulders gorgeously as Thorin Oakenshield! However, The Hobbit is a loop of stilted group dialogue, epic cgi battle scene, nick-of-time escape, and repeat ... 

I think the main problem is that the $250 million budget was blown on repetitive special effects at the expense of good storytelling. We have seen far more creative and interesting films made for miniscule budgets by comparison - I've blogged about several since April alone. The Hobbit is not great and it's not dire, it's simply OK and this is what really irks me. There was never any real risk that the studio would not make it's money back on The Hobbit and Peter Jackson was surrounded by some of the best people in the business. They could have could have produced something fantastically creative and inventive, but they played safe and stuck to the formula. The result is 'OK' but, at this level of filmmaking, for me, 'OK' just isn't good enough. I don't really care if Jackson's Dwarves ever make it to Erebor, and if I do feel the need to find out, I'll return to Tolkien's vision and buy the book.

+Cineworld Cinemas , Curzon Cinema and Hailsham Pavilion
Several screenings a day for at least the next fortnight!

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