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the hobbit

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a review since I saw it 3 weeks ago. I haven’t because it probably wouldn’t say anything that you haven’t read elsewhere. On the other hand, I still have mixed feelings about it. So, in the end, here is my review. (And there is going to be a lot of LotR minutia that you can go ahead and judge me for knowing.)

Rating as faithful representation of the book The Hobbit: F
Rating as a standalone movie, being the first part of a trilogy: B-

Probability that I will see the next installment: around 50%
Probability if I have to pay over $8: 15%

Reaction to Peter Jackson turning a 250-pg children’s story into a ~9hr trilogy: resentful at best

Reaction to Jackson adding LotR references for geeks like me (i.e. The White Council): Mixed. Appreciate the attention to detail/historical accuracy, dislike the irrelevance. Curious to see how he’s going to fit it in as a subplot; not necessarily curious enough to pay to see it.

Pros:
-The Riddle scene. Spot on, A+. Worth the price of admission.
-Beautiful to look at.
-Easy to follow – not nearly as difficult as LotR. Retained “children’s story” structure, mostly.

Cons:
-Characterization. Most characters are two-dimensional. Gandalf seems to be caricature of himself, which is a damn shame. Bilbo is okay. Elrond (and Gollum) are the only ones I believed 100%.
-Radagast, who I believe only gets a grand total of two mentions over the whole Hobbit-LotR-Silmarillion complex, is turned into comic relief to introduce a plot point only obliquely referenced in FotR and only once concretely in the Appendices. For an incidental character, they sure did a number on him.
-Inability to reconcile style. Silly children’s story with borderline Jim Carrey style choreography? Epic Battle Of Good And Evil? Very confusing alternation of styles.
-TOO LONG, too overblown (see previous). I was 100% aware I was watching a movie up until the Riddle scene, which finally drew me in.
-TOO LONG. There is absolutely no need to make this movie a trilogy. None.

OVERALL: I can’t say I hated it, but I really can’t say I liked it. Mostly, I am confused as to how I’m supposed to approach this movie – as someone who absolutely knows what’s going on and appreciates the inside references, or someone who knows nothing and just wants to see a good story. For instance:

As a standalone movie, the beginning of a story, with no prior knowledge needed, it was Okay. A little long, but easy to follow. Entertaining. On the other hand, as a standalone there were a LOT of unnecessary tie-ins to LotR proper that had nothing to do with The Hobbit the book, making me think it’s meant to be truly appreciated by people like me – people who really know their Middle Earth history/mythology. Because people who haven’t read LotR and the Appendices thoroughly (thoroughly) wouldn’t get the inside jokes (i.e. the opening of the movie, almost verbatim from FotR, and the White Council). In that regard, as a prelude to LotR and as a tie-in to the history of Middle Earth, I’m not pleased. Again, because of style. I don’t care if it is the prelude to LotR and the end of the Third Age, Bilbo had zero knowledge of what he was getting himself into, and as far as anyone is concerned (until Gandalf suspects the ring), it’s just an adventure. A dangerous one, but not the fuse that lit Middle Earth.

FINAL REMARKS: This got me through the movie. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by this: THORIN OAKENSHIELD: HOTTER THAN EXPECTED.

Now that, my friends, is a suggestive dwarf.

Now that, my friends, is a suggestive dwarf. (screenshot from IMDB)

 

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slow start so far (spoiler alert)

Well, this semester is getting off to a mercifully low-drama start. I still have one kid who owes me payment for the entirety of last semester, but that’s really it. So, since there are no good stories yet, I’m going to rant about this book I’m reading.

It’s actually a series. You may have heard of it. It’s called A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s by a guy who calls himself George R. R. Martin. HBO made/is making a series out of it, with lots of legitimate actors. I haven’t seen it, but I know Sean Bean is in it, so that’s okay.

So many people are raving about this series. It’s sooo good, it’s thrilling, it’s the best story ever, it’s the biggest thing, I can’t put it down, when is the next one coming out, etc. I was curious to read it, but I got more and more cautious the more recommendations and reviews I read. When the phrase “the next Tolkien” started popping up, I took a serious step back. Let’s not get premature on ourselves here. It might be good, but the man was a linguist.

So, I asked a friend whose opinion I trust. I told him I was interested in reading it, but wasn’t sure I was going to like it enough to keep on my bookshelf forever, so should I go the cheapest route and go paperback, or pay a bit more and go e-format? He assured me that it’s a great story, gripping, suspenseful, surprising, and it’s exactly good enough to get it the cheapest way possible.

HERE LIE SPOILERS – PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK

I started reading it warily, as I have the tendency to hate books everyone else loves, particularly in the fantasy genre (His Dark Materials comes to mind). The first book, A Game of Thrones, was, as I call it, summer reading for smart people. The story was top notch, very fast paced, always kept you guessing, and didn’t make you think too hard. The writing was mediocre but forgivable.

Then I got to the second one. The story stopped dead, and the major writing flaws came to the surface. It was like reading The Two Towers (aka Everyone Goes South) without all the character development and battles to keep it going. None of the characters were more than two-dimensional, and some less than that. I never cared about any of them (after the closest thing I had to a favorite was killed off in the first book). Nothing in the story made me want to care about them. Even my curiosity was starting to wane. And the name-borrowing from LotR was getting irritating.

But beyond that, I was starting to consciously notice the writing. So many flaws, redundancies, and stylistic errors that could have been fixed by a decent editor. I can’t tell you how many times I read “[character] at least had the decency to blush,” but I shouldn’t have noticed it at all. I can’t tell you how many paragraphs I skimmed, descriptions of descriptions, not picking up any detail, then realizing it wouldn’t matter anyway. Every knight was depicted down to the last dent in his armor – including his horse. I don’t need to know all that. The screenwriters might, but it just pulls me out of the story – it’s advancing neither plot, character, nor point. In fact, the whole book probably could have been shorter by half.

But the thing that really started to grate on me was the lack of action. This is a story about the wars between and among kingdoms – except all the battles happened in between chapters. A chapter consisted of a character reflecting on the battle or intrigue that had occurred without our reading it, figuring out how to advance from there, and coming up with a scheme we may or may not fully understand. Then the next chapter started, with a new character, reflecting on some major plot point that happened while we were gone, etc. I only recall a single battle being described in the entire book, and it took ten pages of the leader’s thought process until someone finally did something. And then, the description was so cumbersome it hardly felt like a battle.

I just began the third book. I almost didn’t. But I figured, one – I bought the stupid things, I might as well read them, and two – if I don’t finish them now, I probably never will. Please, someone, tell me it gets better, that there will be a decently written chapter, that there will be a battle, that there will be a character I actually care about, drawn as something other than a penciled stick figure. Tell me it’s worth finishing, and I won’t regret having wasted my time on it.

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