7 January 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Trilogy

In regards to The Lord of the Rings Franchise there are two groups of people. There are those who love it and there are those who are wrong. For a long time now we've been promised another visit to Middle-Earth but thanks to a bunch of financial fuck ups we've been forced to wait. Luckily though The Hobbit movies are like buses in that you wait ages for one and then three randomly turn up at once. Or to be more accurate, one third of one will turn up once a year and over the course of a three year period… so basically, nothing like a bus whatsoever.

After years of legal disputes and false starts, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has finally reached cinemas with it now unfortunately finding itself at the centre of another controversy. Director Peter Jackson, in all of his wisdom, had decided to make the film in forty-eight frames per second instead of the usual twenty-four. Apparently this does make the picture crisper and the 3D better but is also distractingly different and ironically much less cinematic. From what I've heard in this revolutionary format, the movie now looks like a shitty episode of British soap Emmerdale Farm but with slightly less grotesques and inbreeding. For anybody who’s not seen Emmerdale, it's basically set in a little country village were nothing of interest ever happens and is a bit like a dull, rape-free prequel to Straw Dogs.

What a tacky fucking gimmick
I do love Peter Jackson but as mentioned, one of his reasons for filming in the higher frame rate was to enhance the 3D. I hate 3D anyway so this is just ruining another aspect in an attempt to try and improve a feature that will always be shit. There's a phrase in which people say, “you can't polish a turd, but you can role it in glitter”, well in this case the turd is the 3D and from what I hear it's being rolled in some pretty crappy looking glitter. So bearing this in mind on my trip to see The Hobbit I combined all of my wit and cunning and went to see it in one of the many cinemas widely screening the film in both 2D and twenty-four frames per second. So as much as I'd love to join the masses by mundanely, banging on about Jackson’s sincere attempts at trying something new, I can't thanks to my own bloody common sense. The version I saw looked absolutely stunning and I didn't even have to pay more money for those crappy glasses that make us all look like the poster for Risky Business. 

So technical bullshit aside, ‘what is the film about?’ I hear nobody asking. Well, considering it's by Peter Jackson it obviously has about nine beginnings which is fine because it'll presumably also have at least ninety endings too. But I'd guess that the most important thing to know is that a bunch of dwarves have been made penniless and homeless by a big, thieving twat of a dragon who has stolen their supply of gold. I'm not sure if the film is meant to be an analogy of a global credit crunch but with scenes of sudden economic ruin due to the greed of the big bastard now in charge, I guess it could well be.

"Go to his house and shit on the floor, I wizard-dare you"
Anyway so in a bid to recapture their lost fortune, a group of thirteen dwarves team up with the wizard Gandalf who reckons he's got a plan. They're going to find a Hobbit who’s even smaller than them and then get him to sneak into the dragons lair and err... do something? I can't remember if they want the Hobbit to steal all the gold back unnoticed or single handedly kill the massive flying fire demon but either way it's hardly Ocean’s Eleven. Also it obviously goes without saying that their barefoot bandit of choice is of course Bilbo Baggins. It's not that he wants to do it but that Gandalf has chosen him and sent all the dwarves around to his Hobbit hole for a laugh. I think this is the Middle-Earth equivalent of hacking someone's Myspace account and inviting the whole school to their house for a party to trash the place.

Bombur meets the evil Dark Lord
Unfortunately the first of the film’s problems is exposed here and it's one that is obvious from the outset. As every-body’s favourite fascist Walt Disney once discovered, thirteen dwarves is about six too many and as a result a lot of them get lost in the crowd. Of the Dwarves that did make an impression I guess, there was literally only about three or four of them. Thorin is their leader who is pretty much just a mixture of Aragorn, Boromir and an angry, bitter bell-end. Balin is the older bloke who looks like a paedophile in a cheap Santa suit. Bofur was James Nesbit having just failed an attempted audition for a Russian porno and then there was Ori. Ori I only remember because he looks the spitting image of my mate who was sat next to me during the screening. I like to take the piss at the best of times but nothing prepared me for the sheer giddy of discovering that not only is Ori the dopey dwarf but he's also probably the gay one too. I think there should be more characters with a more varied sexual orientation in movies and if that means a bunch of bent midgets who look like my friends, then even better. Of the dwarves that were thoroughly neglected, it was probably Bombur that suffered the most as I don't think he said a single line all film. In case you need reminding of him he was the big fat fucker whose physical appearance I'm pretty sure must have been based on Gerard Depardieu.

"I don't like girls. Do you think they serve cock?"
The other issue that has been raised by this film is Jackson's decision to split the one fairly thin book into three separate and epically long movies. Understandably I suppose, many people worried that he was dragging the experience out longer than could and should be possible. A bit like trying to last as long as you're able to during sex and then discovering that you've ruined the experience by accidentally wearing your dick down to a smooth, red-raw stump. However, what some of these people fail to take into account is that just because The Hobbit is a thin book that doesn't mean that not much happens in it. It might only take a second to write, “And then Ori arse-humped his lover Brokeback style”, but I'd say that's at least twenty minutes of screen time. I think it's also fairly common knowledge that Jackson has expanded the story by including scenes from the appendixes in an attempt to make it feel like more of a Lord of The Rings prequel. In the book, Gandalf tends to leave the gang in danger and then piss off for a few days. Here however we see that as they fight for their lives he's off having a quick chat with Christopher Lee and playing mind-pong with Galadriel.

In all honesty, I have absolutely no problem with the length and quantity of these films. I'm obviously quite a fan of the The Lord of The Rings and so the longer I get to spend back in Middle-Earth then the happier I am. Just to elaborate about where I lie on the scale of fandom, I do know which of the dwarves is Gimli's dad but I've also got a social life and have even slipped at least one finger inside a real life girl. I think The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just under three hours long and it absolutely flew by. I'd say that it definitely felt like less than two hours which is a pleasant contrast to something like Solaris which felt so long that by the end I'd forgotten both my identity and what decade I was existing in.

"Please don't delete me..."
With that in mind, the next thing that should typically be considered is just how abrupt does the ending feel? I suppose the answer is that despite being manufactured specifically for the film, it's actually a pretty natural break to pause things. However this placement might feel quite comfortable because it's also quite familiar. It seems that the narrative of this movie is actually fairly identical to that of The Fellowship of the Ring and even now I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not. Both begin in The Shire take a detour to Rivendell and then end up fighting in some underground tunnels before concluding with a view of a mountain. There's a scene near the end in which Thorin get's into a fight which plays out beat for beat almost identically to that of Borimir's final stand in The Fellowship. By that I mean it's in slow-motion with emphasis on the character’s nobility and whilst somebody shout's out, “Nooooo”, in a prolonged, cheesy kind of way. However just because it's cheesy doesn’t mean it's untrue to life. Back in 2000 I shouted out, “Nooo”, because my cousin deleted my copy of Pokemon Yellow. I'm still not over that... On the one hand the parallels between the two films elicit a feeling of déjà-vu but at the same time it's also massively nostalgic. There's even a part were Gandalf escapes from a situation by using his own little pocket-moth to call the eagles. I don't know why the hell those birds act so much like his bitch but I'm going to presume he must have some pretty compromising photographs of them somewhere.

If there's a difference between the two films then it would probably be in regards to the tone. Where Fellowship is smothered in a shroud of mood, The Hobbit Part 1 has a more upbeat feel to it. If they're not bickering like old lovers then the dwarves are regularly bursting into song like they're getting pissed in a tacky Karaoke bar. Overall The Hobbit is probably a funnier film too which has to be attributed to Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins. Whereas occasionally Frodo would have a bit of whinge, you can see in Bilbo's mind that no matter how much danger he's in he is constantly thinking, “For fuck’s sake”. He treats everything with two tonnes of scepticism, enjoys a good moan and would rather stay at home with his kettle. Throw in a patriotic hatred of the French and Bilbo couldn't be more British if he tried.

"Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em up your arse."
So yeah in case it's not obvious I thought the movie was brilliant. As films about little people go, this has got to be one of my favourites and is certainly better than Verne Troyer's porno. I am kind of curious to see the higher frame rate version in action but I'm also glad I watched it how I did so as not to be distracted by the difference. Transsexuals aside, I don't think anybody really likes change and stubbornly I enjoy twenty-four frames per second more than something I'm yet to experience. Ignoring that though, the film is a treat for any fan of either The Lord of the Rings or really expensive New Zealand tourist adverts. Like in the book, I suppose the highlight of the film is probably unsurprisingly the riddles-in-the-dark scene in which we're reintroduced to one of the franchise’s strongest characters. Watching Gollum freak out during his game with Bilbo just made me dream of a cross-over in which the creepy little fucker guest stars on the shite non-game-show Deal or no Deal with the ring being the top prize.  It might be a long film but it justifies it by cramming so much in. I didn't even get chance to mention the appearance of the wizard Radagast who rides a sledge powered by bunny rabbits. I had a rabbit once and had no idea he was able to do that. In fact mine just got maggots up his arse and died which is a massive shame because these days petrol is fucking expensive…

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