Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Hobbit - tDoS Review

'You certainly usually find something, if you look, 
but it is not always quite the something you are after.' 
- J.R.R.Tolkein

I don't remember this bit in the book

Well now, I said I'd do this once I'd seen the film.

Imagine my surprise - there I was, all prepped up with bile and ready to rant. A veritable orc hoard of sarcastic remarks, in fact. But no, it wasn't to be.

It's not a bad film.

Not a good one. Oh no, sir, I wouldn't say that. In terms of what it says it's going to do, i.e. be an adaptation of The Hobbit, it's a fairly abject failure. Tolkein must be spinning in his grave, unless of course they've choked the crypt with so much money he's unable to move. All the bits I found risible are the bits chucked in to cater to an audience that isn't me. Which is fine, I probably should go and see a different movie instead. Gravity, that was good.

If you're going to weave great webs of cash out of a book, then you need nine hour's worth of content, which the original doesn't have. Mining the Silmarillion like crazed dwarves at a mithril seam has paid off in places for The Desolation of Smaug, I'd say. Whereas An Unexpected Journey went to exhaustingly dull lengths to set everything up, this one can just crack on with the story. So it's brisker, livelier and action-ier. And Dragon-ier. All things I like in a film.

Although not always. 'This is no game' indeed. Mate, this is barely even a film. 

The made-up stuff is very hit and miss. The big surprise for me was that I quite enjoyed some of it this time. Maybe I've just learnt to expect something different from the franchise. It's defintely an adaptation, after all. It adapts the book, like any film that begins with 'inspired by true events' goes on to ignore and even reverse them (U-571, anyone?).

It keeps its belief-busting inability to keep to the basic laws of physics during chase and fight scenes. Legolas can float about on the heads of Dwarves, ignoring plausibility in the same way his facial skin fails to ignore the ravages of time. Heroes can fall indefinite distances and bounce, minions can fall a metre or so and splat. Orc corpses display the same resistance to steel as, say, a water balloon. Not that this is unusual in films generally, but there's something very sigh-inducing when the bulk of the dwarves have the fleshed out character of a goblinoid minion but the same damage resistance as a central plot foil.

And look, I'm no goldsmith. But if you create a half-solid giant golden statue and take it out of the mould early, I strongly doubt it would cascade in a particular direction, let alone act as a short-term and poorly-fixed dragon dye. I'd go up in court to say they didn't research that particular detail in depth, so much as just plumb it.

Remember, short controlled bursts. 

But this is splitting hairs. The acting is great almost across the board (sorry Orlando), even when the script is cobblers. Did I enjoy seeing the dwarves romp around inside a deserted mine, being chased by a posh, furious dragon? Yes. Did Bilbo's bungee-jumping spider fight entertain me? Yes. Did I enjoy Gandalf's one-wizard foray into the heart of darkness? Yes, cracking FX, although good lord he ought to stay off bridges whenever possible. Did I think the Elf King is an effeminate ponce who ought to get stuck into the fight on the side of good pronto? Why yes! I actually felt an emotion towards one of the characters in the film, one that the makers might actually have intended!

Did I like the fact that Radagast was barely in the film?

Does Sauron grow shit* in the woods?

And there was plenty of romping. Enough that I almost missed the tosh inserted round the sides of it. Not quite enough, of course, I'm not so senile I count as being in a second, less-critical childhood yet. Beorn's scenes were a pale shadow of the book's. Mirkwood, they're in and out of it in ten minutes, barely enough to get worried by. At least the barrel/rapid riding fight scene with the orc raiders is finally done justice, I always felt Tolkein really let himself down on the detail there.

Excuse me, you're looking a little Lost.
Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho. 

Tauriel might be pretty well acted (also pretty), all things considered, and does add a decent enough female role to the short and hairy sausages festing it round the book. Necessary? Dunno. Maybe. I know quite a few women who loved the book as kids despite that omission. None of them, of course, do roleplay, so something may be critically missing.

None of this, of course, addresses the key question. Which is whether I'm going to fork out on any of the GW garbage merch to bulk out my impulse buys from the other year.

To which I'd ask, Should Fran Walsh be allowed to script any more adaptations of children's classics?

* Some examples include: - 

  • Large Orc Armies
  • Arachnids of Unusual Size
  • Ever Stronger and More Shadowy
  • Posher

1 comment:

  1. As a meander through 'Peter Jackson's Further Adventures of Middle Earth', it was passingly entertaining. It just wasn't a good movie in its own right - poor storytelling, not enough of the protagonist and just about the worst possible point in the story to end it.

    Aside from dragging the story, the additions weren't terrible for me. Gandalf discovering the Nazgûl tombs was atmospheric and Evangeline Lilly being cast as an elf is, for me, the most obvious 'no prosthetics required' casting since Benicio Del Toro got the lead in Wolfman. And Sherlock Smaug was lovely (even if they did their best to autotune out his voice).

    The Elf-Dwarf 'love across the barricades' was nice enough, although might have been more powerful if the dwarf had actually been a dwarf, not a CGI-shrunk human with 5 o'clock shadow.

    And yet they'll get my money for Part III. I forked out for George Lucas, I'll fork out for PJ.