Part one is here.
The little things
It’s the little details of the film that draw you into the setting. Gandalf alludes to the small when talking about fighting evil in a “I’m pretty sure this wasn’t in the book” monologue.“I’ve found it is the small things, every act of normal folk that keeps the darkness of at bay — simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”
Clever hobbit mailbox design, Gandalf’s rune on the door that alludes to a thieves sign language, authentic looking hobbit dishes in the pantry, how Bilbo’s clothes slowly drain of color and gain cuts and stains to them as the film progresses – all these little details draw you into the story.
It’s often not about the big things, but about small people doing small things. It’s the pieces of flavor in a story that allude to the larger world that lead to adventure and wonder, not the larger world in itself.
The Action Railroad
The original book reads very much like an exploration and, even though stories are very much the definition of rails, the book feels like a party having several random encounters en-route to a dragon’s lair. It reads more like a sandbox, with the trolls, goblin caves, giants, etc. all wandering monsters as opposed to planned encounters. Unlike the book the movie links all of these into one very long action sequence (with a short elf interlude), taking additional steps to tie them into an arching story around the pale orc.
This railed sequence, with stakes constantly upgrading, gets to be so amazing and deaf defying that you can no longer suspend disbelief. It breaks after a while, and you lose the sense of story in the continually mounting action. Action is necessary, but gets carried away in the film locking the characters into one long flight scene.
There are times to run in Middle earth, but it’s a realm that is meant to be explored in depth at a walking pace, not from a treadmill. The special effects-heavy sequences also look pretty cheesy. How many precarious unstable chasm crossing bridges could one clan of goblins possibly create?
Running this way so fast you lose the important, smaller details that makes the story rich. I’m not advocating for more slow moments in the film (we spend plenty of time gazing into characters eyes in long close-ups while they oh-so-slowly smile knowingly, and it does seem to spend too much time prepping) – but there’s action aplenty without turning each scene into a mini armageddon.
In a campaign the action is important. Constant action without strong story and detail becomes a drag.
One great play can make all the difference
Martin freeman was excellent. I was expecting to see Watson throughout but I can’t imagine a better Bilbo now. His facial expressions are what really did it. My understanding is that Jackson halted the shooting of this film and waited while Freeman was finishing Sherlock. Thorin and Gandalf deserve call-outs here as well – (and Radagast, although many others found him annoying).
It’s the funny rogue, the adamant paladin or noble dwarf- it’s the player who totally gets it right and whose character rings true and draws the other players into the campaign. One player who is really into it can make all the difference in a campaign. Those guys are gold.
Magic should be mysterious and powerful but not all powerful
I like a Gandalf with limits, one who has to get by with simple illusions and tricks (although the movie messes with the troll encounter) and has to leverage his long nurtured friendships with various Middle Earth communities in order to get the party through alive.
Gandalf and his fellow wizards feel very human and fallible here. Magic items are interesting, historic and with simple, useful functions. Love it.
What makes a Good boss?
Les play Good Boss, Bad Boss.
- Goblin King:Bad Boss – The whole scene was really too much and was the CGI equivalent of overacting. Nice try Jackson, but Bowie remains the undisputed best goblin king
- Pale Orc:Bad Boss - Again too much. Evil for the sake of evil. This conflict doesn’t even belong in the original story and it’s hammered and wedged into the plot. All of these scenes could have been dropped and the whole movie would have been more concise and enjoyable
- Golum: Good Boss – Excellent, here we have interesting conflict and a villain with character and motive
- The Trolls: Good Boss- Some overacting here, but still a fun and interesting encounter. There’s humor, that sandbox feel, and you need to use your wits and brawn to get out of it