Friday, March 29, 2013

Bilbo Baggins, 'The Hobbit and 'Lord of the Rings'

We like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. In fact, I don't remember the first time that Mom read The Hobbit out loud to us --- we were that little. Elizabeth and I drew pictures of Bilbo and his Hobbit Hole and of the dwarves' capes and hoods hanging on Bilbo's rack. We had little stuffed animals named after characters like Elrond and Playmobil sets that looked like Galadriel's Pool.

When the Lord of the Rings films started to come out in 2001, there was absolutely no way we were going to see the movie. Hollywood never does a good job of dramatizing books. They spoil the stories. They mess with the characters, etc. A year later and The Two Towers was just reaching theaters. Some friends asked us if we were going to see it --- friends who love the books. Mom gave a decidedly negatory answer and expressed surprise that they would watch Tolkien's fabulous stories messed up. They assured her that they were not very "messed up". Sure, some things had been changed, but the changes, in general, were for the better. The actors were great. The scenery and costumes great. We should see it. Now, these are some respected friends, and their opinion carried a lot of weight. In fact, it carried so much weight that we went out to the store that afternoon to buy The Fellowship of the Ring. A well-trained salesman talked us into buying the extended version (good thing, too!).

You guessed it. We liked it. No, that's wrong. We loved it. In fact, we went to the theater twice to see Two Towers. Elizabeth and I kept scrapbooks with our ticket stubs, NZ postage stamps and pre-release pictures for the third film. By the time The Return of the King came out we were so excited that we actually bought tickets to New Line's special event "Trilogy Tuesday". Select theaters across the nation played the extended versions of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers before starting The Return of the King at 10:00pm. There were breaks between the films --- long enough to go and eat. Mom, the two of us and Sarah C. went together.

After that, we figured that the "fun" was finished. Nope. Wrong again. Howard Shore (composer for the films) came to Cleveland to play his Lord of the Rings symphony at Severance Hall. Mom and Dad got tickets for that and we went up as a family. That was one of the coolest things we've ever been to. Wow! Can't even describe it in a blog post. Not enough space.

Since then, we've had fun watching the three films, in a row, on New Year's Day. News of The Hobbit films has popped up periodically, but when they were such a long time in coming --- well, we assumed that they wouldn't be worth watching. The 3D aspect cinched it. I can't see 3D in normal life, so there's no way that I'd want to sit in a theater trying to see 3D on the screen. The rest of the family wasn't keen on the 3D either --- besides, we'd already decided that the film wouldn't be good. Then we saw the trailer. This was some time in November, and it looked surprisingly good. Thorin looked fabulous. So . . . we talked ourselves into the idea of seeing it.

Back and forth we went, and then it came out. The morning after it was released we sat down and read reviews. Everyone voted that the quality was awful, the 3D made the film look like a 1970s British TV show and they had done a bad job "filling" the story out to make it long enough to warrant three parts. That did it. We'd just wait for the DVD. In fact, we'd wait for the DVD to get to the library and then we'd try it. We did such a good job of talking ourselves out of seeing it that we talked B&K into waiting for it, too.

So, I get a call from them a couple of weeks ago and B. tells me to make sure that we don't buy the DVD. They're buying it and will loan it to us when they've got it. Great! At least we don't have to rely on a library disc, as they always seem to be broken in spots. So, B&K show up last weekend with the movie. They bought it for us! Being that it was the weekend, well we all sat down to watch it together. Surprisingly, it was really good. Sure, there are some stupid parts and a few things a bit over done (e.g. the Dwarves' food fight, the falling bridge in the Goblin Mountain, the dying animals in Mirkwood and Azog the Defiler Orc), but the movie was really great.

We've actually watched it twice since, and by skipping a couple tracks (with the over-done bits) it's fabulous. Elrond is at his peak in this one. He was great before, but he's perfect now. He's actually better than the books. Gandalf is as great as ever. Galadriel is beautiful and just as perfect as before. The Eagles are fabulous. Did I say they were fabulous? Let me say it again: they're fabulous!

What really puts this, in my opinion, yards above the Lord of the Rings films is the fact that Bilbo and Thorin are manly. Nothing sissy about the heroes in this one. And, the producers obviously knew which moments were the best from the first three movies, so they "repeated" moments (similar to the originals) in places. With Thorin as the hero, instead of Aragorn, it's a lot better.

The crowning touch is really Bilbo. I think that he's the best Hobbit on film yet. He can say more with a blink than most other actors say with a whole line. He's funny and serious --- and great at either. His whole body talks and you never think that he even knows someone is watching him, let alone a camera. When it comes to Tolkien's characters on film, there are a few that play it exactly like the book. So perfectly that it's like Tolkien's words come alive. These would be Galadriel, Gandalf, Denethor, Sarumon and Ian Holm as "Old Bilbo". Well, Martin Freeman as Young Bilbo fits into this group without even blinking. There isn't a thing that is less than perfect about him. He's my favorite character from all the movies.

Honorable mention needs to go to some of the Dwarves, too, because some of them are absolutely fabulous. The costumes in this film are not as great as in the Lord of the Rings, and that hurts the quality of the film. The clothes and wigs are not as realistic or beautiful as they should have been. Also, a lot of the characters of the Dwarves are not developed, but that may come in the next film. Balin is fabulous. He's the older dwarf who was at Erebor with Thorin --- and has followed Thorin ever since. You couldn't ask for better. He's just great. Bofur is wonderful, too. He's dressed in an almost Tibetan or Mongolian "look" and has real character. When he's on the screen, you can't help but notice and like him. I always prefer older character actors. They are not so obviously conscious of their youth and looks, which means that they are playing a part instead of just trying to look good. However--- Fili and Kili are perfect. I really love them. They are the youngest Dwarves of the group, hot heads and ready for fighting. Well, the two actors are great and their spirit for adventure really shows in the characters. In fact, I am even set on making a pair of miniature dolls of them. They're that fun.

So, it's a lesson in making judgments before the movie is out. This was supposed to be a short entry to post some pictures of Bilbo and say just how much I LOVE him. I guess this came out way longer than I thought, but it is really a fun movie. It's not as depressing and dark as Lord of the Rings, and it's got real manly heroes. More later.

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