I've been to four midnight movie showings in my lifetime: The Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Hunger Games, and now The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. With the exception of The Hunger Games, each experience was exponentially more awesome than the last.
We got to Grauman's at around 5 pm, where we attracted quite a few stares as we made our way over from the parking structure to the theatre. There, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we were not horribly late; there were only about 20 people in line ahead of us. I attribute this to the fact that, unlike the Deathly Hallows 2, it was 1) not summer, so kids weren't out of school yet, 2) not summer, so it was actually slightly unpleasantly cold and damp to be waiting outside, and 3) a much older audience, so presumably more people had jobs they needed to be at. This was very exciting, as it meant that we actually got the goodie bags that were reserved for the first 200 people in line! Not to mention the fact that since we were dressed up and near the front of the line (and the fact that I decided last minute to bring the Eye of Sauron balloon along, which I can honestly say was the only one of its kind there...there were lots of other hobbits, but no other eyeballs), we got interviewed several times about our costumes and how excited we were. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any clips of this anywhere, so unless you happen to have seen us on KTLA5 or KABC7, well, I guess I'll never know if I actually made it onto TV. Honestly, I'd much rather be on TV for something geeky like this, than for WoF.
It was so nice to meet other geeks and bond instantly over our love for Tolkien's work, costuming, and being obsessive enough to attend midnight showings in December (granted, it's not like we were in New York or someplace super cold). We met lots of lovely people during our seven hour wait, got to ooh and aah over each others' outfits, and chat up a storm about where we were when the original trilogy came out, all for a good seven hours before they finally let us inside to thaw. I was glad that my costume had multiple layers and that I wore tights and boots and had a wool cloak; some elves were not so fortunate.
But of course, the movie was the main event (although I did say to Elaine that I could probably go home after the line party and feel like it was an evening well spent)! Before I give you my review, though, I'll issue the disclaimer that I was predisposed to like it. I loved the books, the movies were a huge part of my college experience, and I have endless admiration for the conceptual artwork of Alan Lee and John Howe, so I was already looking to be pleased. With that said, I'll go ahead and say that I didn't like it as much as the original trilogy. But! I also don't like The Hobbit as a book as much as LOTR. I prefer the darker story of the latter, and wasn't a huge fan of the snot/fart jokes and Radagast's silliness that Peter Jackson threw into this first movie.
The main thing that bothered me about the movie, though, was the high frame rate and the 3D format. I'll be honest, though, I haven't ever seen a movie in 3D (except for about seven minutes in the beginning of the sixth Harry Potter movie), though, so part of my dislike might be the novelty of it. The HFR was distracting at first, but I mostly got over it after the first hour. I think the combination of the two all together for the first time made things more difficult to adjust. I want to see it again in 2D, at 24 fps, at a civilized time of day, and reevaluate.
So that might sound like I didn't really like the movie, but I did! I just wanted to get my gripes out of the way first. Things I did like [spoiler alerts!]:
- ZOMG HOWARD SHORE AND THE EPIC SCORE. Errr, soundtrack, but shore and score rhyme. I had such delicious shivers every time I heard the Misty Mountains theme.
- Martin Freeman as
John WatsonBilbo Baggins. His facial expressions, the timing of his lines, his reactions...perfection. While I loved Ian Holm in the original trilogy (please, PJ, don't pull a George Lucas and go back and replace the original Riddles in the Dark scene with Martin Freeman's!), Freeman is just so right for the role of a little hobbit trying to find his footing in a grand adventure.
- More Gandalf the Grey. I like that he's sassy and funny and less serious than the white version.
- Dwarves are hot now. Hello, Thorin Epicsmolderingshield and your stubbornness and lofty ideals. Much appreciation for Kili and his Legolasian bow skills.
- THRANDUIL. Love Lee Pace, love the elk, love the random tiara he wears (Thranduil, not the elk), can't wait to see more of him.
- The elves and Rivendell! Gosh, I'm such a sucker for pretty people. And Figwit has a real name now: Lindir! Fangirling aside, though, it was lovely to see more of Rivendell and Alan Lee's hand in all of the architecture and decor. The little bit with the reading of the moon runes was gorgeous. And Cate Blanchett's return as Galadriel! It makes me want to run out and buy yards and yards of white chiffon. And learn metalsmithing/jewelry-making so that I can make elven tiaras for myself.
- The wargs don't look like hyenas anymore. I know, that's so minor, but I appreciated it.
- Riddles in the dark! Andy Serkis and the new motion capture technology really make Gollum so real and deliciously creepy.
- Getting to see what Erebor looked like. If you thought Moria was cool, oh man, the inside of the Lonely Mountain = 10x better.
- More Middle Earth history. I know a lot of people complained about how drawn out the exposition was, but I loved getting to see more, even if it did slow down the plot.
- That tiny glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Necromancer. I know, it's so stereotypical, but after seeing him in BBC's Sherlock, mmmmm...can't decide who I like better, him or Tom Hiddleston.
Things I didn't love, but also didn't mind: the new Azog storyline (I can see how it might be necessary in a movie adaptation), the video game quality of some of the CGI sequences (it was definitely there, but I didn't expect those battles to look perfectly realistic), and the crispness of the scenery (I'm just not a scenery person, so I don't feel the need to be transported per se).
My TL:DR/no spoilers conclusion: An Unexpected Journey isn't as good as LOTR, but it's not The Phantom Menace and Tolkien fans will enjoy returning to Middle Earth as long as they remember that this movie is meant to have a different feel.
Lastly, I got tons of free goodies at the line party, thanks to TORn, the Chinese Theatre, and the 100.3 radio station, and I'd love to share the love with you guys! Don't worry, I've got my own set of these goodies; I'm giving away my husband's stuff since he didn't want his. I know there must be at least one of you out there geeky enough to want the following:
Say so in a comment if you want to enter, and I'll pick a winner on Monday!