There and Back Again: A Moviegoer's Journey
A few months ago Rachel and I had some things to say about The Hobbit trailer. Excitement was had, assumptions were made. Now we’re back with actual informed opinions. Sort of.
Christin: So. That happened.
Rachel: Yeah. Sure did. Are we there yet? No? Seriously?
Christin: That was seriously a risky way to end the movie. They’re all looking at something on the horizon, awe-struck, and you cut to it and the damn mountain is a billion miles away. It’s like “hey we’re getting somewh– oh.”
Rachel: Right! I actually said to myself, “Oh man, it’s still SO far away!”
Christin: And in the distance. A sleepy menace wakes. And doesn’t utter a syllable.
Rachel: And that menace’s eye looks like weirdly similar to the Eye of Sauron.
Christin: It did indeed. Apparently we’re going for an “eyes are evil” theme.
Christin: Better than weirdly cross-eyed and blazed out. What did you think of Radagast?
Rachel: I’m sure I’m about to expose myself as a total noob, but was I supposed to know who he was? Either way, he was a fun little diversion, and I liked his doings with warm, fuzzy critters. But I’m not supposed to like him, as the mushrooms have addled his brain, and we frown upon that.
Christin: Ugh, Saruman is so straight edge. And a little haughty for a guy who gets hooked to Middle Earth tv (palantir).
Christin: I vaguely remember Radagast being mentioned in Lord of the Rings but basically as “that other wizard.” I don’t think he makes an actual appearance in the books proper, just appendices.
Christin: The fuzzy critters were less random than they appeared in the trailer and I’m glad he served a purpose eventually, but we spent a lot of time with him compared to how useful he turned out to be (no matter how cute rabbits are).
Rachel: Okay, I’m glad I (probably, maybe?) wasn’t the only one going “Wait…Radagast? Heh?” I agree, the critters did seem random in the trailer, so I’m glad they did have a point in the movie.
Christin: That seemed to be a thing with the whole movie. Like the rock giant fight. It looked awesome but the only purpose was to force the Dwarves into the mountain. The movie spent a lot of time on things that are only catalysts. The Lord of the Rings trilogy seemed more deft at every scene doing more than one thing at a time.
Rachel: I definitely feel like that trilogy is able to get a lot more accomplished, in less time, and still without cutting out a lot of the detail. I wish this had gone similarly.
Rachel: The rock giant fight was fairly useless, plot-wise. They could have just as easily been forced into the mountain by the bad weather. It did look cool, and thank god I didn’t see it in 3D or I’d probably have thrown up, but again, too much time spent on it.
Christin: Let’s talk format. How did you see this? I saw 24 fps, 2D, like a peasant. How did it look to you?
Rachel: I saw the exact same. Like a TRUE peasant because we went at 10:45 in the morning, so it only cost us $5.50 a person!
Christin: Oh my god. I paid $13.50 (plus convenience fees) for a midnight showing. We live in the same damn state and I have to pay a fee for the pleasure of living in New York City (sarcasm tone activated).
Rachel: Looks-wise, I think it looked pretty good, although there were a lot of scenes where I thought it was hard to tell what was actually going on. Most notably, the chase scene through the mountain with the goblins. I was having a very hard time figuring out what was what.
Christin: Yeah, I noticed that there were some moments that were quite blurry, mostly the swoopy bits you could tell were optimized for 3D and yes, the goblin scene but that whole thing felt like a bit of a mess. It sort of reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean but with more characters to follow.
Rachel: With way too many characters to follow! There were times I thought dwarfs had died, and then they’d magically reappear again, and I’d see it was a goblin who had died. I couldn’t get it straight. It definitely was a mess. I mean, an enjoyable mess, but a mess nonetheless. I sound like Dr. Seuss.
Christin: I was terrified that Kili was going to get killed off, the camera kept focusing on him. Probably because he’s the hottest. Or maybe I was just looking for him.
Rachel: Yes. I was holding off on that part of the conversation, but I see that it’s time. Kili and Fili were lovely to watch.
Christin: Not to be girls about it but we are and we like the menfolk. Very nice.
Rachel: I was glad to have some attractive Dwarves to watch while going on the incredibly long and exhausting adventure.
Christin: Speaking of hot, what did you think of Martin Freeman?
Rachel: I loved Martin as Bilbo! I think he did a fantastic job, actually. I can’t really imagine anyone else playing that part in the way that he did. I didn’t realize it until I started watching the movie, but he is basically exactly how I have always pictured Bilbo in my head.
Christin: Aww, that’s awesome. I knew going in he’s an excellent actor, the work he’s doing on Sherlock is amazing. So I was a little off-put at first by how broad he was playing it. It was vaudevillian the way he was acting with his face for the first half of the movie. I mean, that walk is pure Charlie Chaplin. On the podcast Michelle pointed out that he’s matching Ian Holm who also took a very actorly route with it but still, risky choice since obviously Bilbo is getting more screen-time in The Hobbit.
Rachel: I can agree, it was a little goofy in the beginning, but I sort of expected that for some reason. Maybe it’s just my interpretation of the text that lead me in that direction. Overall though, I feel like he nailed it, and I feel like it’s only going to get better in the next one.
Christin: I do think it pays off in the end when he has his moments of realization and redemption. He ends the movie a lot more serious. Which, now that I think about it, is really interesting and sort of tragic, depending on how you read it. Since he is a lot like Ian Holm’s Bilbo at the beginning and Holm is older Bilbo, he clearly never loses his spark unlike Frodo who is completely changed after his journey. And Bilbo had the ring for way longer. Is it a comment on Sauron’s increased power by the time Frodo inherits the ring? Frodo is weaker? Or just a continuity glitch?
Rachel: I haven’t really ever thought of the differences between Bilbo and Frodo after their respective journeys. But now that you mention it, I think I’ve always just interpreted it as Sauron’s increased power doing far more damage on Frodo than it ever had the opportunity to do on Bilbo. The ring itself doesn’t even seem to have all that much power over Bilbo during The Hobbit. I mean, he wants it, obviously, and he’d be sad if he lost it, but there isn’t the same sense of extreme urgency with it that there is when Frodo has possession of it. I don’t think Frodo is weaker. In many ways I think he is stronger than Bilbo just for the fact that he knows what he is about to face and he does it head on. Bilbo doesn’t really know what he’s going to face (except the possibility of a dragon) and he faces it, but he does it reluctantly the entire time. Frodo seems more resigned to it, knowing the importance of what he is tasked with. But I don’t really want to say either is stronger than the other. They’re very different and I love them both!
Christin: Yes, you’re 100% right. They’re different and on different journeys, but the movie was at pains to connect to the original trilogy (Elijah Wood was lovely but essentially unnecessary) so I’m going to go with it. I was curious to see how they portrayed the ring world to Bilbo since in The Hobbit he doesn’t seem to notice anything going on at all while, for Frodo, it extremely disruptive and upsetting. I think that’s partially the increased power and proximity of evil but I love your point about knowing the force of the ring. You could almost read it as a psychological issue, where Frodo is projecting the eye of Sauron when he first puts the ring on, not actually seeing it or being seen. (That was actually my interpretation until Return of the King when the eye became a spotlight which I wasn’t crazy about.)
Rachel: Absoutely. Bilbo is in blissful ignorance of the true power of the ring, and sort of thinks of it as a fun toy. Frodo is aware from the start of the power of it, which has definitely increased, and he takes it very seriously. The eye as a spotlight didn’t really work for me either.
Christin: Again, still an interesting message about power and restraint. When Bilbo decides not to kill Gollum, that was the most powerful part of the movie to me.
Rachel: Totally agree about not killing Gollum. You could really see the inner struggle going on there, and you can respect him for making the decision to just let him get on with his terrible life. Although, I have to admit, for a second I had the thought, “If you’d just kill him, things might be better…” until I realized that Frodo might have had a lot tougher time without Gollum’s “help” so I guess it is what it is.
Rachel: I’d like to bring up the fact that I really enjoyed the lightheartedness of the movie. Obviously their mission is quite serious, and bad things happen, but I liked having something to giggle about now and then. You did get some of those moments in the trilogy, but not to the extent of this movie. That’s definitely in keeping with the book, so it was to be expected, but I appreciated it anyway.
Christin: Ok, I’m going to have to trust you in keeping with the book. I just got a battered copy on the street for a buck but I only made it to the Dwarves’ songs before I put it away for a while. And while I agree that levity is necessary, I wanted less. Or less random, I guess. I mean, there were booger jokes.
Rachel: The booger jokes could have been left out, definitely. The tone of the book is certainly more fun and funny than the other books, though. Until you get to where they’re actually trying to deal with Smaug, and then it gets more serious, but that just accents the severity of the situation appropriately. But I mean hey, Dwarves are funny guys. My husband pointed out to me that many of the funny parts in the other movies involve Gimli, a dwarf, so there you have it.
Christin: I cannot believe that, not once, did anyone yell “NOT THE BEARD!” or reference dwarf-tossing. NOT ONCE.
Rachel: I would have died laughing in the theater if that happened.
Christin: They’re just a goofy bunch of people. I hope that isn’t Dwarf-ist.
Christin: The movie seemed to have a 12-year-old mentality, what with the boogers and the really nasty looking Goblins and Orcs. Where Lord of the Rings is kinda bloody and gory, this one was oozy and leaky and I know which one I prefer. Neck fat lesions? No thank you.
Rachel: It was very cartoon-y, I thought. That neck fat was just nasty, even pre-lesions.
Christin: So basically, a matter of taste.
Christin: I don’t know, it just didn’t feel as lived-in as LotR.
Rachel: I hear you. It did feel a little different.
Christin: They are sort of following a LotR formula where there’s a greater evil (Smaug/Necromancer/Benedict Cumberbatch) looming in the distance and an immediate but lesser evil hunting down the protagonists. But it’s heresy to even mention the incomparable Christopher Lee in the same breath as that awful, fake looking white Orc I was dismayed to see still alive at the end of the film.
Rachel: I’m probably losing my mind, but I can’t remember any “Pale Orc” from the book.
Christin: Pretty sure the Pale Orc is a movie invention. What’d you think of him?
Rachel: I don’t want movie inventions! There was already enough crap to deal with, without ADDING something else! I think he was probably unnecessary. I don’t really have any other opinion of him.
Rachel: Overall, I’m not terribly excited about An Unexpected Journey. I mean, I liked it, but I’m not running around telling everyone they should go see it either. And to be honest, I probably won’t watch it again until it comes out on DVD.
Christin: Well first off, no one needs to be told to see a Lord of the Rings movie at this point right? If you’re going, you’re going, if you’re not, you never were in the first place. I might see it again because I’m so curious about the 48fps. And I might be able to enjoy it more now that I have a sense of where it is going. I felt so lost during the entire movie with the frequent shifts in tone and perspective. Now that I have a sense of direction I might be able to relax and enjoy more. But it’s a sense of curiosity and experimentation, not the way I felt walking about of Two Towers and wondering when I could see that again.
Christin: I am still excited for the next movie. There was a lot of introductory stuff going on in this movie, maybe now that we’ve introduced everyone and fleshed out everyone’s backstory we can focus on the forward momentum. Plus, DRAGON!
Rachel: YES! I’m much more hopeful for the next movie. I agree, now that we’ve gotten all that crap out of the way, there’s a lot more room for forward motion at a faster pace. And yes, of course, dragon! Wee!
Rachel: One of my very geeky acquaintances mentioned that he is under the impression that the conclusion to The Hobbit story line as we know it will actually be taking place in the 2nd movie, and that the third movie is going to be mostly from The Silmarillion, which I have not read, so I guess I’ll need to get on that. But this is also just rumor, I have no idea how true it is.
Christin: I tried reading the Silmarillion and that was back during my LotR frenzy stage and I still couldn’t get through it. So good luck!
Rachel: Just reading the description of The Silmarillion makes me doze. I’ll probably skip it.
Christin: You have read The Hobbit more recently and the end of that is the battle right? Which Bilbo is mostly passed out for but the other main characters are active participants.
Rachel: The battle isn’t the end end, but it’s basically the climax of the story, yes.
Christin: Based on the titles alone I was under the impression that The Desolation of Smaug is going to be about the journey to the Lonely Mountain and wherever they need to be to unlock the light key and find the door to the horde of gold and confront the dragon (even saying that I realize how goofy it all sounds). There and Back Again will be about that final battle and probably something to do with the reconciliation of Dwarves and elves. Orlando Bloom is back for these movies and you don’t cast Lee Pace (on a mother-effin ELK) for a 30 second part, he’s obviously coming back.
Rachel: Dat elk! I’m pretty sure I said “whoa” out loud when he strolled up.
Christin: Plus they beat the “Dwarves hate Elves!” thing to bloody death. Clearly there isn’t total amicability since Legolas and Gimli still hate each other at first but for movie cohesion there is probably some type of understanding. That’s my take on how the movies are all going to shake down.
Rachel: I’d be much happier if it was all like your description, and it makes sense to me to cut it up that way if we’re insisting on doing three movies. I’d rather go by the titles, which suggest a Hobbit-y conclusion in the final film. I’m down.
Christin: Right. So you know what. Good. Those sound way better since (and this is only if my guesses are correct but they are educated guesses) the second and third movies will be centered around singular events instead of being herky-jerky and episodic. And I’m fine with length if it means spending more time on big things instead of rushing through lots of mini stories. Unexpected Journey did have a lot of mini-scenes but it also took its time with Riddles in the Dark, which I can appreciate.
Rachel: Singular events will make the next two much better, I think. And I agree with you on the length being more tolerable in that case, but I’m almost wondering if they length will also cut down since there is less back story to inject from here on out.
Christin: MORE DRAGON MONOLOGUES PLEASE! I ask this from a sound designer perspective but also, of course, as a flailing fangirl.
Rachel: I’m so proud that you’ve been able to leave Benedict out of this for so long! You’re doing so well! But now that he’s been brought up, I will tell you that I’m very much looking forward to seeing him do work in the upcoming movies!
Christin: I went with a friend who is as big a fangirl as I am. We were fighting over which one of us is his fake girlfriend (me). So every time a wizard said “the Necromancer” we would clutch at each other like “he’s coming! AHHHH!” Same when Thorin yelled DRAGON! in the beginning. Which A, I liked the reference to Faramir yelling NAZGUL! in Two Towers, and B, they did a really good job hiding the dragon in the movie and in the trailers. I had no clue there was going to be any dragon stuff at all before the movie started.
Christin: And wasn’t he blue? I was totally expecting red. Is there a description in the books? Is this going to be like the nerd rage over whether the Balrog had wings or not?
Christin: Dragons are red. Scientific fact. It’s all the fire inside them.
Rachel: I don’t know if they ever gave a true description of the dragon in the book, actually. Just like, “it’s big” kinda thing.
Rachel: I was expecting to actually see his face when they showed the Necromancer (silly me) but I thought it was cool how even though the dragon was in the movie, he wasn’t, really. I mean, you really didn’t get to see much of anything. A tail here, a foot there, an eyeball at the end. Still keeping us guessing!
Christin: The world is conspiring to keep him off my screen.
Rachel: Sooooon, my precious! SOON!
Star Trek: Into Darkness is in theaters May 17, 2013. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters December 2013. The next season of Sherlock is airing ~radio silence, sound of soft weeping~
You can find more Hobbit discussion in our podcast, featuring Rob, Michelle, Jon, Christin, and Jeff.