Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

Wild Things, season two

WildThings-ShowThumbThis show could also be titled ’45 minutes of me watching through my fingers’.  Because…there are almost always snakes. Case in point: In the first episode, Dom is searching for a ‘Giant Spitting Cobra’ in Kenya.  Cobras are, without a doubt, the scariest animals in the entire world. I have a difficult time even standing next to the life-size cardboard cobra at our zoo. And as amusing as I find this picture:

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The picture scares me so much I think I have to delete it from my computer right away. My mom told me once that she rented Silence of the Lambs. She watched 15 minutes of it, and couldn’t go any farther. She had to rewind it immediately and take it back to the video rental place (kids: ask your parents what this was)–she didn’t want it in the house. My fear of snakes is really strong. I am prepared to move one day to New Zealand, Ireland, or Hawaii.  No snakes in those places. None at all. But what if I’m flying to my new snake-free haven and the plane is filled with snakes?!  I’m not Samuel L. Jackson; I will not survive that shit. I’d probably fling myself off the plane rather than deal with that.

But I digress. Back to the show.

This season, Dom continued to search for unusual, unique, and difficult-to-find animals. Usually of the non-cuddly variety. He looked for a Gaboon Viper in Zambia, the aforementioned cobra, the Titan Beetle in Brazil, Gila monsters in the SW US, Box Jellyfish off the coast of Australia, etc. There was a truly fucking terrifying bit with an anaconda that I had to watch from the other room. But, there were a few more cuddly and likeable animals in the mix this season. He looked for the Ghost Bat (yes, bats are cute. if you disagree, you are wrong), a tiny Lemur Leap Frog, and the Slow Loris, possibly the 3rd cutest animal ever. If you’re wondering, my dog was the cutest animal ever.  That’s just a fact.

There were also some great moments when Dom helped a sloth cross a road, hung out with some tiger cubs, and there’s a really interesting bit with an elephant.

DominicMonaganWildThings02_m_0324They have to sedate it so that they can help to dress a would it’s received from poachers. Poachers, by the way, are the world’s worst people. They help the elephant, but there are a few really sketchy moments after it wakes up.  Frank (the cameraman) almost gets trampled.  Later, Frank gets hit with a nasty bit of jumping cactus.

My favorite part of the season was when Dom re-united with his fellow hobbit, Billy Boyd.  Part of the reason I’ve had a crush on Dom for the last ~10 years is because I watched/listened to all the Lord of the Rings special features. He and Billy are hilarious together and I have a sort of deep affection for them both. So a reunion was very fun to see, though Billy is starting to look like an adult man, and I disapprove of that in general. I mean…he’s 45, but still!

tumblr_n54865IyDS1sm6um6o1_500Luckily, Dom still looks like a 10-year old, who is about to see a fire truck.

They toured New Zealand together, looking for the Giant Wetapunga. Billy brought his snake stick, which is particularly funny since there are no snakes in New Zealand.  I would definitely watch a show that just followed the two of them around in their regular lives.  Get on that, TV gods.

My only real complaint is (once again) with BBC America.  WHY do you, BBC America Execs, choose to show me only 45 minutes of a 1 hour show? You suck. Just make it an hour and 15 minutes. Then you can fit your commercials in, and I still get to see all of the stuff. Or if you can’t do that, put the cut scenes on the website so I at least have a chance to see them. It’s fucking ridiculous. I missed major scenes in Broadchurch, which made me irritated. With this show, I knew because of interviews (and the presence of a bandage) that Dom got hurt during the filming of the 2nd season. In the interviews, he admitted he needed 40 stitches, but didn’t want to say what animal it was, so people would tune in and see what happened. Well, they cut that bit. Fuck you, BBC America.  You know, in the age of the DVR, there’s no need for this crap.  I record the show, so I don’t care if it ends at 9 or 9:15. Just show the whole show. Or at least make it possible for me to see the whole thing. What is the point of you, you network? You make me unreasonably angry. I want to stomp on your foot.

To make myself less angry, here’s a picture of Dom and a sloth.

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The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The-LuminariesLet me start by remarking on how immensely large this book is. It is 832 pages long. In fact, it’s the longest book to have ever won the Man Booker Prize (it won last year) and Eleanor Catton is the youngest author to win that award (she’s 26). I’ve been working on my own novels for 4-5 years at this point, and if I added everything together, it might be 400 printed pages.  And I’m 33.  So…way to make me feel totally pathetic, Eleanor Catton.

Moving on from my jealousy, let’s talk about the book. It is set during the New Zealand gold rush during the mid-19th century. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in New Zealand before. I suppose the Lord of the Rings is the closest, only by its association with the movie locations. The New Zealand gold rush seems to have been very similar to the gold rush here in the US. When you have the chance to make a fortune, you attract all manner of people, and nearly everyone is from a different country. Some are high-born and wealthy, seeking to bring the civility to the frontier, others are rough workmen, bringing a distinctly not-civil attitude to their labors, others poor servants or slaves. And you attract all the things that survive and thrive in the periphery of these male-dominated, mostly lawless, harsh places in the world. Prostitutes, gambling halls, strong drinks, opium, and minority migrants (mostly Chinese and Mexican/Native Americans during the US gold rush, but Catton’s book features a Maori man and two ‘Chinamen’). The most unifying thing about these places, is that all manner of people who would, 50 years earlier, have never met, are occupying the same little patch of land and hoping to radically change their lives.  This is what Hokitika, the town, looked like during the gold rush:

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Similar to most mid-19th century tales, The Luminaries features a long cast of characters. There’s a page in the front listing the character, their occupation, etc.  It’s a list of nearly 20 characters. That alone could make it difficult to hang onto all the facts of the story. But (again a common facet of Victorian novels) there are several people who go by false names, change their names, have several naming variations. It can be very complex to remember which descriptions, stories, and actions are attributed to which character. The book features a Maori man, Kiwis, Scots, Irishmen, Englishmen, Chinese men, Australian men & even a few women. Catton is extremely good at bringing each of these characters to life, of offering a perfect snippet of how and what they see in the world, and how those traits will motivate their actions. Trends have changed, throughout the last few hundred years of literature, in how much or how little to reveal about characters, but I think she strikes a perfect balance. Each character is almost immediately distinguishable, recognizable, but not so well known as to prevent a surprising turn of action or character.

The plot of the book revolves around a large fortune (£4000, which would be approximately £325,000 now), and how it passes from one character to the next. I think every character has their hands on it at one point or another.  It turns up as gold as fine as sand (if this statement confuses you, I recommend you watch Treasure of the Sierra Madre), as large nuggets of gold, as bricks pressed and measured. It is stuffed into a dress, in a bag under a bed, buried in the desert, stolen from a safe, hidden piecemeal throughout a dead man’s house.  It turns up everywhere, and it’s hard to keep straight who and where and why and how this gold passes through these states.

To add to the many characters and many incarnations of this fortune, the story is told through a series of parts, spanning forward and backward in time at will. It’s hard to keep track of who, what, when, and why. As The New York Times put it in their review, “it’s a lot of fun, like doing a Charlotte Brontë-themed crossword puzzle while playing chess and Dance Dance Revolution on a Bongo Board. Some readers will delight in the challenge, others may despair”.  Very true.  I found it fun to read, because the storytelling was so good. But it’s a circular and confusing novel, and there were portions that left me confused.

The structure of the novel–as its title suggests–is based on astrological concepts.  I’m not a believer in astrology, so many of the allusions and illustrations of the different signs were probably lost on me. Each part opener identified the date, the astrological signs and their positions, but I can barely remember my own sign, let alone the other 11.

8657216However, I have it on good authority (Wikipedia) that each of the 12 main male characters involved in the ‘mystery’ of the gold corresponds to one of the 12 astrological signs. The other 7 (living) characters correspond to ‘heavenly bodies’, i.e. the planets. Maybe to people more versed in astrology (or astronomy), this conveys some significance. But not to me.  I had a hard time finding my own sign in the little drawings, and I have no idea what the other scratches mean. Might as well be in cuneiform.

But it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know or believe anything about astrology to enjoy the book. You do have to put forth some effort to pay attention to the shifting timelines, the ups and downs of each character’s journey, and everything said about the elusive gold. I really enjoyed reading this book. Most of the time, as Jane Austen said, “if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” This was not the case with The Luminaries. I enjoyed it as I read it, but at the end I felt a bit spent. I exerted a little more energy to get through than I got back in satisfaction, and that is disappointing. I think it could have done with a trim here and there. All of the book is well written, but more words are crammed in than the story needs to tell itself. Catton’s first novel, The Rehearsal, is under 400 pages, so I think that will be do-able.

They are discussing a TV miniseries, which I think could be excellent. This is the sort of sweeping Dickensian story that works fabulously in a 6 or 8 part miniseries, particularly if they actually film it in New Zealand.  If it ever plays in a format to which I have access, I will definitely watch.

 

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

movies-the-hobbit-desolation-of-smaug-posterI’ll go see Martin Freeman in just about any movie he cares to make, so, dutifully, I’ve gone to see the second Hobbit movie in the theater.  Before you complain that this is not a British movie…I disagree.  Tolkien was British, and (besides Martin) there are a plethora of Brit actors in the cast–Ian McKellen, ex-Doctor Sylvester McCoy, Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitage, Stephen Fry (!), and Benedict Cumberbatch (as the eponymous dragon, Smaug).

I was disappointed with the first Hobbit movie last year. Part of this was due to the high frame rate technology they used to make the film.  It was difficult to watch and made some actions seem slow and others preternaturally fast.  I don’t think they used the same technology on this film, because I didn’t notice anything strange about watching it.  I ended up enjoying it, partially because my expectations were a bit lower this time around.

I still dislike that it is spread across 3 movies.  I know there are a lot of extra storylines from the Appendices and maybe the Silmarillion that have been added to flesh out the story, but I think it was better without the extra stuff.  But it’s been so long since I read the book, that I can’t be certain what was in it anymore.  I don’t think Legolas made an appearance in the book, but he is certainly in the movie.  The elves of Mirkwood imprison the dwarves along their journey to the Lonely Mountain.  We see their great forest home with a truly impressive and ridiculous throne, upon which sits their king, Thranduil.  And honey, you should see him in a (ludicrous) crown:

20130628140329!King_Thranduil_portrait_-_EmpireMag

I must confess that in looking for that picture, I’ve stumbled across some pretty horrifying Thranduil erotic fanart.  Pass me the eye bleach when you get a chance…

We also meet Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly (Lost), a character completely made up by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, showing that he’s gone (literally) off-book.

220px-EvangelineLillyAsTaurielLook, we all know that Tolkien didn’t include many female characters in his stories. Hardly surprising, when you consider how much of his writing was based on his experiences in World War I. I’m glad to have a badass lady in the mix, but I am not a fan of Evangeline Lilly.  I haven’t been since Lost.  So I didn’t feel much attraction to her character, though her skill (with bow and with medicine) did come in handy. On an unrelated note, is it just me, or did they dress her like Robin Hood?

The story of the second movie weaves and wavers through time a bit.  We see Thorin Oakenshield when he first meets Gandalf and we see that this entire quest happened at Gandalf’s urging. In the present, the company of dwarves (plus 1 wizard and 1 hobbit) is running from a band of Orcs, and also from a wolf (actually a skin-changer named Beorn). Shortly after, Gandalf goes off toward Dol Guldur, to investigate reports of a dark power there.  (Spoilers: It’s Sauron.  It’s always Sauron.) Bilbo and the dwarves head through the Mirkwood forest toward the Lonely Mountain.

We see Bilbo use the ring to protect himself, use the ring to save his friends (from giant spiders, imprisonment, etc.), but we also see him kill to keep the ring in his possession.  He kills some sort of underground giant arachnid thing, so it’s not exactly the same as if he killed Gandalf or something.  On the other hand, it’s perfectly clear that he is killing for the ring, to keep it.  IF it weren’t clear, they make it even more clear when (picking up the ring again) Bilbo looks at the dead spider, points at the ring, and says ‘MINE’. It’s a wonder the guy could hold onto it for another 60 years without being a total monster.

After the spiders, they’re imprisoned by the elves.  They escape in empty wine barrels, and what follows is a slightly ludicrous, slapstick action sequence as they whitewater raft barrel down the river away from Mirkwood. Kili (aka the cute one) is hit with a poison arrow, thus making me very upset.  They happen upon a bargeman, Bard, who agrees to take them (secretly) into Laketown, the nearest town to the Lonely Mountain.  During this time, Gandalf gets himself captured by Sauron and his forces, so he’s of no use whatsoever.  He’s always getting himself captured at pivotal moments.  And if he ever claims he’ll meet you at this place or that place, he never shows up.  Properly unreliable.

In addition to a Peter Jackson cameo (still eating a carrot in Bree, even 60 years before the Fellowship?) and a Stephen Colbert cameo, we see Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown, doing his best impression of many a corrupt 17th century English monarch.  We have to endure a decent amount of foreshadowing about how it was Bard’s ancestor who failed to kill Smaug during the first attack. We get it, he (like Aragorn), will prove he is better than his ancestor.  There’s also some foreshadowing about Thorin–the Arkenstone corrupted his grandfather the king; will it corrupt him too, etc., etc.  It’s a little heavy-handed, to be honest. Not so much foreshadowing as fore-neon-signing.

Finally, it’s just down to Bilbo in the Lonely Mountain, searching the halls of Erebor for the fabled Arkenstone. He awakens Smaug (of course he does) and all hell breaks loose.

smaug_the_stupendous_by_baptistewsf-d6yo5y2

We get a bit of the dwarves pulling together to help Bilbo, but they cannot defeat Smaug.  We all know why (because of the foreshadowing!).  Smaug, very aggravated, heads off for Lake Town to kill everyone.

Most of the reviews have included lines like ‘better than the first’ or ‘not as bad as the first’.  I agree, it was better than the first one. Partially because there are no ludicrous choreographed dance numbers that make you feel as if you’re in a kid’s movie.  But I still think it’s too long, and there’s something missing with almost all of the characters.  Even though it’s too long, we don’t seem to get to know anyone or to feel empathy for them.  Bilbo is charming and comic, but there’s something about the way they’ve edited the story, or maybe the way Martin acts, that lacks any seriousness.  Very very different from Ian Holm in the same role. Part of the problem is that the Lord of the Rings films were so good. They struck all the right notes, bouncing effortlessly from gross comedy (usually involving orcs, or Merry & Pip) to the love lives of immortal elves, and included believable moments with humanized characters.  That just seems to be lacking here.  The dwarves are too comedic, the elves too aloof.  Gandalf has spent more time off on his own than with the dwarves, so that it’s no wonder they don’t care to wait for him to finish their quest.  I did enjoy this movie more than the first, but I also spent more time (especially in hindsight) wishing it was as good as the LotR trilogy.  And that makes me sad.

Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan

Dom's Wild ThingsThe first season of Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, finished in the UK early this year and on BBC America this Month.  It was a short season, with only 8 episodes.  Each one saw my favorite hobbit off to an exotic region of the world in search of rare animals. The sort of animals you don’t see on TV. Creepy crawlies, reptiles, spiders, scorpions, etc.  These aren’t the cutest of animals, I must say.

Now I love all animals, wish them all well, don’t eat them, don’t wear leather.  But there are some animals I just want to stay away from me.  They can go be happy and healthy somewhere else.  Almost every one of the animals on my list have been featured on this show.  On the other hand, there are plenty of TV shows (and internet videos) that feature the cute and the cuddly. Very few show us giant beetles, water bugs, centipedes or huntsman spiders.  And (not to sound like the most stereotypical of bleeding-heart liberals) they are really important to the ecosystems, and less likely to be protected because they’re just not as appealing as a koala bear. More exposure for them and all the cool things they can do is a good thing. So, I approve.  Plus, Dom is awesome. Had a crush on him since Fellowship of the Ring.  So, obviously I was always going to watch and like this show.  There’s no point in me reviewing it because it’s a forgone conclusion. Yes, I liked it.

Here’s a brief rundown of where Dom goes and what he sees:

In Vietnam, he comes across a few incredibly dangerous snakes, saves a lizard from being someone’s dinner, swims in a crocodile-infested lake, and finds the elusive Giant Water Bug:

giant water bug

In Episode 2, he continues on to Laos in search of the Giant Huntsman Spider.  This is a creature that could give me nightmares for the rest of my life, but Dom is thrilled to see it. Along the way he encounters another reticulated python, a beautiful green tree viper, and a very dubious fireworks festival.

Dom and tree viper

Episode 3 takes him to Namibia (near S. Africa) in search of a Black Hairy Thick Tail Scorpion.  He also meets some snakes (he always finds snakes), an adorable meerkat, a gecko and monitor.  He eventually finds what is the most terrifying scorpion I’ve ever seen–excepting the 10-foot long model of one at the Natural History Museum in London–and messes about with it until it’s angry. He does that a lot.

Episode 4 is in search of a truly disgusting creature, the Scolopendra.  Gross! I can’t help it, this guy is yucky.

scolopendraI really dislike the centipedes I get in my apartment.  Imagine the same thing, but big enough to eat a bat–to snatch it from the air.  Well, you don’t have to imagine, because you get to see it in this episode.  I had to close my eyes. While in Venezuela, Dom finds an adorable three-toed sloth, snakes, tarantulas, and a beetle larva the size of a banana.

In episode 5, Dom heads to Cameroon to find a Giant White Goliath Beetle.  As usual, he encounters snakes and other bugs and insects along his way.

Episodes 6 and 7 deal with swarming animals, Army ants and Giant Malaysian Honey Bees.  It’s ridiculous, the power that these animals can exert as a group, and the way that they work together like a school of fish to ward off or fight predators.  Amazing and terrifying.  Here’s a colony of the honey bees, defending their honeycomb:

honey beesWe also learn about a bird called the Honey Buzzard, who is simultaneously brilliant and a huge jerk.  He wants the honey, but obviously would like to avoid being stung by (literally) thousands of bees.  So he waits for another animal to wander by near the hive, then agitates the bees before flying off.  The bees zoom out to attack the unsuspecting animal below, and the honey buzzard descends on the unprotected hive.  Sometimes the honey buzzards work in pairs and one will act as a decoy.  This is some seriously brilliant hunting.

In the final episode, Dom heads to Guatemala to find the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard.  This is a huge lizard that is incredibly venomous, and so dangerous that locals have all sorts of myths and legends. They believe if you step in the animals shadow, you will die within 24 hours.  They also tend to kill all lizards they find, assuming they are Beaded Lizards.  It’s a pretty intimidating animal:

Guatemalan Beaded Lizard

I loved seeing all of these animals and learning more about them. I will freely admit that I spent a lot of time (a LOT) watching through my fingers. I’m terrified of snakes, and all nature shows really enjoy the strike shot.  It’s the nature show version of porn’s money shot.  We see cobras, rattlesnakes, vipers, all striking right at the camera.  No thank you. But, I still watched. And would watch again.

Dom is a great host, even if you don’t have a crush on him.  Evidence: My boyfriend liked the show.  And he’s not really into animals.  It’s just a cool show where you learn things you wouldn’t really learn elsewhere. Dom is brave (this bravery resembles stupidity sometimes), smart, funny, and passionate.   This isn’t a show he was approached to do, this is a passion he’s held all his life, and it is obvious.

While watching, I was overcome with reactions that seemed very similar to how I felt when I used to watch Steve Irwin.  There’s a real sense of ‘why the fuck is he doing that?’ and ‘that isn’t a good idea!’.  I sincerely hope Dom doesn’t come to the same sort of ending as Steve Irwin. He definitely likes to push the boundaries of what seems safe, and it totally makes sense that he has said the biggest difficulty in getting a new season for the show is negotiating with insurance companies.

On the other hand, there are moments that sort of make you think that reptiles and bugs might be a lot more docile than most mammals–and are certainly more docile than we imagine them to be.  In one particular moment, in the very first episode, Dom has what can only be described as a cuddle with a HUGE reticulated python.

Dom and a pythonDom picks up the snake and they sort of snuggle in the tree until the snake falls asleep–I am not making this up.  Part of the reason he fails safe doing this, Dom says, is that the snake is so big that he doesn’t even consider Dom a threat.  The snake is more than large enough to kill him.

It’s an amazing moment, and really made me think about my fear of snakes.  After all, can you think of a mammal that would let you do that?

And all through the series, Dom picks up venomous and dangerous creatures that could easily bite, sting, or squeeze him into some serious injuries…but they don’t, for the most part.  Part of that is that Dom seems to be able to read their body language and discern when they’re really irritated and when they are quite calm.  I’m amazed that people can do this–it took me 2 years to figure out what it looks like when my cat is irritated, and I have the scars to prove it.

Suffice it to say, I loved this show.  I really hope they manage to make a second season. Dom has said he’d like to get Billy Boyd and other friends from LotR and Lost on the show with him, and that would be spectacular.

Movie Review: The Hobbit

THE-HOBBIT-AN-UNEXPECTED-JOURNEY-PosterCan I start this post by saying how much I love Martin Freeman and how perfect he is for Bilbo Baggins? He’s the reason I’m reviewing this movie for this blog. Technically, it’s not a British film.  It was shot in New Zealand with Kiwi director, producer, and writer(s).  The cast, like the Lord of the Rings films, is multinational. But, Martin Freeman is such a feature on this blog, and my ever-growing adoration of him requires that I comment on this film.

I actually prefer The Hobbit to all of the Lord of the Rings books.  So perhaps my expectations were slightly too high, because I was disappointed by the movie.

First, a word about some technical aspects involved in the film.  Normally, I couldn’t care less about frame rate or resolution, and don’t think it affects my viewing of most movies.  I bring all of this up because The Hobbit was shot in a faster frame rate than a normal movie, and it is very noticeable. Normally, movies are shot at 24 frames per second. The Hobbit was shot at twice that, 48 frames per second.  This is noticeable in a few key ways.

1-There is no blur.  When characters are doing fast paced action scenes, the normal blur isn’t seen.  This is kind of cool, but on the other hand the human eye can only move so fast and take in so much.  Some people find it dizzying.

2-Everything is in focus.  It is almost like an HD nature film. The depth of field is really large.  Some scenes make this really interesting, and some scenes make it bothersome. The experience also seems to vary depending on whether you see the movie in 2 or 3-D, in IMAX or on a regular screen.

3-Some motions seem too fast.  Small things, like the actors making motions with their eyes or standing up, can seem overly dramatic and fast. This isn’t anything against the actors–they’ve honed their craft for a specific medium, and this isn’t the same one.  If this frame rate was adopted by everyone, I think actors would learn to act in a way that works for it, but they haven’t had that chance yet.  Sometimes it affects your enjoyment of the film, takes you out of the action.

4-The CGI technology that we’ve developed thus far isn’t very good at this frame rate.  Since twice the amount of frames are being presented to the human eye, twice the amount of computer information would have to be presented for it to look as real as it would at a normal frame rate–if I understand this correctly.  So, the bottom line is that the CGI in the Lord of the Rings was great  and the CGI in this movie didn’t look as good, or as real.

It’s important for directors to take chances and innovate, but I can’t say I thought this was successful or particularly necessary.  But, I imagine that Peter Jackson will get better with each movie and I may be a huge fan by the third in the Hobbit franchise.

Which brings me to a minor gripe.  The Hobbit is a fairly short book, compared to, say, Return of the King.  Since there is nowhere near enough plot to make three movies out of this one story, they seem to have taken all the information from Tolkien’s appendices and the Silmarillion.  Example: Radagast the Brown (a wizard friend of Gandalf’s) is mentioned in passing during The Hobbit (book), but in the movies he is a major character and introduces a separate plot with the Necromancer.  This is just sort of touched upon in The Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey), but it will be (I think) a major part of the second Hobbit film. Also, bonus for me–Benedict Cumberbatch is playing the Necromancer.  I like having the extra movies, but I don’t like the feeling that New Line and Peter Jackson are just trying to bleed my wallet dry.

Okay, so now that I’ve rambled about the technology and the differences between book and movie.  What about the movie itself?

I didn’t care for it as much as the Lord of the Rings films.  I found it more childish.  There are two or three songs, and unlike the songs in the LotR, these seem to have been written professionally and planned ahead of time. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.  They didn’t have the soul and the folksy character of the hobbit songs in LotR–those seemed to be truly born from a time when people composed poetry and songs to pass the time. These were too slick and overproduced.  One accompanies a scene of the dwarves invading Bag End and eating all of Bilbo’s food, and then doing his dishes.

The dwarves are hard to keep straight, mostly because they all have beards and wear similar outfits.  The most memorable are:

Thorin:

ThorinA prince among dwarves, on a journey to reclaim the riches that belong to his family.  He is played admirably (but unrecognizably) by Richard Armitage.

Kili:

FiliThe only eye candy you’ll find in the movie.  I love you Martin Freeman, but big hairy feet and a mop of hair are not a good look for you.  Kili and Fili (his brother) are the youngest and fittest of the company, so they get some of the more action-oriented scenes.

Bombur:

bombur

Whatever the opposite of ‘youngest and fittest’ is, it applies to this guy.  There’s a lot of waffle in this movie about Bilbo not being able to keep up with this company of dwarves, being a hindrance, etc.  Are they kidding? Have they seen this guy?  I found him really repugnant. I mean, for one thing, is that braid made of beard hair or head hair?  Or…some other hair I don’t want to know about?

The dwarves are barely given enough screen time to figure out who half of them are. Most of the time is devoted to Thorin, Bilbo and Gandalf.  I can only hope some more time will be set aside in the next movie to make them distinguishable.  In Fellowship of the Ring, we meet four hobbits, a dwarf, an elf, a wizard, and two men within the space of a few minutes, but their characters are very well developed by the end of just that first movie. I’m disappointed that they weren’t able to distinguish the dwarves as well in the Hobbit. But I hold out hope for the future.

So, do I have anything good to say about the film after ranting about the frame rate and the childishness of the plot?  Well…despite the fact that it’s too long, it does pick up speed in the second half.  The first half an hour is quite dull, but by the end of the piece I didn’t mind the length.

Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen are great in this movie.  But I love everything they do, so perhaps I’m not the best judge.

As much as I rather hated Tolkien’s books, no one can deny that he created a wonderful world and wonderful characters in it.  After I saw the LotR movies I was struck by how much Peter Jackson had changed and had improved on the cannon.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I can say the same for this movie.  But we are still in that same world, and there is still the same sense of fate, of bravery, and of small beings accomplishing great feats.  We see the scene with Gollum, when Bilbo first gets the ring. We see Bilbo, like Frodo, pushed out of sedentary agrarian life and into adventure and danger.  We see Bilbo alone being brave enough to defend Thorin in desperate times.  As someone of relatively small stature and absolutely no importance, I can always appreciate the underdog.  Even though I found the movie experience disappointing, it was enough for me to be back in this world.  Like the Star Wars fans that will keep going to whatever tripe-infested rubbish George Lucas puts on screen, I will keep going to see whichever of Tolkien’s tales Peter Jackson chooses to tell. Let’s just hope things don’t get as bad as Attack of the Clones.