Prepare yourselves for what may be a long gushing session.
So, I got to see the first installment of the movie version of The Hobbit last night -- or rather, this morning -- at 12:05, after probably two whole years of planning, waiting, hoping, worrying, etc. I was extremely excited. But I will admit, I had my doubts. I mean, they were taking one book and making it three movies. Peter Jackson was directing again, which was good, but there's always that possibility he would try to out-do what he did for The Lord of the Rings, and end up ruining everything instead. And honestly, I'm a little bit of a pessimist sometimes. I had this deep gut feeling that The Hobbit would be good, but not THAT good. I decided to keep my expectations pretty low, and then if the movies were even decent, I would be pleasantly surprised. I honestly thought I would sit in the theater, watching the credits roll, and sort of think, "Hmm. Interesting," and not much else. I also kind of thought it would ruin my whole life, and I would never quite be happy again.
But, to take a quote from the movie, "I have never been so wrong in my life." (Thorin Oakenshield)
From the very first scene, I was over the geeking edge. I panted and looked at the ceiling and waved my hands around and basked in the glow of poetic perfection.
(SPOILER ALERT FOR REAL THIS TIME: They use the opening lines of the book almost verbatim in the movie. You know the part that goes something like, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole, with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat. It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort." Yeah, they took that, with only slight word changes, and Bilbo said it, and the camera was showing around inside the hobbit hole, and I was almost singing the words along with him, because I have them memorized and they are absolutely beautiful. Anyway.)
The story line was close enough to the book to satisfy me, which means it was pretty darn close. There were definitely some things added, but they were things that needed to be added. Things like what on earth Gandalf was doing when he happened to disappear, and some of the back story of Sauron's return and Saruman's corruption, that kind of thing. See, all that is canonical and everything, it just gets explained later in the books, sometimes not until the appendices, but in a movie it needed to be added in the proper order. There was one sort of side-plot, which I won't give away, that wasn't in the books at all as far as I know, but it didn't have the air of being completely invented by movie makers, so I think that either it came from some of Tolkien's unpublished notes, or that the movie makers were just really good at faking it. Either way, it fit in quite well, and it all helped to make even a third of the book into a good movie with a full story arc.
(SPOILER ALERT AGAIN: They leave the part about Bilbo's handkerchief in too. That right there, believe
it or not, was a point of great importance, and I was pleased.)
Basically, Gandalf was the same amazing Gandalf, Elrond was the same amazing Elrond who did a really good job of seeming younger, the Dwarves were as Dwarvish as could be... And Bilbo.
Bilbo. Allow me to gush about Bilbo.
Let me first say that I have seen precisely one episode of Sherlock. That is the only other thing I had ever seen with Martin Freeman in it. I liked him as Doctor Watson, and I felt like he was a likable kind of guy, but that was about it. So I wasn't a hugely biased fan or anything, and I wasn't exactly sure he would make a super amazing hobbit. Again, wrong. As Bilbo, he was absolute, sheer, mind-blowing perfection. He had exactly that mixture of politeness and awkwardness, that sort of heroic stuttering, the perfect little homebody personality. He completely ceased to be Martin Freeman and simply was Bilbo. His absolute perfection was enough to make the whole movie good, even if it hadn't been good anyway.
On a scale of one to ten, I rate it a 9, maybe even 9.5. This is a huge complement coming from me. I know Peter Jackson must have been really stressed, trying to live up to my expectations, but now if I ever meet him, I'll have to simply congratulate him. He managed to completely satisfy me. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised. I highly recommend the following procedure to everyone on the planet:
1. Read The Hobbit
2. Read The Lord of the Rings
3. Watch The Lord of the Rings
4. Watch The Hobbit.
I think that to get the maximum enjoyment out of the Hobbit movie, it is best to have seen what comes after. I know it doesn't sound like it makes a lot of sense, but really, seeing a prequel is much more fun if you can tell when they're hinting at things to come.
Thanks for reading my gushing. Feel free to post concurrent gushing/keysmashing/etc. or opposing ranting/keysmashing/etc. in the comments! Discussion on all things literary should include debate on movies, I think. Movies include writing too, y'know.
On a side note, I celebrated the movie's goodness today by making this! I call it "Christmas at Bag End".