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View Diary: Overnight News Digest 12/14/2012 (23 comments)

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  •  Lukewarm Reviews For 'The Hobbit' (13+ / 0-)

    From the Los Angeles Times:

    Early reviews of "The Hobbit" were lukewarm on the padded story and the new high-frame-rate technology being used to project the film in some theaters, and many top critics are now chiming in with similar opinions.

    The Times' Kenneth Turan writes that the success of the "Rings" films has led to an attempt to turn "The Hobbit" into an epic on the same scale, which is counter to its nature as a shorter, simpler story intended for young audiences. Turan says it is "inevitable that the new effort would be overshadowed by its more rewarding predecessor. Films as majestic and enthralling as the trilogy are not going to come from a book with 'The Hobbit's' straightforward plot and streak of goofy humor." He adds, "The result is a film that is solid and acceptable instead of soaring and exceptional, one unnecessarily hampered in its quest to reach the magical heights of the trilogy."

    The New York Times' A.O. Scott agrees that "This voyage, which takes place 60 years before Frodo’s great quest [in "The Lord of the Rings"], is not nearly as captivating." Scott adds that "Part of this has to do with tone" and says another factor is that "'The Hobbit' is just one book, and its expansion into three movies feels arbitrary and mercenary." The highlight of the film for Scott is the appearance of "the incomparable Gollum, once again incarnated by Andy Serkis in what remains an unmatched feat of computer-assisted performance."

    Tolkien's The Hobbit is not that long (310 pages), yet Peter Jackson is stretching it out over 3 films. How exactly is he doing that?

    From the AV Club:

    The answer: Through many acts of stalling and stretching, which come in a variety of types:
    • Repetition. Unexpected Journey begins with a frame story that has Ian Holm revisiting his role as old Bilbo Baggins, and Elijah Wood returning as Frodo, for scenes set just before Bilbo’s birthday party from The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, and focused mostly on setting up events already seen in that movie.
    • Visualization. Journey takes its time with the backstory that brings 13 rambunctious dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to hire young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) for a quest to reclaim the dwarf treasure stolen by the dragon Smaug. The film takes any hint of combat or action from the books as an opportunity to flesh out a full-on battle sequence, and stories the book covers briefly or offscreen—Smaug’s takeover of the dwarven mountain/city of Erebor, a faceoff against mountain trolls, an escape from a goblin cavern—are instead illustrated in long, expansive scenes.
    • Insertion. Journey fills out and inserts material from Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion, particularly a side story that has the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen, also reprising his Rings role) investigating news of a dangerous necromancer coming to power. Naturalist wizard Radagast The Brown (former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy), who gets one mention in passing in The Hobbit, here gets a number of lengthy, goofy scenes based on Tolkien’s notes about his character.
    • Wholesale invention. Like Jackson’s Rings movies, Journey sticks tightly by some of Tolkien’s original material, but it goes much further than past films in terms of altering it for dramatic effect. Journey is full of newly written material, most significantly detailing a personal grudge between Thorin and the orc Azog The Defiler, which leads the latter to hunt the former all over Middle Earth, via many chases and battles throughout Journey. It also invents a significant crisis of faith for Bilbo, and uses it to force a broader and more stridently emphasized character arc onto a story that originally followed a more natural, less heightened progression.

    Some of the extra material bogs down the film, or becomes repetitious. Some of it ventures into the arena of the ridiculous. But some of it inserts the epic-adventure spirit of the Lord Of The Rings movies into a story that was always considerably smaller.

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