So, guess what Matt, Maddie, Grandpa and I did on Saturday night?
Why, we went to see The Hobbit. I know, I know, it says December 14 on that movie poster. Na-na-na-na-boo-boo, we got to see it early with 596 other lucky ducks at the Warren Base Theater! Once in a while, some sort of magical wand is waved and a much-anticipated movie is shown to Air Force folks early. And for free. As I said on Facebook on Saturday night, occasionally there is a really great perk for having to drag our stuff all over the country. Don't worry, I know there there are more perks than a free movie...free babies/no hospital bill being the top of the list. But this is definitely a nice perk, wouldn't you agree?
Of the four people in our early-movie-watching party:
- A hobbit expert
- Someone knowledgeable about hobbits in an "I've been alive for 72 years of course I've read Tolkien" kind of way
- Someone who read The Hobbit once to impress a boy and hoped that was enough impressing done so as not to have to read LOTR at the time (but probably ought to get on it some 23 odd years later)
- A new hobbit expert-in-the-making
I'll let you figure out who is who. It's important to note this context because it means we all experienced the movie a little differently.
Matt is not a purist when it comes to the movie adaptations of Middle Earth and doesn't mind liberties taken here and there by Peter Jackson and Peter Jackson's staff of movie-making geniuses. Lots of people will no doubt have lots to say about the liberties taken here and there in this movie; for example, Radagast, the brown wizard, is developed far more than in the book itself—he is equal parts drawn from The Silmarillion (which Matt tried more than once but failed to get through, because apparently it's a tough one even for a Tolkien fanatic) and the imagination of Peter Jackson and company, and makes for an interesting character who provides a touch of comic relief. Matt is mostly just so happy that Peter Jackson so clearly loves Middle Earth that he is willing to play along with a few plot enhancements. As for breaking The Hobbit up into three movies (and probably all long ones at that—this one clocked in at almost three hours—that just means two more chances to escape into one of his favorite literary worlds of all time.
In other words, two thumbs up.
Maddie read The Hobbit last year, and not to impress a boy (though her daddy was very impressed). She was excited to see this because it is both fresh in her mind and involves visual representations of extremely odd and scary creatures (her favorite!). I think it's hard to top the magical world genre once you've read and watched Harry Potter more than once, which puts anyone born after 1997 in a difficult spot—their expectations are going to be so high in a post-Harry world. As Matt often says though, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy invented the cliches we've all grown so used to; Maddie had no problem making that connection without letting her 21st century-dom get in the way. She was all in. She did lean over to Matt partway through an Orc fight to joke that she was going to have a nightmare about that, but otherwise did not find the story hard to follow or the imagery too scary.
This is a good place to mention that if you have a child who is sensitive to scary images in movies, this might be best seen at home vs. on a big screen. The Orcs are very Orc-y, Gollum is creepier than ever, and the action is both intense and dramatic. Your call. We called correctly that although the movie is rated PG-13, Maddie would be fine at 10.5. We follow a much stricter rule of thumb with Gracie (with her blessing) and this is more of a PG-23 movie for her. Bridget might be drawn in by the promise of an almost princess-y Elf Queen/Cate Blanchett someday. Too early to call. : )
Maddie gives it two thumbs up.
I am not a hobbit expert, but I do know how to find and purchase interesting editions of Tolkien books (and various supporting materials) and I do so love second breakfasts, so that counts for something, right? And busted: I read The Hobbit around 1990 to impress Matt. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. It just wasn't my thing at the time, though I think the part of my brain assigned to processing Tolkien has probably matured enough by now that I would actually enjoy it far more if I read it again (which I might). I saw all the LOTR trilogy in the theater without having read the books (sacrilege!) so I was prepared for the caliber of Peter Jackson's work; just because I can't name the dwarves and mixed up goblins and trolls and didn't catch the symbolism of the thrush, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it very much. I did. Bilbo is funny and wry, dwarves break out into song and dance* and the story unfolds slowly but steadily in a way that allows you to soak up the stunning images. How lucky it is to live in an age where moviemakers have so many tools available to them, and how much luckier it is when moviemakers use them so well. Is it cheating that I will reread the book with a clear picture in my mind of Bilbo's home? The goblin bridge? Gollum's haunts? Maybe. But I don't feel bad about it.
Two thumbs up from me. Grandpa gives it two thumbs up, too.
There is already some discussion about the method in which Peter Jackson filmed this; I didn't really understand it, something about frames per second and how he did something differently and what that does to the final product. It was a moot point for us because while it was super cool and generous of whoever it was that arranged an early screening, the sound system and projection inside the Warren Base Theater lives a little to be desired. Simply put, we didn't notice the frames per second thing because our energy was expended on trying to hear dialogue.
Real movie critics are almost always more critical than me, because I'm easily entertained; I just love to go to the movies. But even if you are a not-easily entertained lover of all things hobbit, there is a strong possibility that you, too, will give it two thumbs up. I know we'll be waiting anxiously for the second installment.
*Matt rolled his eyes when he pointed out that I should have been prepared for this seeing as how The Hobbit includes many songs, to which I rolled my eyes back and thought 1990! I read this once to impress you in 1990!