December in Middle-earth

This post is brought to you by my long-standing obsession with all things Tolkien.

I’ll start with a few more costumes. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Me and my sister as a hobbit and she-dwarf on Boxing Day (the day the Australian film distributor insists on bringing out every Tolkien film, which I hate them for), and casual Elf garb for a Two Towers extended screening before Christmas. I *will* acquire one or both of those displays somehow. I must.

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Some more Tolkien loot from the last few weeks! I think I have two previous editions of the David Day book (they insist on republishing it with a different title/cover and new content every few years), and I have the Children of Hurin first edition hardback, but now I don’t have to wreck that by reading it any longer. ๐Ÿ˜€ The Empire spread was awesome, there are about 40 pages of information and interviews. Regarding the soundtrack, the only thing wrong with the special edition is that it lacks the unofficially-titled “Flight of the Eagles” music! And a friend passed onto me the Air New Zealand pack (dirty hairy hobbit socks not pictured) which I was pretty chuffed about.

I have also spent a huge chunk of hours grinding in the Yule Festival onย The Lord of the Rings Online:

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The Groynbeards performing in Winterhome

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Elvish festival fare

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Duillond

Which brings me to a sort of Hobbit review, covering points I’ve been mulling over since seeing it:

  • The cinema had hardly any people in it on the opening session. I saw it in 3D, and again in 2D the next evening, which would’ve been better but for some noisy jerks sitting next to us (who I pointedly glared at for a while). One of them then took out his phone and spent a third of the film on Facebook (thanks for the light glare, jerk… I mean, why even bother going to the movies?) which was really distracting. After that session we just sat down in another screening opposite for about half an hour.
  • The 3D glasses I was provided with were far too big for my head and I had to hold them up to my face for almost the entire film. Unfortunately theย Dwarven 3D glassesย I bought recently didn’t work at my cinema either! I haven’t seen it in 48fps because I don’t think any cinemas near me support it, but still can’t get used to HDTV so am not worried at this point… but would still like to see it. ๐Ÿ˜›
  • Unfortunately there wasn’t anything like the crowd atmosphere of excitement (applause, reactions etc.) of ten years ago. With the anticipation being so huge and so many fans comparing it not only to the books but to the previous three enormously successful films, I wonder if there is a sort of collective anticlimax this time. I am no purist but just cinematically speaking I have more gripes than I expected to.
  • I was quite happy about every scene until the first warg attack. I loved seeing the Battle of Azanulbizar but without the Azog revival there may have been no need to show it. I understand the decision to create more urgency, and to create an antagonist where none really exists until (probably) film two, but felt that this was just one more enemy whose scenes dragged out the pacing. Even if it somehow makes more sense once we get to the Battle of Five Armies and Bolg comes into the picture too, ย every subsequent viewing of the first film is actually going to be tiresome, something I never thought possible (but admittedly only because of non-canon content; I could still happily watch endless faithfully-adapted material :P).

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  • The Frodo sequence has been panned by some, but I liked the way it meant we got the the opening passage of the book in quite a natural way: “In a hole in the ground…”ย I really loved the Erebor sequence … and Randy Thrandy.
  • Completely support expanding Radagast’s character, though there is really no reason for a Maia to be quite so eccentric. I could abide even the bunny-sled and hair-nest but Saruman’s mushroom comment was a bit out of character.
  • Was Bifur throwing aย harp onto the fire he was trying to cook the silverbeet on?
  • I understand they were making a point of the lack of elf/dwarf rapport, but missed the friendliness of Rivendell and a scene showing Bilbo’s love of the place would’ve helped set up for the fact he “retires” there in his twilight years. And Rivendell, it was so breathtaking to see more of it!
  • Too many huge falls and drops that even hardy Dwarves and Hobbits shouldn’t be able to survive and just recover instantly from. And it isn’t reasonable that Dori and Ori could’ve held onto Gandalf’s staff through the entire Thorin/Azog confrontation!
  • Riddles in the Dark was handled wonderfully. Goblin Town was a bit exhausting; my sister and Adam hated the Great Goblin (I’m still not quite convinced).
  • Many scenes that closely paralleled ones from LotR: Gandalf cracking the stone mirrors the Bridge fight (though it is dramatically more effective than a mere sunrise), Storm-Giants end up feeling like Caradhras, Goblin-town chase feels slapstick Moria-ish, Azog battle is like Lurtz, and so on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Tolkien wrote two stories with the main characters related to each other who go on a similar journey.
  • The ending was spot-on with the view across Mirkwood, the thrush, and Smaug’s eye providing a teaser. Someone sitting with us remarked, “oh, I didn’t know it was in two parts”, to which we replied, “it’s in three!”

  • While I love the soundtrack, all the new themes, and re-workings of the old themes, there were a few cues in there that didn’t sit right with me. Why did Thorin need Nazgรปl music?ย More on the score and re-used motifs here.
  • As with LotR, I couldn’t appreciate moments where the humour feels too deliberately placed (almost addressing the audience instead of being a natural part of it) – it pulled me out of the immersion.
  • Am a little nervous about these Kili/Tauriel rumours. :S Though I support the inclusion of more female characters (there are literallyย none in The Hobbit, unless you count a few mentions of women, only one of which is even named), and not just for the sake of having a token female “strong” action-figure, I hope if the rumours have any basis that it gets handled more like Gimli/Galadriel; even then, it would be drawing another unnecessary parallel. I will just have to reserve my judgement for 2014!
  • Final Thoughts: The vibrancy, attention to detail, casting, sets, locations and atmosphere are what made me enjoy this first film the most. We were definitely back in Middle-earth, but I felt the experience made unnecessarily tedious with the Azog storyline. I’m really looking forward to part two and three, and the added bonus is that the fandom is going through another revival which is very exciting.

I’m curious about your thoughts – what were your favourite parts, do you agree or disagree with anything I have said, and how did you enjoy the film as a reader or non-reader of the books?

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