Notes on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Well today I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie today. I’m not sure what I thought about it really. It could have been ‘better’ but it could have been far far worse. This isn’t a review, but more a collaboration of my thoughts and feelings.

We knew that An Unexpected Journey, and the trilogy in general would not be true to the book. A three movie spleen of a short book never would be, but it seemed a bit dragged out when I watched it. For example, Radagast the Brown. He is mentioned briefly in the book, but never seen nor introduced. In the movie, he has quite a bit of screen time. I dislike the way he was portrayed – like Santa Claus gone Alice in Wonderland. He has a sleigh pulled by rabbits (which are faster than wargs), and his head is covered in bird poo. Under his hat, his hair is fashioned into a birds nest, into which he put two birds. He had a hedgehog named Sebastian, and talks to birds. In The Lord of the Rings, it is known that he talks to birds and beasts, and is at one with the land. Nowhere does it say he is insane. Disappointed.

There are ways in which bringing information in from the LOTR appendices is seamless. For example, after being asked whether there are any other wizards, Gandalf gives a brief background of the five Istari. Whilst this is mostly to introduce Radagast, it’s a nice touch as to the idle chat as they amble along after departure.

The Hobbit begins with the old Bilbo (as in LOTR) settling down to relate his tale to Frodo in the writing of the Red Book. As he narrates a description of Erebor, the dwarf kingdom at the Lonely Mountain, we are showed the place itself, and the many chambers. As he describes the wealth they had there, we see dwarves burrowing for gold, and one finding the Arkenstone. He then narrates a short (and incorrect) history of how Smaug came. He tells that Thror became enamoured of all his treasure, and went insane over it. One thing that annoyed me was that when Smaug attacks, we are not given any shot of him. My friend next to me said she thought that was ‘cheap’. All you see is flames and silhouettes. Snapping back to the Shire, Frodo finds Bilbo beginning to write, and comments on it being the day of the party. He then runs to the North Farthing woods to wait for Gandalf, which is where he is at the start of LOTR. I don’t particularly like this. Especially as the actor for ‘old bilbo’ is not the same actor as in LOTR for bilbo.

A good thing: Martin Freeman. As I predicted, he makes a great Bilbo! I think he captures naïve little Bilbo perfectly, and I was really glad. It was a pleasure to watch Bilbo through his hairy feet. The facial expressions he pulls are incredible! He captures the emotions Bilbo is going through well too, especially the stress of the dwarves piling into his hole and pilfering his pantry!

Some of the dwarves I did not like though. I don’t like how Balin is really old. I think it works well for Thorin to have an elder advisor, and somebody to keep him on track, but.. Actually, coming to think about it, I do enjoy Balin being elder. I think Thorin is captured well, but why on earth they were possessed to have Bifur and axe in his head and a listening horn I have no clue. It just seems silly to me. Fili and Kili were fun to watch, and fitted their younger selves well.

I really don’t like this big thing they have built up between Thorin and Azog the goblin. Looking into the lore and dates, Azog is actually killed by Dain of the Iron Hills many years before the events of the book. However, they’ve built him up as a nemesis to Thorin. Maybe it’s good to have the good guy and the bad guy all the way through, but it goes against the lore and that I’m not fond of.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. However, the fact that it goes so far against the true events of the book and history of LOTR makes it a bit more difficult to accept. I think if it were a straight up film and I had not know all of the backstory to compare against, I would have loved it. However, I’ve read the book so many times through my childhood and adolescence, it’s hard to untie myself from what really happens.

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