Yesterday I saw Peter Jackson & Co’s much-anticipated movie. I have to confess I didn’t want to go. Having seen so many negative reviews in print, on the Internet, and on TV, I was convinced it would be a let down, especially after the previous trilogy set new standards in blockbuster fare.
I was astonished and delighted by what I saw. Here were three hours of solid entertainment, not padding. The special effects were even better than the Lord of the Rings. Some critics had described it as unconvincing. I’d love to know what they were comparing it to. The live action, visual effects, and make-up blended seamlessly. The action set-pieces were among the best I’d ever seen. What was described as a “bloated mess” of a movie was anything but. I defy even the most die-hard action enthusiast not to be impressed by the chase through the goblin kingdom.
But what set this film apart from the LOTR, for me anyway, was the comedy. The script was very funny, with plenty of one-liners that made the audience laugh out loud. Martin Freeman showed the same genius comic timing that helped make The Office such a hit. But plenty of the other characters contributed to the humour (the scene with the Trolls being particulary funny), making The Hobbit a much warmer and friendlier film than expected. Many times the audience laughed out loud, while at other times the theater was unusually quiet. Not even the rustling of a crisp packet could be heard in the serious talking parts. The filmmakers succeeded in doing the impossible – holding the rapt attention of a theatre half-full of children for three hours!
In case this is starting to sound like a review, I should say why I think so many critics disliked the film. Maybe it’s the dirth of misery-inducing dramas recently. Films that deal with contagious diseases, hideous crimes, sadistic torture and the like have dominated our screens for so long. Sometimes I wonder whether unpleasant thrillers, tasteless shocks, humourless assassins, and bizarre human behaviour have become so ingrained in our culture that some people can no longer recognize a great piece of fantasy and adventure.
Alfred Hitchcock once noted that a man who comes home from work to find his wife washing dishes does not want to go to the movies to see a man coming from home from work and finding his wife washing dishes. Although the expression is dated, the idea remains true. It is no coincidence that the Golden Age of cinema occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when ordinary people longed for an escape from the hardship of everyday life. These times of great recession demand inspiraton and escapism from movies, not more misery.
The Hobbit is a masterpiece. Although not perfect (I spotted a few gaping plot holes), the film was anything but long. The warm tone of the film and the action set-pieces that did not involve graphic violence, sex, gross toilet humour, or tastelessness, reminded me if anything of the heyday of action movies in the early 1980s.
The Hobbit deserves to be on the same par with movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman II. It is full of iconic scenes (Bilbo and Gollum swapping riddles), memorable characters (Radaghast the brown), fantastic action sequences, and gentle humour.
Go see it, and be surprised.