This evening, I went to see both “Hobbit” movies. It was actually a lot of fun. We had a good-sized but not huge crowd for the double-feature, and most of them were mature Tolkien fans: people willing to lay down $30 and not get home until 4 AM, without the privilege of an IMAX screening (which you could get if you just went to the midnight screening at this cinema). I tied for first in a trivia competition, which isn’t nearly as impressive as you’d think when you realize anyone with a basic knowledge of the book and a familiarity with the main actors should have been able to answer them. Being a Sherlock fan is good for knowing, for example, that Benedict Cumberbatch voiced not Smaug (and I use that word “voiced” advisedly – really, it was a truly impressive but DARK role with some really excellent motion-capture acting) but the Necromancer as well.
This was the third time I’ve seen “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in the cinemas, and this time I made two conscious choices. First, I was determined to actually enjoy it. Really enjoy it – to focus on the things I liked rather than the things that irked me. Second, I was going to approach it as a telling of the events around “The Hobbit” rather than an adaptation of “The Hobbit” itself. That meant I didn’t get irked by things like the prolonged race through Goblintown or the whole showdown between Azog and Thorin (with assistance nobly provided by one hobbit-burglar). I would try not *too* hard to chuckle at the rather obvious copying of Gandalf with the map, or the dwarves making their way across country in a long line that copied the Fellowship profile shot in “The Ring Heads South” section. I would focus on the bits that really felt right to me, like pretty much everything in Bag End and with Gollum. And because of that decision, I really was swept up in it. The bits that had always bothered me in the past suddenly seemed necessary to flesh out the characters, to show how they can fight or the enormity of the world. As a retelling of the Quest for Erebor, it really worked quite well.
Next up, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Before we go any further, I’m not holding back, so thar be spoilers.