Sometimes the universe gives us little gifts. I was sad that no one I know could see Hobbit 2 until sometime next week. Monday possibly. So, I’d resolved to go see it alone this morning. 9 a.m. showing. Then Wednesday one of my bestest buddies called me to say that she's in town. She flew in that day from where she now resides in Denver because she’s working on fixing up her house here for sale. After the enthusiastic greeting, I asked, "Can you take even a little time off to go play?" She replied, "What do you have in mind?" I said, "Let’s go see The Hobbit together." She was tempted, mulled it over and last night called to say yes, she could do it. Yay!!
We arrived around 8:45 a.m. and sailed right into our local IMAX theater to see it in 3D. This is the way to do it, chickies. Go at a time when no one else would go. We got the perfect seats right in the middle of the theater. By the time the previews started, it was actually about half full. The previews disturbed me since every new film seemed to be an army flick with death and destruction and high body counts, either that or superhero flicks with death, destruction and high body counts. Saw previews for Spider Man 2 and Captain America. I wonder when audiences will get tired of people who can fly without wings. LOL. But they looked fun. And omg the new Godzilla film. Caught a glimpse of the monster. Incredible!
The drawback about going in the a.m. was a subdued audience. I missed the cheers and camaraderie that, no doubt, existed in that same theater the night before. However, from the minute it started with PJ's little reprising cameo at Bree there, I was swept back into Middle-earth.
Let me just say that one has to let go of the notion that this story is going to resemble our beloved childhood tale in any but superficial aspects like characters and an overall storyline. This is fanfic, pure and simple. I was reminded as I sat there, enthralled, that most movies say that they are “adapted” from the book. Yep. That's what it is -- an adaptation.
The movie begins with a brief prologue earlier in time when Gandalf meets up with Thorin in Bree and sets him on the quest to reclaim his kingdom. From there we jump back to where the last movie left off. Bilbo is scouting ahead and spots both orcs on his trail as well as a huge bear. The action is virtually non-stop from there–like a videogame or a Disney ride. But with much better visuals. One of the things I do like is that PJ, Fran, and Philippa keep characterization clearly in mind amidst all that action. There is a brief sojourn at Beorn’s. He doesn’t do much in his man-shape except let Gandalf know that orcs are multiplying and he hates orcs. One of the things Fran and Philippa do with the script is take Tolkien’s loose adventure tale and tighten up the reasons for why something happens and then put those reasons in front of us, instead of as backstory. In the book, Gandalf already knows about the Necromancer and he has a date set up with the White Council to oust him. The movie script shows us all the cause and effect as part of the action, even though it means deviating from the original.
From there we go to Mirkwood and the attack of the spiders – wonderfully visualized and really terrifying. Lots of events in the book are skipped including the dwarves stumbling onto the elves’ campfire and Bombur falling in the enchanted stream. The appearance of the elves and yay! our Legolas with vivid blue eyes definitely made my heart kick up a notch. Wonderful action sequence showing ol' Legs is still one bad-ass elf. Kinda fun to see him in his home turf before the events in LOTR, although his character seems harder and more mature than he was in LOTR. Of course Orlando has aged, even CGI doesn't change that, but his characterization has changed too. He seems a chip off the ol' block in his attitudes about foreigners. I really liked the addition of Tauriel -- and boy does she kick ass! In addition she added a kind, "human" touch in her interactions with Kili as a contrast to her ability to skewer orcs. For me, the whole “love triangle” with Kili and Legolas worked. And I loved the extensive use of elvish. I strongly suspect she'll be a catalyst for Thranduil helping the people of Esgaroth.
Then the visualization of Thranduil’s realm--marvelous! Very elven with elements that hark to Lorien, but still an underground lair. For me, this movie is going right to my fanfic roots in that Dragon Fever and Swords & Seduction took place in Laketown and Mirkwood. One of the things that really struck me was how close Laketown was to the way I imagined it, but my envisioning of Thranduil’s palace could really have benefited from the Hobbit’s team of designers. Wow! The detail in all the sets is truly wonderful.
Thranduil fans (I include myself here) may not care for his characterization: very fey and zenophobic. Very fey. Nevertheless, as a fanfic interpretation, I’m going to buy it. The scene between him and Thorin crackled, full of tension. Lee Pace ate up the screen and I wanted lots more of him. My guess is he’ll get redeemed in the third movie as this is Fran and Philippa’s modus operandi. To give characters space for growth, they start from a place that is less than perfect or admirable.
Again, the action moves along quickly. No long haunting of the Elvenking’s Halls for Bilbo, stealing food and listening at cracks while he wears the Ring. And btw, interesting that they use Bilbo's sense that the Ring is, well, something to be avoided, to create a logical reason why he takes it off when he does. Tauriel and Kili only have a brief moment to connect while Kili is in his cell, (and that was a good scene) before Bilbo grabs the keys and off they go. The ride down the Forest River while chased both by orcs and elves is hugely fun, even though you have to suspend your belief in physics. (Even more true in the Lonely Mountain scenes.)
Meanwhile of course, there is the other thread of Gandalf and Radagast first going to investigate the Witch-King's tomb when he discovers he's busted out, so the Nine have again arisen and then Gandalf going to Dol Guldur. Suitably creepy and hair-raising. Both my friend and I actually did jump and scream at one point. LOL. Definitely, the 3D this time was a kick. However, I'm don't see the need to visit the Witch-King's tomb. It seems that we have quite enough villains for movie III without bringing back the Chief Nazgul. I loved the visualization of Sauron.
Bard arrives on the scene, and imho his whole characterization is better (gasp) than in the book. In the book, he just sort of appears, for several pages as the grim-voiced man who foretells bad futures, then keeps his wits enough to organize the defense of Esgaroth from the dragon’s assault. In the movie, Bard’s role is expanded. He takes on the Aragorn role, the scruffy looking guy forced to smuggle to make a living, living by his wits, but with a hero’s heart. His ancestor Girion from Dale failed to kill the dragon with one of the black arrows (shot not from a bow, but more of a high-powered harpoon), and Bard has carefully kept the only remaining bolt. So he’s set up (very similarly to Aragorn in the LOTR films) to be tested when the dragon arrives. Of course he’s the only one who stands up to the Master, when everyone else is understandably tempted by Thorin's promise of the vast wealth of Erebor flowing through their currently impoverished town. I liked the way they portrayed Bard quite a lot. Enjoyed seeing Stephen Fry as the greedy Master. Hope he has more opportunity to shine in TH3. And I liked the mixed racial makeup of Laketown.
The fact that a small group of four dwarves stay in Laketown, one oversleeps and Kili stays because he's wounded and Thorin tell him to. Umm, okay. I suspect their valor with the dragon will help the dwarves' plight with the townspeople and enable them to show up in a timely fashion at the Battle of Five Armies.
The scene where the dwarves attempt to open the secret door is altered in that it’s Bilbo, who does not give up hope, when all the others do. (And btw, I loved how the passageway up to the door is cleverly disguised.)
May I digress to say that Martin Freeman is just fantastic. He’s the Bilbo at the end of the first movie, the one who’s found his courage enough to fight orcs and stand up to a dragon. Martin Freeman is such a good actor. There were so many little moments when he manages to be both comic and touching. I’ll have to go back to see the movie to savor them.
And then of course there’s Smaug. OMFG! There has never been a better cinematic dragon. Ever! The CGI - good lord! He is the perfect huge, slithery, cobra-like creature, with the beguiling voice. A wonderful villain, gorgeously visualized. And Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice is pitch perfect. However, movie Smaug is black, not red-gold, although there is a moment, well, I won't give it away. I could have wished that the riddling part of his and Bilbo’s confrontation had gone on longer. But then again, several critics said they thought it went on too long. Goes to show, I’d rather have clever, sparring conversation, than lots of death-defying falls from high places, but that’s just me, apparently.
I approve of the scenes where the dwarves descend into Erebor and confront Smaug, even though we were once-again in Implausible-Gravity-Defying-Videogame Land. But the scenes gave the dwarves more to do than in the original story. It made the conflict between Thorin and Smaug palpable, and it enabled Thorin to show his heroism. Plus, that forge room was marvelous.
A warning for those who haven’t seen it, the movie ends on a huge, mother-fing cliffhanger. I mean, I figured, but damn . . .
So, all in all, I was hugely entertained and forgive PJ and company for screwing liberally with the original story. PJ does know how to make a movie. When it ended there was dead silence in the theater as people sat there awed, and then my friend said in a loud whisper, “Well, that was just fantastic!” Agreed.
I’m happy to discuss all the ins and outs with y’all.