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gollum stole the show, as expected

thorin and thranduil doing a kegstand, by the inimitable and brilliant gingerhazeBecause several people have asked me about The Hobbit, and I'd intended to post this last month....

We actually saw the movie at a midnight showing on opening night...? day?...whatever, it was a Thursday at midnight. Not as the obsessive fans we were for LOTR, purchasing our tickets well ahead, leaving work early, and standing in line for hours, but just because it worked out. We did not even trek to a technologically advanced theater with the best sound system and reclining seats. Our trek involved only the four block walk from our house to our little neighborhood theater about 30 minutes before the movie started. But more about that in a minute.

See, I never felt about The Hobbit the way I did LOTR, which is kind of odd since it was my gateway to the world I fell in love with. I loved The Hobbit in the same way I loved The Chronicles of Narnia and The Chronicles of Prydain*, as wonderfully immersive and thrilling adventures that satiated my hungry imagination. But even at that age, I understood the fundamental difference between The Hobbit and what came after, the difference in tone and scope and magnitude, and that deep, deep mythology of LOTR satisfied me in a way that The Hobbit did not.

[*Although in truth, Prydain was elevated even amongst these, and was as formative to my childhood as LOTR, A Little Princess, Ramona Quimby, and To Kill A Mockingbird. Prydain was what developed my taste for the tragic with the triumphant, the flawed characters who start as endearing dreamers and end with a hard-won and tattered nobility.]

Which is to say that I was looking forward to the movie, but not with anywhere near the anticipation that I had for LOTR. We weren't even planning to see it until sometime the first weekend, but I'd noticed on the neighborhood theater billboard earlier that week that they were advertising a midnight showing and thought hey, that might be fun. We love our neighborhood theater, and it just seemed the perfect way to enjoy the movie.

Of course, our neighborhood is comprised of many types of very Portlandesque Portlanders, including a large representation from hippie to hipster, and that alone was guaranteed to make the whole experience even more entertaining. The wonderful thing about the neighborhood theater is that it's this great old theater that's been restored, but not by people who were slavishly devoted to the architecture and intent on turning it into a monument to some golden era. The place looks fixed up, but fixed up on a budget, and it still has some of its shabby charm and juuuust a touch of funky aesthetic to give it its own character and sense of home. Which is characteristic of our neighborhood in general, but I've already digressed enough.

Anyway! As we settled into our seats and watched the place fill up around us, it became clear that the hipster contingent of the geek crowd was going to comprise the majority of the audience. Which became an anthropological exercise of its own, since I'm far more versed in the culture and traditions of the full-blown nerd subset of fandom, and there are definite differences between the two. The nerdy part of fandom is more likely to dress in costume, for instance, and argue the lineage of Numenor, while the hipster sect will top each other with how early they were into LOTR before it was cool. But, you know, geeks are geeks in all our different flavors, and we share more in common than we do with the general population. Like showing up at midnight for a movie about a hobbit who lived in a hole.

If it seems like I have a whole lot to say about the experience of the movie rather than the movie itself, that's true. The movie itself was fun and silly and enjoyable. It captured the tone of the book well (i.e., that the book was a children's story, and had an entirely different focus than the later books). Middle-Earth was as lovely and magical as ever, and I would've seen the movie for that alone. Martin Freeman made Bilbo relatable and likeable. Thorin was appropriately driven by duty, and depicted with far more gravitas than I think every came across in the book, no doubt to serve the need for an Aragorn-like hero. Also, LOL Thranduil and your haughty disdain for all things dwarf.

Like everyone else, I wondered how the movie would fare by being stretched into one of three, a ridiculously transparent money-making scheme that I worried would ruin what could be a good movie (or movie and sequel at most) with a bunch of filler. As expected, the filler came from other Tolkien works, giving backstory that happened off-screen in the book, but I thnk it was generally handled okay.  The little detour with Radagast, for instance, was fun and set the stage nicely for "The Necromancer" and of course the appearance of the Witch-King of Angmar and the infamous Morgul Blade was a nice bit of foreshadowing. (Although I was disappointed by the characterization of Radagast, as I always thought him more akin to St. Francis of Assisi than Dr. Dolittle.)  That said, three movies is still going to be much more than necessary, and just makes me wish for more LOTR than more Hobbit.

Still, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the experience we had in seeing the movie, and I'm glad we didn't go to the lengths we went for LOTR. I didn't have my socks blown off, but I didn't expect them to be.

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