A Truly Unexpected Journey: A Review of The Hobbit, Part 2

Last post I summarized some popular complaints about the new movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Today, I will be talking about some of the more positive things!

And now is the time for why I LOVED this movie (this is a lot more fun to write about)!

1. The Acting

I have no problem in saying that much of the acting in this movie is astounding. I loved seeing the return of such favorites as Frodo (Elijah Wood), aged Bilbo (Ian Holm), Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Gollum (Andy Serkis), and Saruman (Christopher Lee). It was as if we were seeing old friends again, and it helped to tie the prequel to its successor The Lord of the Rings.

I also enjoyed many of the new faces to the mix. My particular favorite castings include the following:

Sylvester McCoy as Radagast

First thing’s first: no, I did not care for the animal excrement running down the Brown Wizard’s face.

Gandalf and Radagast
Image courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

On the other hand, I think McCoy’s portrayal of Radagast captures the spirit of Tolkien. He does not write much about the nature-loving wizard, but he does indicate that the wizard was of a gentle nature. Radagast was fond of the flora and the fauna, quite possibly forsaking Elves and Men to dwell amongst plants and animals, according to Tolkien’s legendarium.

McCoy’s Radagast is very much at ease with his animals. In his home of Rhosgobel under Mirkwood’s western eaves, Radagast hides away with his animal companions. He has the ability to heal dying animals and even manages to have his own form of transportation. I don’t really buy into the rabbit sleigh (though it admittedly provided a split second’s worth of humor), but overall, Jackson created in McCoy a powerful but benevolent wizard with an eye for natural flair.

Ken Stott as Balin and James Nesbitt as Bofur

This is a picture of the Dwarves from The Hobbit.
Image courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

As I sat in the theatre watching The Hobbit, I found myself entranced by the Dwarves. Admittedly I found Aidan Turner and Dean O’Gorman attractive as Kili and Fili (c’mon, which girl didn’t?), and Richard Armitage made a fair Thorin. But, I felt the under-hyped and best-kept-secret Dwarves were Balin and Bofur. I enjoyed each for different reasons.

Throughout the book, Bilbo gets shafted by most of the Dwarves, especially Thorin. This is additionally made apparent in the movie.  But Balin serves as a grandfatherly-type figure who provides advice and support for Bilbo. He is also mindful of the Dwarves’ past and gives the audience background information on Thorin. I don’t think Jackson could have fleshed out a better informant than Balin.

Bofur was another well-developed character. He not only provides comic relief at the beginning of the treacherous journey, he also is another Dwarf to count Bilbo as one of their company. My personal favorite Bofur exchange is the following:

Bilbo: Er…excuse me, that is a doily, not a dish cloth.

Bofur: But it’s full of holes!

Bilbo: It’s supposed to look like that, it’s crochet.

Bofur: Oh, and a wonderful game it is too, if you got the balls for it.

Overall I think Balin and Bofur make the movie much more appealing to a variety of ages.

2. The Soundtrack

It’s hard to pinpoint what I love the most about the soundtrack. Fortunately for us, Howard Shore again composed the score for Peter Jackson’s films. If you have not listened to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, then you won’t know what I’m talking about. Regardless, there are a few reasons I love this most recent compilation of tunes.

First of all, you hear the recurrent themes for the Shire resonating almost immediately at the beginning of the score. Shore’s music brings listeners back to a more rustic, rural lifestyle, matching the slow, leisurely pace of hobbit life. This was my favorite theme throughout the LOTR soundtracks.

Secondly, Shore gives the Dwarves their own sound which is distinctively different but equally appealing. He centers this sound around the Misty Mountains song and even manages to create a theme for Erebor. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed how some songs from the book were incorporated. The Blunt Knives and the Misty Mountain song captured the spirit of the Dwarves and immediately threw me into the emotions of their tragedy, their loss. For your listening pleasure, here is the Misty Mountains song followed by Neil Finn’s Song of the Lonely Mountain (scroll to the bottom to find the link).

The long and short of this series of posts is this: I immensely enjoyed the first film of The Hobbit. Although many things were to be desired, I found the movie quirky, mostly in keeping with Tolkien’s canon and emotions, and overall a rollicking good time with the Dwarves.

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