Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
Racing Radagast through the blazing sun...
My apologies to Rolf Harris for the paraphrase of his Christmas carol, Six White Boomers, but if you've seen the movie in question, you'll know what I'm referring to. That's the only thing that came to mind for certain scenes.
I should note right off that I'm something of a book purist - some might say extremely so. As such, based on the Lord of the Rings movies done by Peter Jackson, I didn't go to see The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey in theatres. Whereas I did go see the LOTR movies on their opening days.
So, I finally got around to seeing the new Hobbit movie. Right off the bat, I have to say I was expecting good things concerning sets and scenery - those they got right in the Lord of the Rings movies (only helped by the fact that my two favorite Tolkien artists were involved), and the same thing held true for this one. It was kind of nice seeing Rivendell and the Shire again. No complaints there.
I was surprised at how true to the text of the Hobbit and the dialogue Peter Jackson stayed (at least for the scenes that were in the actual book). Of course, I'm trusting my memory here on this, and it's been somewhere between five and ten years since I read The Hobbit - and what's more, all my Tolkien books have been packed away. Somewhat aggravating to say the least - there were a few times last night where I was wanting to be able to reach over and double-check some detail against the book. Still, it felt a bit like I could tick off the lines, starting with that rather famous line "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit. Not a dirty, nasty, wet hole....". Slightly changed, but still there.
Andy Serkis certainly did a good job as Gollum again. No quibbles there - I especially liked the scene where we're watching his face in the reflected water.
Now for the starting run of grumbling. I knew going into the movie that there were things that were going to annoy me about it - after all, it's another movie adaptation, and one done by Peter Jackson.
Did we really need the constant chasing by Azog and his minions? It added too many battles and special effects extravaganzas. To the point where I found the running battle/escape from the Goblins' caves under the Misty Mountains to be somewhat comedic. Probably not the effect they were going for.
The other running gripe was Jackson's portrayal of the dwarves as slobs with no table manners. Beer running down their beards, grabbing for food, etc, etc. My feelings on that change were probably not helped by the fact that I couldn't really tell them apart for the majority of the movie.
I've already alluded to Radagast's means of transportation at the start of this post. Rabbits pulling a sled. Really? That got comments from the rest of the audience as well - "Christmas in New Zealand" for example. I have to say, I didn't like Jackson's portrayal of the Brown Wizard at all.
There were also a number of scenes I found to echo scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies - Gandalf talking to the butterfly to bring the Eagles in The Hobbit, vs. Gandalf talking to the moth at the top of Isengard in the Lord of the Rings movies for example.
I have to say though, I was surprised at how little I found myself grumbling about Jackson's version of Bilbo. There were a couple of things - that he willingly started out on the adventure, for example, and his willingness to fight - my thoughts on the latter could be somewhat confused due to the length of time it's been since I read the book though, but I don't remember Bilbo doing much of any fighting at all.
Overall, I think Jackson did a slightly better job with this first movie in the Hobbit trilogy of movies than he did with the Lord of the Rings movies.