Friday, December 14, 2012

Wizards, hobbitses and hot dwarves, oh my

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 5:00 PM

I suspect The Lord of the Rings film trilogy heyday coincided with the lonely, horny and awkward adolescent years of many nerds who are now twentysomethings. I try not to think about my teen years, but my old bedroom at my parents’ house is still plastered with more Legolas posters and memorabilia than I care to admit.

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Oh, the hours spent memorizing character genealogy. The hours spent waiting for LOTR forums to load on dial-up internet. The hours spent starting flamewars with Harry Potter fans. The hours spent cutting pictures out of expensive, shiny fan magazines. Instead of getting into trouble with friends and fooling around in cars, I spent most of my teenage years buried in a fantasy world, trying in earnest to learn Elvish.

Lord of the Rings is now tainted with remembering what an enormous, unhealthy obsession I had with it. Many of the people I’d talked to about The Hobbit trilogy said they had low expectations, but for no reason that I could determine. I suspect that many of the negative vibes toward The Hobbit are from people who, like me, are trying to suppress memories of those embarrassing years.

So when my sister asked if I was coming with her to the midnight opening, I might have hesitated for a moment. But there I was, at the movie theater at 11:30 p.m, maybe even wearing my necklace with a medallion inscribed with the One Ring poem in Elvish. For complicated Fandango-related reasons, we went to the Village 6. I’d expected lines of costumed nerds, but the theater was about a quarter full. We spotted one guy in a cloak, but he took it off quickly after sitting down. We were definitely among the faithful, though, because once the lights went down, that was a damn quiet audience.

Coming away from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I feel assured that I will not plunge down the Unhealthy Level of Fandom tunnel, and that Peter Jackson and his merry band of New Zealanders are doing right by the beloved story. Thank the baby Jesus that Jackson signed on to do these films. If you loved Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit feels exactly like entering that glorious vision of Middle Earth again. The casting is perfect. The costuming and artwork intricate. The sweeping views of plains and snow-capped mountains (which look remarkably familiar to a Montanan) are epic.

It’s hard to make judgments on Unexpected Journey since this is only part one. Towards the end, a dramatic sub-arc is created and resolved to give some semblance of a stand-alone plot, but this is fundamentally just a long introduction to the next two-thirds of a lengthy movie. To really get a handle on how I think Jackson interpreted and paced the story, check back with me in 2014. Jesus.

Drawbacks: Unexpected Journey is long and feels like it. I’d wondered how Jackson would stretch an essentially simple story into a trilogy, and it turns out: By giving each scene loving, obsessive attention to detail. It makes for a movie that’s truer to the books, but also a movie that feels drawn out, especially when the show didn’t even start until 12:30 a.m.

The Hobbit lacks Lord of the Rings’ multiple subplots and, sadly, the multiple hotties. Unless, of course, bearded, hairy dwarves are your thing, in which case there’s hotties aplenty. Fans seeking objects of lusty adoration are thrown a bone with Aidan Turner’s Kili (my sister’s favorite), Dean O’Gorman’s Fili (a dark horse, but my favorite) and Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield (boners all around). My sister and I traditionally elbow each other and giggle when our favorite hottie comes on screen in movies, and rest assured there was much elbowing.

Much was made of the The Hobbit being filmed at 48 frames per second to create a ultra-high-def experience. I’ve heard from people who found it overwhelming, especially in 3D. But in 2D on the Village’s smaller screens, I didn’t notice much of a difference. But I was also busy keeping my eyes peeled for Kili and Fili.

Overall, Unexpected Journey didn’t disappoint. It’s entertaining, it’s lighthearted in the right places, actors chew the scenery as is appropriate. Most of all, I’m excited to see the next one.

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