Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - The scoop and digest


First of all, Happy New Year!

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is overall nothing short of stunning, even though IMHO that each adaptation of each novel worsens.

The imagination of Tolkien’s universe was expertly translated and captured the fantastic setting of Middle Earth.

A Troll, Wizard, Orc or Balrog would be happy to inhabit such surroundings.

For this latest epic, events in The Hobbit happened prior to LOTR and a marathon prequel was inevitable and sure enough, shortly before we waved goodbye to 2012, the focus shifts to Bilbo Baggins.

Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit will be told in three parts.

What the shire right?

This was the shortest novel of the lot so how a trilogy can be justified is beyond me.

Can fans imagine if Fellowship, Towers and King were also told in multiples?

Fellowship – 2001-2004,
Towers – 2005-2007; and
King – 2008-2011

It’s ironic really that if Jackson chose the above madness, we’d be bang up to date as each film (with this been no different) are released annually.

Whatever, I reckon not even the most die-hard fan would have welcomed a decade to complete three novels; let alone the total running time of about 27 hours.

We already know the future, so let’s concentrate on the past.

Plot details and/or spoilers will be divulged my precious.

Those walking, talking, running and occasionally prone to danger include:

Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis - Gollum
Richard Armitage – Thorin
James Nesbitt - Bofur
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Cate Blanchett – Galadriel
Ken Stott – Balin

Ian Holm reprises his role as Bilbo (60 years hence) and recalls his adventure by pouring his mind onto paper for his dearest nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood).

In flashback we see the mighty dwarf Thror becoming King of Erebor and how the kingdom thrived until the pesky involvement of ultimate dragon Smaug.

The flying furnace infiltrated his gaf, drove them out and snaffled their hoard of gold.

Humph, how inconsiderate.

We also see that Chief Orc Azog is deprived of his arm in a battle with Thorin.  Elves scarpered rather than helped out and  his grandson, Thorin hasn't forgiven them for their cowardly and selfish act.

60 years earlier...

I will be as brief as possible, doing my damndest to detail the build-up and make it sound more exciting than it actually is.

Gandalf is greeted by young Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and a party is thrown at his humble abode.

It is later mentioned that Gandalf the Grey is one of five wizards, the others being Saruman the White and Radagast the Brown.

Gandalf can’t remember the names of the other two.

Eventually thirteen dwarves show up (including big cheese Thorin) and literally eat Bilbo out of house and home.

They even make time for a merry song with a novel way of doing the pots.

Gandalf volunteers the fourteenth helper in their journey and with it, a burglar in Bilbo.

The wise old wizard says that he will further assist because Orcs and Goblins are not used to the smell of Hobbits which can only be handy.

Despite the temptation of such an adventure, Bilbo isn't too keen to leave his armchair, books and garden and is left to sleep on it.

In the morning, he sees the unfinished contract and like a giddy schoolboy, he happily announces to residents of The Shire that ‘he’s going on an adventure’.

He catches up with the dwarves and Gandalf who are on horseback on their way to Lonely Mountain.

There is some idle jest about a possible Orc attack that Thorin isn't particularly enamoured with.

Dwarves and Orcs get on about as well with one another as the Belmonts do with Dracula.

During a night in the forest, we see mountain trolls steal their transport for a tasty meal.

Tom, Bert and Bill earlier received elocution lessons at the Queen Vic and are half-witted idiots.  I know this is supposed to be a comedic turn but the accent idea is even dumber than their IQ as one seems to get clobbered with a kitchen utensil once too often.

Bilbo goes to reclaim the equine creatures but predictably is caught; he’s even used as a troll handkerchief...

His merry bunch is also no use as they are bagged ready for an unexpected and alternative meal.

After some unfunny stalling, dawn is fast approaching and with it a troll’s ultimate enemy - sunlight.

Gandalf appears and using his sturdy staff, breaks a huge boulder and lets the sunshine pour like wine and brings the same result to each of the trolls as a Medusa stare.

Hooray, we move on.

The fourteen strong stumble upon and search a troll cave full of bangles and baubles.  The most interesting find are Elven blades and one is given to Bilbo which he reluctantly accepts.

We are told because this sword was forged by Elves; it will glow blue if Orcs and/or Goblins are in range.

Radagast warn the group of a necromancer, who earlier warded off virtually unseen and inevitable future giant arachnid baddie Shelob...

Of this odd wizard, Radagast is pulled along on a sleigh by rabbits.  Yeah, WTF right?

Anyway, action is threatened as Radagast proudly boasts that these turbo-charged bunnies can easily outrun Orcs on ‘Wargback’ so acts as a decoy.

Things are getting a bit hairy but Elf warriors intervene and slay the danger.  Azog, now displaying an iron spike thing as a makeshift arm describes dwarves (obviously in subtitles) as ‘dwarf-scum’.

I've no idea why that insult is hyphenated but whatever.

Do you know who or what I immediately thought of?

Well if you didn't, how about Calibos from the 1981 original Clash of the Titans because he loses, okay his hand and not arm to Perseus, but like Azog, seemed to choose a similar trident like replacement.

Hey, this is major coincidence but Calibos also kills somebody in the same way as Azog does, albeit for different reasons.

In Clash, during the brilliant scorpion scene, Calibos is a sadistic bastard as he literally stabs somebody in the back.  Azog on the other hand proves his ruthlessness by giving an Orc the point when learning of his cohort’s failure by allowing the dwarves to escape.

Getting back on track, we trudge to Rivendell which is the home of Lord Elrond and Gandalf wastes time with the White Council consisting of Saruman and Galadriel.

The point of this is that despite Thorin’s bitterness which is still fresher than the bite of a lemon, he hands the map over to Elrond so he can decipher the Runes and reveals that a secret door will only appear when specific conditions are met, i.e. Durin’s Day.

Misty Mountains occupied by Stone Giants are up next and get yer' rocks out, get yer' rocks out honey.

The gang are forced to deal with avalanches of debris and other clichéd near misses.

We all know that Bilbo and co won’t and can’t fall to their death so what is the point?

This encounter hoped to encourage awe but in truth, more like bore.

Trust me, something out of God of War or Shadow of the Collosus is far more epic.

Oh well, they take refuge inside and our man Bilbo is about to head back and is wished luck by ‘one’ of the thirteen dwarves.  However, his sword starts to glow blue which means uh-oh, Orc or Goblin alert.  I guess Jackson flipped a coin so it’s the latter.

I cannot be sure how these next two scenes are amalgamated and which order the following actually happen but I’ll do my best to fuse both together.

They fall into Goblin territory and all are captured apart from Bilbo as his scent is not picked up by the ugly looking critters.

Goblin City is dominated by rope bridges and other primitive surroundings.  It does look rather splendid.

They are taken to the Great Goblin who has an unsightly and ghastly looking tumour dangling from his chin.  David Bowie was tempted but refused the part due to reasons unknown.

I know he was called the Goblin King...

He’s a decent CGI creation but as we've now seen so many through the years, if has to be really good to impress me.

Meanwhile, Bilbo is attacked by a Goblin and they both fall into a cave.

Hidden amongst fungus, Bilbo watches as a familiar and very welcome crawler is introduced as Gollum drags away the apparently dead Goblin for his supper.

However, it wouldn't make a particularly convincing corpse dead and during a brief scuffle, a ring falls from his pouch and/or rag covering his modesty in the process of doing so.

Hmmmm, I wonder what that could be?

Like Bilbo, let’s pretend we really don’t know and he takes his opportunity to acquire this mysterious trinket...

In a nearby cave, Gollum and Bilbo play a riddle game with the prize of escape or meal for the winner or loser respectively.

When Gollum realises that the ring was actually stolen, that really pisses him off so reacts by attacking and gives chase.

Back with all things Goblin, Gandalf appears and unleashes a nuke which sends a ripple or two in this duck pond.

The bearded wizard has saved the day again and takes out tumour chin.

I think one of the dwarfs swat many aside causing them to fall into the chasm below.

Getting back to Bilbo...

In a curious twist of fate, the ring is tossed in the air and Bilbo catches it on his finger.  He soon discovers that the wearer is granted invisibility which he happily exploits to evade his wound up pursuer.

We see things through his eyes as his vision is distorted and in monochrome.

Gollum is getting increasingly desperate and looks near to ending it all.

Bilbo considers helping him do just that with his pointy stick but takes pity on him and makes his escape.

It’s just a hunch but I reckon we haven’t seen the last of him.

Gandalf and co have already legged it and our protagonist is eager to rejoin them.

Now we approach the end of this Part...

The dwarves are bitching about Bilbo and are convinced he has deserted.

Those who doubted are quickly made to eat their words as the now visible Bilbo appears.

Their reunion is rudely interrupted by Azog, Wargs and his cronies.

Quick lads, make haste to the trees. 

Gandalf makes his staff create a burning sensation and he and his gang use it to ignite acorns which they throw down to terrify the Wargs because no matter how big and ugly an animal is, fire terrifies most.

He also calls in a favour from his feathered friends; yes he gets by with a little help from his friends.

Thorin decides to take on Azog, Dwarf to Orc and avenge his father’s death but is ultimately unsuccessful.

Giant eagles swoop and take control of the situation leaving Azog seething with rage and frustration.

Unused subtitle – “Grrr, dwarf-scum have escaped again but I’ll get you next time Thorin, next time!”

[Insert bad-tempered cat shriek here].

Anyway, each enjoy an eagle ride and when Thorin is set down, good old Gandalf revives him and clearly in a good mood, he acknowledges Bilbo for his efforts during this slice of pie.

The closing scene sees an envious amount of treasure and buried underneath is Smaug.  His giant eye dominates the canvas and the credits roll.

I really did mean what I said because it is pretty boring.  There are some above average action scenes but they are scattered about like a bag of shredded paper.

The rabbit pulled sleigh is just stupid and the duelling stone giants were a right, royal waste of time.

There is just too much gabbing, not enough action and the script while okay, needed a bit of wizardry too.

Of course there has to be chat for the story to develop, (LOTR obviously wasn’t shy of a line or two) but that remained more involving.

I mentioned the awful and unnecessary script bite by Albert Finney as Kincade in Skyfall when he says “Welcome to Scotland!”

Well, it’s not as bad but the Great Goblin has a go at outdoing the crusty gamekeeper as before dying, he comes up with something like “That should do it” or “That’ll do it” as a reaction to Gandalf’s blade.

It’s also too long with a running time of about 2h 40.

To me, there’s a golden rule that must be followed for any film threatening nearly three hours - it must hold your attention and not force glances at your watch.  If you do that with any film, you must be hoping that the end is not too far away.

Pirates of the Caribbean anybody?

It’s not all bad as it does look spectacular boasting fantastic scenery, some wonderful effects and the scenes flow better than the average river.

If Gollum looked brilliant before, he now looks incredible.  Andy Serkis is again faultless providing his voice talent and facial expressions.  Oh, those eyes are still big and beautiful.

For the other CGI creations, lip syncing had to be perfect and it doesn’t disappoint.

McKellen puffs on his pipe and clutches his staff and apart from learning a different script, this is all in a wizard’s work for a true professional.

The dwarves are okay and quirky enough but no performance by any stand out.

The role is too much for Martin Freeman and while he tries his hairy foot off, this is The Office, err feat too far.

He’s watchable enough and injects some humour but wrong choice for me.

Okay, Wood isn’t the world’s greatest actor but nevertheless, he made a very good Frodo.  Well whether you’re a fan or not, we’re stuck with Mr Freeman.

Aficionados will naturally compare silver screen events to the novel and be even quicker to point out the many inaccuracies and bollocks.

If Tolkien was still with us, I wonder what he’d make of this and the LOTR trilogy?

Would he wax lyrical or be hyper critical?  To be generous, maybe a bit of both.

This is one of those films that despite what you've heard, it’s obligatory that it must be seen on the big screen.

I suppose for the millions who paid their admission fee, they like I are duty bound to stick with it like a stubborn stain on your favourite shirt until its conclusion in 2014.

The Desolation of Smaug is up next and surely it will be more stimulating.

No pressure then Mr Jackson.

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