Biltrix Review of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” 21

Biltrix Gives Peter Jackson’s Hobbit 5 Stars and 2 Thumbs Up!

From left to right: Meriwether Branybuck, Legolas, Fr Jason Smith (standing in for Golem), Gandalf, Bill the Pony, Thorin Oakenshield, Peregrin Took

Excellent!

Tolkien fans, you will not be disappointed. Peter Jackson portrayed Bilbo Baggins’ Unexpected Journey in an way that would have made J.R.R. Tolkien proud. To sum it all up in one word, an Adventure!

Whether you’ve read the Hobbit or you haven’t, you are going to love this movie.  Jackson’s action filled fantasy triller excites and awes at every moment with epic battle scenes, unbelievably real CGI, breathtaking cinematography, and a great storyline that remains faithful to the original classic while integrating several unexpected gems from Tolkienese lore. I am not going to spoil the surprise by filling in the details. You need to see and enjoy every line and every spectacular moment for yourself.

Warning: You need to go prepared…

"Fly, you fools!"

Fools!

In order to go unnoticed, I cleverly disguised myself as Gandalf the Grey. My makeshift traffic-cone-wrapped-in-duct-tape hat worked like a charm! I was able to enjoy the film without any pesky distractions (though the ushers did force me take off the hat after sufficient pleading from those who were sitting behind me — Fools!).

As the film got underway, my popcorn and I were drawn into Bilbo’s adventure — trekking across Middle-Earth to slay Smog the Dragon — accompanied by Gandalf and troop of 12 uncouth dwarves.

As one might expect, there were orks and wargs, trolls and goblins lurking to kill at every turn — not to mention those nasty spiders! (although Jackson reserved Bilbo’s brave stand against the Spiders of Mirkwood for the sequel, so you can be sure there will be plenty of action left for the second movie).

A rather pleasant (or perhaps unpleasant) surprise was the appearance of Radagast the Brown (unkempt appearance, that is), who is only mentioned but never actually seen in any of Tolkien’s major works. Several other cameos from the Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings made it onto the screen that were never mentioned in The Hobbit (i.e., the book). Don’t worry, I won’t spoil any more surprises.

I will, however, say that these creative liberties were tactfully introduced — which is not something I could say for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. This time he definitely got it right. Jackson integrated these “connecting elements” and wove them into the story so well that at times I caught myself asking if the lines and characters he imported from other works of the Tolkien corpus were not actually in The Hobbit in the first place. I have to applaud Peter Jackson’s subtle infusion of Silmarillion backstory into The Hobbit’s plot. It came across as convincing and seamless as the CGI and other special effects.

I most appreciated the acting and the selection of lines from the book — well timed, well placed, and well delivered. Two soliloquies in particular invoked a noble catharsis.

The first was Gandalf’s explaining, near mid-film, why he chose the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. His response, a bewildered “I don’t know!” Yet he went on to explain that he made the wise choice because he was not convinced that the great impending evil that threatened to overrule Middle-Earth could only be conquered by the mightiest forces of good (namely his fellow wizards and himself). Rather, he believed it to be the small, everyday acts of goodness — charity — that would ultimately raise goodness to triumph over the forces of evil. This is perhaps the most underlying motif of the whole Tolkien series. Kudos to Jackson for presenting his audience with the most cherished virtues and ideals of the great mind of Tolkien!

The second moving moment (nicely placed between the two most intense battle-scenes of the movie), was Bilbo’s answer to why he did not desert the troop and return to his comfortable home when he had the chance. He responded to the querying dwarves (some of them arrogantly), that he knew that his place was not to be with them, but rather he was meant to be safe and snug in his beloved hole in the ground back in the Shire; yet knowing that these rag-tag dwarves did not have a home, he was willing to fight with them against the evil force that drove them out of their rightful homeland. He was willing to forsake his own home, in order that they may have theirs.

Tolkien understood and wanted to transmit what makes simple men and women like you and me to be great. What is it that moves us out of our comfort zone to courageously take up arms, so to say, against greater forces than we could possibly overcome on our own? The answer can only be virtue — self-sacrifice, courage in the face of insuperable odds, noble resilience, and perhaps most of all, fellowship.

My respects to Mr. Jackson for a fine job representing this great story that still speaks to our times. My recommendation is not that you should see The Hobbit only to enjoy it, but most of all, because its message is pertinent and important.

21 comments

    • Recommended for family viewing. Just as a follow up. There’s no foul language or anything inappropriate. It is rated PG-13 for violence, which mostly takes place among animated monsters who don’t bleed very much. I’d say it’s safe for kids 10 and up and maybe a little younger.

  1. I am glad to hear about the extra content! However, I have a non-content question for you. Which format did you see? Were you happy with it? I know it has been written about ad nauseam, but I’m curious if you think it will make the experience any different.

    • We opted for the more economical option (non-3D). With 48 frames per second the image was spectacular, almost too real. I’m not exaggerating to say it was mesmerizing. So I don’t feel that I missed the real thing, like I would have if I did not see Avatar in 3D (where the 3D distracted you from other aspects of the film, and that was not such a bad thing). However, I can only imagine what it would have been like to see The Hobbit in 3D and I’m tempted to go back to the theatre soon to give it a try. The movie definitely is worth watching a second time.

    • After watching it (actually while watching it) I was thinking that I need to go back and read not just The Hobbit but all of the books. I won’t elaborate on it, but Jackson’s portrayal of The Lord of the Rings trilogy did not do that for me — believe me you do not want me to elaborate on that.

      As regards The Hobbit, I was thoroughly thrilled.

      I’m so glad you and Kevin got to enjoy the same thing my Mission Corpse friends and I enjoyed last night. This is a movie that everyone can enjoy.

      [Did you dress up?Like, in Tolkien costumes?…. Sorry, bad question.]

      • I would like to know your thoughts on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Kevin and I really enjoyed those movies and think Peter Jackson did a great job with them so I would like to know what you think he should have done differently in the trilogy. I hope to see an explanation in the future.

        “[Did you dress up?Like, in Tolkien costumes?…. Sorry, bad question.]”

        LOL!! Nope. Trying to think who I would have dressed up as. Either Gandalf or Galadriel. That would be funny, me as Gandalf.

      • I hesitate to answer your question, Teresa, because I truly felt that Peter Jackson redeemed himself with the way he filmed The Hobbit.

        The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a well done series of movies in many respects. I was, however, disappointed with many of Jackson’s choices related to plot, screenplay, and character development. I am not a huge Tolkien aficionado, but I was actually offended by some of the liberties he took in interpreting Tolkien’s work.

        His cutting edge use of CGI in all three movies was groundbreaking in its own rite. That certainly made the movies entertaining. Yet the type of decisions he made in order to bring more warriors into battle scenes so as to depict grandios fight scenes were simply just for that effect, namely to create grandios fight scenes with innumerable scores of warriors clashing in chaotic combat. To what effect? eye candy, essentially. To what end? To gain as many Oscars as possible. To bring that about, he continually introduced legions of warriors who were not present in battles Tolkien created in the Lord of the Rings. Elves were not present at Helm’s deep. The dead armies were not present to fight at the Battle of Gondor. For Tolkien, these would have been serious misinterpretations. I don’t mind literary creativity, but it needs to be used for more than just to impress an audience with grandiose special effects.

        In the Lord of the Rings, Jackson not only misinterpreted characters, he warped them. I’ll just give one example here. In the book, Gandalf saves Faramir from the pyre and then tries to save Denethor. In the movie, Gandalf kicks Denethor back on to the pyre when Denthor is trying to escape from the pyre. That is totally out of Character for Gandalf. What exactly was going through Jackson’s head when he reinterpreted that scene? I have no idea, but it is one of several character moves that he not only altered but actually inverted to do the oposite of what that character would have done (or actually did in the book). This just shows me that Jackson used his license indiscriminately without due respect for the work he was interpreting, so in my opinion, his interpretation was incredibly poor, and repeatedly so.

        I regret saying this in a way, because the work he did with The Hobbit was spot on. Yes, he became very creative at times and introduced elements that were not in the book. But he did so in a tasteful manner and with respect for the work and the characters he was representing. When I saw Gandalf in this movie, I saw Gandalf, not the mind of Peter Jackson aiming for another academy award. When I saw Bilbo, I believed I was watching the very same Bilbo I read about in the Hobbit. Moreover, it was just a great movie, and I like to reserve the word great for things that really are great.

        I hope you don’t mind my criticism of the first of Jackson’s trilogies. I expected more than what Jackson delivered and Jackson gave me a lot more of things I really did not care for, and I was not impressed. In the Hobbit, he could not have impressed me more.

    • Thanks for the four thumbs up, Interfacers! When Father Jason and I put our heads together, just give us duct tape and we can fix anything! (Though we still have not worked out a duct tape scheme for the defunct “Radiant Form” — it’s a WordPress glitch we’re working on… still).

      • 🙂 Thanks for the update on Radiant Form. This may be an opportunity to create the first transcendent use of duct tape in cyber space! A joyous Gaudete Sunday to y’all! (“joyous Gaudete.” Hmm. A little redundant, but all y’all get the idea.)

  2. Thank you very much for your extremely thoughtful answer. And so quickly. I appreciate your honesty in your criticisms. I hope you don’t mind but I may try to tackle these issues in a blog post. Or try to explain. I have the trilogy so I will review the scenes, talk this over with Kevin, and then work out a proper response.

    God Bless.

    • I’m looking forward to your response and I’m sure you’ll explain some things to me so that I can appreciate Peter Jackson’s work better. After all I said, I do owe him the respect and appreciation he deserves for what he accomplished with those movies, which was nothing short of spectacular in many regards (besides the ones I took issue with). Thanks!

  3. James, you outdid yourself: The traffic-cone-hat was inspired!

    Personally, I especially appreciate (even though it was “just” a comment, and not the actual post) your response/review to Teresa of the original LoR movies. Honestly, a much more in depth analysis from you of that series would be sincerely appreciated.

    Please consider it for someday in the future. Sooner would be better.

    Very pleased to hear that this new movie was faithful to the book AND enjoyable. I’ll be taking my three ‘midgets’ to see it (both boys & Mrs. TurnRight) this weekend.
    And I’ll be doing so with considerably less fear of being disappointed than I would have otherwise.

    Many thanks, my friend…

    • I’m glad you are going to see it with the family this weekend, JTR, and I’m sure you will not be disappointed. I look forward to any thoughts you have to share on it afterward.

      As for my writing a review on the LoR trilogy, I should probably read the book and watch all the movies again first. Who knows… I’ll have some downtime over Christmas, so maybe I can work some of that in. God bless!

  4. Pingback: The Hobbit: An Uninspiring Journey (a critical film review) | Two Heads are Better Than One

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