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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. :-)


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. :)


Valerie - Postmodern Pollyanna
WiliQueen's Woods

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