*Geek warning* 🙂
Well, I went to get see The Hobbit on Friday. I did the “lame version”–no 3D, no HFR, just a good ol’ screen and a packed theater.
Backtracking, I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. They are my favorite series of books (yes, I read them before the movies came out), and I was impressed with how excellently they were rendered on screen. Yes, it was more dramatic at points, yes, I missed Tom Bombadil like crazy, and yes, I know the elves don’t actually come to help at Helm’s Deep. But I thought the essence was there, the feel the stories were still richly alive, and Peter Jackson made beautiful sense out of books that were certainly unusual, as far as the arch of a story goes.
So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw The Hobbit. I read some very mixed reviews beforehand, which only made me more confused. Some people thought there were too much time spent on the dwarves; others felt they weren’t characterized enough. Some felt that the movie was too long; others were okay with that. Some felt it was too lighthearted; others thought it was too serious for what was orginally a childen’s story.
I ended up taking umbridge with none of these debates. I liked the dwarves and thought they did a good job balancing the characterization with keeping the movie flowing. Yes, it was a really long movie–I pissed off our theater neighbors by creeping out of our aisle after Gollum’s scene to go pee (which, on a side note, was kind of sad, because that was the best moment of the whole film and I spent those ten minutes doing a seated rendition of the potty dance)–and I thought some of it could have been moved to the extended special edition on video, where I could have paused the movie and peed before Gollum came onscreen. Finally, I liked the balance between the light tone of the episodic dwarf quest and the dark undertone of brewings that would eventually come to fruition in LOTR.
What hit me the most, and frankly, made me sad, was how much CGI Peter Jackson used throughout the movie. Most notable was Azog, the albino orc nemesis of Thorin, being heavily CGIed (in a Gollum-type fashion). While I was fine with the additional pieces to this saga (seriously, can’t give me too much of Middle Earth…except maybe Radagast. He discredited all the scenes he was in by being, and looking, so stupid!) it drove me BATTY that he was all CGI. Every time I saw him, I could TELL he was CGI, and it threw me out of the world entirely. For example, compare him to the main Uruk-hai (who kills Boromir) from LOTR Part 1 (sorry I couldn’t find better pics!):
Just because the CGI technology is out there doesn’t mean you have to use it for everything possible–the most effective movies are the ones where it’s integrated with the real, not replacing it. By putting an actual person through the process of makeup, you actually get something so much more realistic. And really, it’s not just Azog, it’s the whole movie that has this issue. Orcs are now all CGI, sets are all CGI, and it feels as though the integration of real and CGI was rushed. Honestly, I thought that LOTR, from ten years before, had better special effects.
So, this is certainly an enjoyable movie for those who would like to traverse back into Middle Earth, but it’s missing some crucial magic that’s keeping it from excellence. I’ll probably still buy the extended version when it comes out on DVD (let’s face it, you know there will be an extended version), but I can tell you that, at the end of the movie, all I wanted to do was watch LOTR to see how it should be done. And I did watch it right after, and it was much, much better.