I love the Lord of the Rings films. They are the trilogy that I have come to love the most (more so than Nolan’s Batman flicks or even the original Star Wars films). When I watch them, I always watch the extended versions and do some knitting. Paul B , on the other-hand, doesn’t like the LoTR films much at all, except for the “making of” documentaries that were produced in their wake. And you would have thought that this trend would have continued when we went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when it was released almost two years ago. But here’s the thing: Paul liked it way more than I did and I was left completely underwhelmed.
We didn’t go to see The Desolation of Smaug in our local cinema last year. However, with the third film on its way later this year, and knowing that Paul really wanted to catch it this time, we recently rewatched the first film and watched the second for the first time over on Netflix. Did my opinion of the first film change? Did knitting while watching it make it more bearable? Read on to find out.
There are spoilers in this post.
Despite the memories I had of my first viewing, when that familiar music began playing, I could feel my nostalgia for the Tolkien-verse increase – yes, there were goosebumps. I had decided to give the film a second chance before watching it, to try and not be too judgemental of it. The crazy thing is that The Hobbit novel is one of my favourite books, whereas the novels that comprise The Lord of the Rings were something I found quite disappointing when I read them.
When the film went back to the evening of Bilbo being drawn into the Dwarves’ company, I paid a bit more heed to what was going on – I think during the cinema viewing I missed a lot of the humour that there was on screen. Sure it was a lot more happy-go-lucky than the novel’s opening, but reused a lot of it, here the film painted a more believable reaction to what was happening to Bilbo. I definitely got a greater sense of why he was so pissed-off at having twelve dwarves appear in his Hobbit hole.
I suppose the one thing that the film could have improved over on the novel at this point is Bilbo deciding to join the group on their journey to The Lonely Mountain. I’ve never been completely convinced by Bilbo’s drive to join the group. A drive to recapture his more adventurous youth seems like he’s almost in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
When I first watched the film, perhaps I was expecting it to follow the book more closely than LoTR, because there was so little of it in comparison. Of course with the decision to stretch the story out into three films, it was obvious that material had to be pulled in from somewhere. This time watching An Unexpected Journey I was less apprehensive about the work they did to add in the necromancer storyline and make it a more prominent B plot. Its addition made far more sense and allowed a decent focus on Gandalf, enabling him to not be the aloof character that he is in the novel.
Perhaps what isn’t so great is how by having Gandalf less informed of the necromancer in the film kind of does away with a huge part of his original background: he’s been watching for signs of Sauron’s return for thousands of years in terms of the characterisation he’s had in Tolkien’s books. And while he does seem less knowledgeable in the film, this is countered by him having greater magical prowess in the film than he does in the novel.
Have I changed my mind?
Rewatching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has improved my opinion of it. I think this second chance has managed to give me a greater appreciation for the film, because it gave me time to look at what was happening and being said far more. And I also found that it was just as good for knitting to as its predecessors. I don’t like it as much as the Lord of the Rings films, but I am certainly no longer indifferent to its charms. I’m glad I gave it a second chance and I did enjoy watching The Desolation of Smaug for the first time as well.