Last night, I reprised something from 10 years ago by seeing a Wellington-first-public showing of a Tolkien film by Peter Jackson at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington. How time flies!
At the Embassy, unlike ten years ago, everything was set up for Wellington fans to be pampered - a luxurious theater, free movie snacks with our tickets, free professional photos, spot prizes, roving reporters. Apparently, I made a breakfast TV show in my elf gown from 10 years ago recounting being there 10 years ago. 90% of the movie goers were contest winners, and 10% was the local Tolkien society, following a ticketing issue that made the news - that's how I got my ticket.
So. The film. First, and IMPORTANT: Tolkien fans, see the 2D version. Avoid the 3D version if at all possible. Every critique of the 3D version in 48fps was true for me –facial prosthetic falseness, surreal over-reality, a sense of being a TV show or an extract from the ‘Making Of’ DVD. Apart from that, as a big ol' fan I give it a solid B+.
The abrupt novelty of Middle-Earth in 3D really jarred me during the introduction. In a hyperexcited return, we get a supersized exposition pack with a fast-forward through Dale, Erebor, and the Dwarf/Orc Wars, and a fanservice glimpse of Thranduil. Then we return to the Shire for a movie beginning that overlaps with the start of "The Fellowship of the Ring", complete with a smooth young Frodo. What movie were we in, again? After the plot hit Rivendell either my eyes settled into the 3D or the more subdued wilderness/ Rivendell scenery made it less teeth-on-edge, until we hit the goblins' realm under the Misty Mountains.
Radagast receives a trippy subplot, and initially comes across as a Rankin & Bass Hobbit character meets Tim Benzedrine from Bored of the Rings, settling down after his loopiness to be similar to, well, my take. So that was passable. Might there also have been some Rankin/Bass homage going on with the Great Goblin? Is there an inevitable groovy 70s fan madness endemic to all movies of The Hobbit? Thranduil was riding a MOOSE, by Elbereth. Maybe it was supposed to be an Irish Elk, but I immediately read it as a moose.
Things critics didn't like that I had no problem with:
- 3 hours? What three hours? We were done already?
- Dwarf musical numbers in first hour - Not bad at all, "Carefully With The Plates" was clever rather than excruciating, and "Misty Mountains" was, as it should be, haunting.
- Fanboy/fanfic-like expansion/adjusments. Mostly acceptable, particularly the orc Azog, making the Dwarf/Elf dislike more relevant to the immediate plot, getting to see Elrond wielding a sword, a mini-White Council, and changes to the Troll scene that mean that the characters' motivations make much more sense.
- "Bilbo is too modern" - Yes, and it's canonical - his bourgeousie concerns and quibbles are played for amusement against the increasingly high fantasy setting.
Things I didn't like, apart from that 3D:
- Erebor's too big. It's depicted as being about the same size and mineral resources as Moria, which wasn't the case.
- Endless dwarf bumbling. Unfortunately, this is canonical. I was with Thorin and his frequent exasperated facial expressions.
- Falling off edges of things, constantly, emphasized.
- Martin Freeman's voice, of all things, took me a while to get into.
- Excessively slick elves. Turn down the special effects!
- The "Riddles in the Dark" scene is nigh-Shakespearean. So brilliant.
- A friend of mine in Wellington owns a craft store that was contracted by Weta to provide 20 liters of gold glitter. The final scene shows where that glitter went.
- Why no Elladan and Elrohir? Why do they torture me so?
- Brett McKenzie/Lindir is back. I had to check the cast list to be sure it was him, ten years has given him stronger cheekbones. Christopher Lee is back as well, possibly because his lines have him disagreeing with everybody else in the cast.
- I was absurdly pleased to be wearing the same "mannequin hand" nail polish as Galadriel.
- This is definitely more kid-friendly than the LOTR movies - less blood, less mortality, cleaner orcs, bunnies, and the only slash-ready pairing is Thor and Azog. The scene where their eyes meet is right out of an Oglaf cartoon.
- I don't know what to make of The Arkenstone. It's a realistic size, but it's...peach-colored?
- A fine movie but I could've waited a few more months to see it so that the people working on it could have work schedules and rights in line with local labor laws.