The more I heard about The Hobbit in the lead up to its release the more trepidatious I became. The Lord of the Rings, overall, is an excellent adaptation of the book. They're great movies, but they are also great adaptations. Mostly. Except for the few places where Peter Jackson got all self-indulgent and added stuff in just because he liked it better that way. Like the elves at Helm's Deep, which still just makes my ears steam. To hear him say in an interview that he added them in there because he just wanted there to be more elves because he loves elves so much just makes me want to smack him, because what he did completely undermines Tolkien's purpose for that battle.
And let's just not even talk about King Kong, because that was three hours of the most self-indulgent crap ever.
At any rate, the more I heard about what Jackson was doing with The Hobbit, the more I worried that that was what he was doing, making a completely self-indulgent movie. But my wife kept telling me to give him the benefit of the doubt because he'd done such a good job with LotR. >sigh< It turned out I was correct. Jackson needs three movies for his version of The Hobbit because it is exactly that: his version. And his version is not a better a version. In many places, it destroys what Tolkien did just so that Jackson could shove The Hobbit into his version of Middle Earth. [And now I know why the Tolkien family has restricted Jackson from any more of Tolkien's material than he already has access to (meaning he was only allowed what was in The Hobbit and LotR and denied everything else).]
The biggest problem, though, was that, while watching the movie, it was amazing. I mean, it really was amazing! But I couldn't get immersed in it, not completely, because the back of my head kept poking at me, saying, "But it's wrong!" And the problem with that is the farther away from actually watching the movie I get, the more the wrong parts bother me. So, although I enjoyed it while I was actually watching it (most of it, anyway -- the part with domino trees was just DUMB (and took me back to the swinging dinosaurs in Kong, which was also DUMB)), the more I think about it, talk about it, read about it, the more upset about it I get and the less I like it. Which will not keep me from seeing the others and, probably, owning all of them. And that bothers me, too!
And speaking of reading about it, my first impression upon walking out of the movie was that people who have not read the books would probably find more to like in the movie, because they wouldn't have the feeling of wrongness about it that I have. However, the more reviews I look at from people that have no other exposure to Tolkien than the movies (and some that haven't even seen LotR), the more I'm finding that people that don't already like Tolkien don't like this movie. So... if you haven't read Tolkien, you won't like this movie. If you have read Tolkien... well, you might like it if you read Tolkien a long time ago and aren't really "into" it, but if you are really into Middle Earth, I'm not seeing how you can really like what Jackson's done to it.
My sons are good examples of this. My younger son is most upset about the lack of the songs, because they are mostly excluded. And he hates the inclusion of the pale orc. As does my older son. (As do I.) They both have complaints about the movie that are at war with the fact that they enjoyed watching the movie. You shouldn't come out of a movie feeling both "I loved it!" and "I hated it!" You just shouldn't. The short of that is that we are all conflicted about it. Everyone except my daughter, I suppose, because she hasn't read any Tolkien, yet, but, because she lives in a Tolkien-ish environment, she has a predilection toward it.
Or, maybe, people who are really into LotR but not The Hobbit, people that read the trilogy because of the movies but never bothered with Hobbit, will really like it, because Jackson really did everything he could to make this (series of) movie(s) as epic in scope as LotR. But, see, that's not what The Hobbit is, so the movie is continuing to just bother me.
In fact, Jackson just mapped Hobbit onto his LotR template, so it's wrong from the very beginning: the prologue. It worked in Fellowship, because there is so much back story in LotR that the prologue gave us a sense of history that lead up to the events in the trilogy, but it fails completely in An Unexpected Journey. For one thing, Bilbo doesn't all that stuff before he goes off on his journey; he finds out as he goes along, so we lose the sense of discovery that Bilbo had, because Jackson just lays it all out for us at the beginning. I squirmed in my seat during that part, but I was still reserving judgment. By the end of the movie, though, I was annoyed with it.
I was annoyed with it because Jackson uses that bit of prologue to introduce Thorin's non-existent nemesis. Non-existent in the book, I mean. This piece of plot that has been woven in is the biggest weakness of the film. I say that because every member of my family (except my daughter) came out of the movie hating the pale orc. Not necessarily for the same reason, but we all hated him being in the movie. He is so NOT needed.
But, see, the prologue is not the only way we see Jackson trying to harmonize the movies. The fight with the goblins and the Great Goblin is just like the flight through Moria with the falling stairs and all of that with the Great Goblin subbing in as the Balrog. Bilbo puts the ring on for the first time in the very same way that Frodo does. The elves come in and rescue the dwarves from a fight that doesn't even exist in the book. The stone giants... oh, well, I don't know where the heck that crap came from, but it was dumb. Having them would have been great, but having the party end up climbing around on them was ludicrous. And since when were they actually made from stone? Did I say self-indulgent? Oh, yeah, I think I did.
Having said all of that, the movie was still beautiful and wondrous to behold. The acting was... well, Martin Freeman was ohmygosh awesome. And it's a good thing, too, because Jackson gave much of Gandalf's role in the story to Bilbo in order to increase Bilbo's importance at an earlier stage in the story. (Bah!) Richard Armitage (whom I loved in BBC's Robin Hood) was dashing as Thorin and completely not what I expected but in a good way as opposed to the rest of the movie. Dwalin and Kili are the only two other dwarves that get large enough roles to actually comment on beyond the fact that they are there and they are dwarves, and both of them do just fine. If you've seen the other movies, the rest is as should be expected. Oh, the scene with Gollum was excellent in that Andy Serkis was, again, incredible.
Of course, there's Radagast... Sylvester McCoy (a previous Doctor, so I'm pre-disposed toward him already) did a great job with the part he was given; I'm just not quite sure how I feel about that part. On the one hand, I really liked it; on the other, really? Really? That's what Jackson came up with? He had the opportunity to bring Radagast, a character hardly mentioned in any of the books, to life for the first time, and that's what he came up with? Seriously? He had freaking bird poop running down his face! Of course, he had a sleigh pulled by rabbits, too, which was really cool.
I think the real problem with the whole thing is that Jackson didn't have anyone standing next to him during all of this to say, "What the heck? Is that seriously what you're doing there?"
And before anyone starts comparing this with Lucas and the prequels, there is a huge difference: Star Wars belongs to Lucas. He wasn't screwing around with something that belonged to someone else. Middle Earth and The Hobbit don't belong to Jackson, so all the screwing around he did is rather disrespectful to the source material.
Oh, and speaking of Star Wars, there were parts where I felt like I was watching that instead. The Great Goblin was so much Jabba the Hutt. And, actually, the part where the Pale Orc is demanding Thorin's head made me feel like I was at Jabba's court. And, then, there was the line by Galadriel, "The riddle of the morgul blade..." >sigh<
My general reaction to An Unexpected Journey has been much the same as my reaction to The Dark Knight Rises: I enjoyed it while I was watching it, but the more time I have to think about it the more it gets under my skin. Like a thorn. And I'm just picking at it and picking at it trying to get it out but succeeding only in working it deeper. And there are two more of these movies to go! But I really want to see Smaug!
Let's just not talk about the moose, okay. We're gonna try to forget about that altogether.
Now I want to go watch "A Room with a Moose" from Invader Zim, the only place we should have a moose, I'm sure.