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Over the Misty Mountains

So, not only did I go for the midnight show, but after seeing the Tauriel action figure at Toys'R'Us while shopping for ShinyHappyNiece's birthday and thinking "Y'know, I could improvise something by Thursday night," I, er, went ahead and improvised something by Thursday night. For which the only new expenditure was a $5 washable-suede jacket from the thrift store and $2 for pretty Elven-looking buttons. I removed the collar and sleeves, wore the (slightly altered) sleeves like legwarmers to extend my little ankle-high elf boots, swapped out the buttons, hemmed the raw edges, and took a few tucks. And then proceeded to be a bit embarrassed by how impressed people seemed to be. Then again, I was the only one at Charlestowne in costume, so. *shrug*

Completely non-spoilery review: I loved it, and am looking forward to going again. It's gorgeous, of course, and also heartfelt and effectively told. I've seen various reviews take issue with the HFR (48fps) technology, the pacing, and keeping track of a baker's dozen Dwarves. I don't really agree with any of those, though I sort of see what the controversy is with the first. It definitely takes a bit of getting used to, and I can see where many people won't do so as quickly as I'm prone to do. Especially because it does look unavoidably different from the LotR trilogy, in a way that makes me think it might sell better to some people in a film without preconceived expectations. For myself, the extensive prologue (a bit with Bilbo and Frodo on the day of the birthday party bookending a mini-epic historical montage) was enough time to add a new perceptual category in my brain to go alongside "film," "video," and "physically in front of me." My brain was sort of flipping between the last two at first, but then it got used to the idea that I was looking at something else, and by the time Bilbo had Dwarves rapidly accumulating in his dining room, I was fine.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the actual movie, shall we? :-)

I'm particularly bemused by the complaints about the pacing, because the overall storytelling structure reminds me a LOT of Fellowship of the Ring. Which works just as well here (and, if you're me, means it didn't really feel like I'd been sitting through nearly three hours of movie when the credits rolled), though I did find myself thinking about which segments parallelled each other, i.e. the history and fall of Erebor in place of the history of the Ring and the fall of Isildur; a perilous chase through the goblin mountain in place of the perilous chase through Moria; a band of Warg-riding Orcs harassing the Company in place of the Nazgûl harassing the Fellowship.

That last is one of the primary additions, and IMHO it works pretty well. The Orcs are led by one Azog the Defiler, who has it in for Thorin personally for reasons illuminated by another flashback sequence. This gives some more insight into Thorin's background and how the mighty has fallen, and the ongoing vendetta gives a bit more sense of continuity to the very episodic nature of the perils encountered along the journey.

They appear to have front-loaded a goodly proportion of the additional material in this film, with a fair chunk of screen time given to Radagast (who is Sylvester very much being Sylvester, which is hilarious and slightly distracting if you're familiar with him, but it works) discovering the ominous goings-on at and around Dol Guldur, and the White Council discussion of it and of the Dwarves' quest taking place during a stop at Rivendell. (This movie takes us through the rescue by the Eagles, and it's only logical that a substantial chunk of the third movie will be devoted to actually showing the Battle of Five Armies instead of somebody giving Bilbo the Cliffs Notes version after the fact.)

On the character front, I found more of my interest being invested in the Dwarves than in Bilbo, but I think that's because the latter is pretty much exactly what I expected, and essentially the same character I've known since I was seven. Since the Dwarves are drawn in less detail in the novel, there's plenty of room for the movies to flesh them out, and at least with several of them, the opportunity doesn't go to waste. Even the several who only get a line or two are as distinctive in demeanor as they are in appearance, and the design team's well-publicized brief to make sure that we can tell them apart from a distance on a mountainside was realized quite successfully. (As demonstrated in several sweeping shots with the Company on a mountainside.)

They do a particularly good job of establishing the Company as a motley assortment of royalty, veteran warriors, and common folk, explicitly identified as the only ones willing to join Thorin on what most everyone else regards as a hopeless endeavor. Thorin is effectively a second lead, which I think has contributed to some people comparing him to Aragorn. It's a valid comparison as far as the whole "king in exile with doubts" thing goes, but the crucial difference is that Thorin grew up in Erebor at its height and remembers it firsthand. It's clear that determination to reclaim it has been his driving force in the decades since, and he covers his doubts with formality and sometimes painful pride.

I'm puzzled by one omission, which is that (with the exception of Gloin greeting Oin as "brother" when he arrives at Bag End) the Dwarves' various kinship ties are never mentioned. Obviously I don't want a genealogical exposition dump, but it very much affects relationships, and I'm hoping it'll still come up with, say, explanations to Bilbo at a key moment or two. For example, there's a nice character moment when Thorin snaps at Fìli and Kìli for, essentially, acting like the exuberant adolescents they are, and they look like a pair of chastened puppies. But I have to wonder if it has the same impact if you don't know that they're not just any untested youths hoping to impress the leader they idolize. They're his heirs. They've presumably been raised on tales of the kingdom they've never seen, to which their uncle is the living connection, and there's no way they don't feel the need to try to live up to that legend. You can see that undercurrent throughout the character dynamics, as well as in the way Kìli in particular is so similar to Thorin in appearance, bearing and dress that they're the only ones who might require you to pay attention to distinguish them in a group action shot. So I feel like the audience should know who they are.

By contrast, even without explicit mention of kinship, there's no way to mistake Balin's place as Thorin's mentor and advisor, made clear from the prologue in Erebor. I realized yesterday that this means the four dwarves for whom we get the most character depth are also those with known and memorable fates: Thorin and "the lads" will fall at the Battle of Five Armies, and Balin will be found by the Fellowship in that tomb in Moria.

Bofur also gets a decent share of lines and screen time, the most of the common folk in the Company. Which makes it nice that his contribution is partly, but not entirely, comic relief, particularly in a nice little exchange with Bilbo near the end of the movie. James Nesbitt does a particularly nice job with a very different sort of character than I'm used to seeing from him.

I... think that's pretty much all that's rattling around my head at the moment. I'll probably think of more later, and certainly when I see it again. But it'll do for now. :-)


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 15th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's a great outfit! :D I love hearing how people creatively redesign thrift store stuff.

Glad you enjoyed the movie. I haven't seen it yet... but then I think I can say that for like, every movie that's come out in the past 2 years.
Dec. 15th, 2012 05:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I've done a lot of that sort of thing for theatres with limited means, so it's fun to do it for myself. :-)
Dec. 16th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
They're his heirs.

Wow. I had no idea. If I've read the book, it's been so long I remembered none of the details (which was probably better for me because I knew about none of the stuff that seemed to so irk others). But that's a detail I'd have liked to know about.
Dec. 16th, 2012 11:19 am (UTC)
That particular angle isn't necessarily made explicit, but the book does remind us fairly frequently that they're his nephews. And he has no children of his own, so however complicated the lines of succession no doubt are (for instance, it's probably significant that they're his sister's sons rather than a brother's), they're pretty much the leading edge of the future of Durin's line.

All it would have taken was for them to address him as "uncle," as they do fairly frequently in the book. The fact that they don't makes me think it's a conscious choice, and that at some key dramatic point we'll see it brought home to Bilbo why they in particular have so much to prove to Thorin.
Dec. 17th, 2012 10:16 am (UTC)
You looked SMASHING!!!
Dec. 17th, 2012 11:41 am (UTC)
Thank you, m'dear! :-)
Dec. 17th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
I finally saw it tonight. (Saw the 3D version and felt, as I often do after the fact, that I wasted the money and should have just watched the 2D version for cheaper. The 3D was pretty in the static shots, but any time the camera moved there was too much blur to visually track it.) I enjoyed it quite a bit. I've read the book several times, but not recently enough to notice too much about moments where they strayed from the original story. One bit I seem to recall (and this shows you which parts of the book stuck with me when I read it in my youth) was Bilbo sort of squeaking out the answer to one riddle accidentally in the book whereas in the movie he actually figured it out. If I'm remembering it right, it would have been a nice funny moment that they let slip away.

I had no idea that Sylvester McCoy was going to be in it, so that was a delightful surprise. I spent the first few moments thinking he looked familiar somehow and then it hit me. :-)
Dec. 18th, 2012 10:26 am (UTC)
Did you see the regular 3D or the HFR? The latter was definitely distinctive, and I didn't see any blurring at all. But of course perception is so individual.

I thought the same thing about Bilbo and the "time" answer! He still only got it because Gollum mentioned time, but it's not the same as accidentally answering while trying to say "Give me more time!"
Dec. 18th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC)
I would assume regular 3D. I'd heard the buzz about the HFR and did not realize there was a 3D non-HFR version out there. There was certainly nothing impressive about what I saw. The friend I saw it with had the same reaction and we both felt like we wasted our money on something that would have been just as good, if not better, in 2D.
Dec. 19th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
It's good to know the blurring isn't present in the HFR version. I saw it this weekend in 2D non-HFR and there was definitely blurring in quick pan shots in at least 2 places. Alesia and I will be seeing it again in the 3D HFR soon, and I had been wondering if the blurring would be non-existent in that. So, you've answered my question. :)
Dec. 20th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
My sister gave me a Fandago card for Christmas and on account of that, plus the fact that we're dorks, Jazzy and I went to see The Hobbit again today at a better theater. Huge difference. Not only was I not annoyed by blur, we could see stuff we missed in the first viewing. Actually, that's probably not entirely a good thing as one of things I didn't spot last time was spittle flying off the screen. :-)

For all the epicness, my favorite scenes were still just actor moments ... Gandalf being a manipulative doof and trying (and failing) to look innocent every time he got called out, Bilbo being all flustered and huffy, Gollum being simultaneously scarey and pathetic. It still blows my mind how much emotion Gollum can convey. In most movies a CGI character interacting with live action scenes just doesn't work very well.
Dec. 21st, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
Yay!! So glad you got to see it properly.

And yes, it's always the characters that matter most. I love Jackson for that. Though of course, the tech is involved there too, whether practical (some of those dwarves are under a LOT of prosthetics, and I never really thought about it) or digital (Jackson said on Colbert that they've been able to add more fine musculature around Gollum's eyes to convey Andy's performance more precisely).
Dec. 19th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
It's my experience that when people can't do something and see someone else do something they wish they could, they're VERY impressed by it (like I am about your costume, as you know I can't sew at all). So, enjoy the compliment. Just because it's super easy for you to do, don't assume it would be the same for others. :)
Dec. 19th, 2012 10:37 am (UTC)
Re: Costume
Oh, I don't assume that at all! I'm just surprised when people are that impressed by something that isn't fancy or accurate. I forget that outside of cons, not everyone has routinely seen way better even if they couldn't do it themselves. :-)
Dec. 23rd, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
The local near teens have declared a war over Kili and who saw him first. I have pointed to Mitchell and claimed dibs. Nyah. ;)
Dec. 23rd, 2012 10:58 am (UTC)
So there! ;-)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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