Movie Reviews: The Hobbit and Les Miserables

Sorry I haven’t posted much recently.  I am not really a fan of Christmas and apparently my grouchiness this year ruined it for everyone.  I was going to post about my reasons for hating Christmas but my mom said “Please don’t” so I guess I won’t.  Instead, here are a couple of movie reviews.

THE HOBBIT

I’m afraid this review is going to sound more negative than I intend so let me start by saying that overall, I thought it was pretty good.  I am a fan of the book and a fan of the 1977 Jules Bass cartoon (notwithstanding the terrible soundtrack and super cheese of the naming of Sting) so going into this I had some heavily entrenched preconceived notions of what The Hobbit should be.  This is why I’m probably being overly critical about some aspects of the film and that upon future viewings my opinion may improve.

The good:

  •  I loved that they included certain elements of the 1977 film version in this version.  Bilbo’s attire is very reminiscent of the 1977 film and there are several scenes, Blunt the Knives, the encounter with Gollum, and the rescue by eagles spring to mind, that were wonderfully reminiscent of the cartoon version.
  • Much of the dialog in the scenes that actually came from The Hobbit was taken verbatim from the book.
  • It was visually stunning.
  • Either there were fewer forced perspective issues (the relative sizes of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and men shifting throughout the movie) than there were in The Lord of the Rings trilogy or I have just gotten used to it and don’t notice it as much now.  That drove me crazy in LOTR.

The bad:

  • There were numerous incontinuities in the crossover LOTR scenes.
  • I missed Bilbo talking to himself.  I felt that it lessened his character development not to hear his inner monologue.
  • It really should have been a single movie that told Bilbo’s story.  That’s what The Hobbit was.  Bilbo’s story from Bilbo’s perspective.  It was not really intended as a prequel to LOTR and I liked that about it.  LOTR does a fine job of telling its story,  we didn’t need more.
  • I felt that whole reluctant hero story got buried.  Sad.
  • The decision to do heavy prosthetics on some dwarves and none on others was a poor choice.  It ended up being a band of dwarves and humans vs a band of dwarves. There should have been more continuity and less thinly veiled attempt to have a couple of attractive lead characters.

In summary, I felt that folding in other stories to build a LOTR prequel destroyed the essence of what The Hobbit is.  The Hobbit is supposed to be Bilbo’s book, There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Holiday, or more generally, it is supposed to be Bilbo’s individual story.  As a movie it was good.  As The Hobbit, however, it overreached and in doing so, it lost a lot of what made The Hobbit my favorite of the Middle Earth stories.  I didn’t want a LOTR prequel.  I didn’t want, in this film, to know more of the story of the dwarves.  I wanted the story of an ordinary hobbit thrown begrudgingly into extraordinary situations and exceeding his own expectations.

LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables was Les Miserables.  In terms of being a film adaptation of a theatrical musical, it as by far the best I have ever seen.  As a show, there are things I love about Les Mis and things I hate about it.  In the film, the good, the bad, the convoluted, and the skimmed over were all brilliantly and beautifully portrayed.  Generally though, I’ve always felt that Les Mis tries to pack too much in.  It’s a bit long and bogged down in spots, and I can’t even express how much I hate the shallow “love” story of Marius and Cosette.  That said, it also has one of my favorite minor characters ever, Gavroche, Fantine’s and Eponine’s stories are always heartbreaking, no matter how many times you see it, and the soundtrack is absolutely amazing.

The good:

  • Anne Hathaway was perfect.  If she doesn’t win an Oscar there is no justice in the world.
  • Hugh Jackman was really good as Jean Valjean, which is no easy task.  That is a HARD role.  I had a few gripes with his performance but they were minor, like the choice to speak rather than sing certain lines.
  • Visually, OMG.  The things that were supposed to be beautiful were breathtaking and the things that were supposed to be horrible were difficult to watch.
  • I applaud the choice to show certain songs entirely in close-up.  The effect was gut wrenching emotion that I don’t think could have been achieved in any other way.
  • The young children were played by young children.  I am so tired of the kids being too old in movie adaptations of books, plays, etc.
  • This is a very difficult show vocally.  I was skeptical when I saw the all star line up and was mostly very pleasantly surprised.
  • Gavroche 🙂

The bad:

  • The things I don’t like about Les Mis as a show were all still there.
  • Russell Crowe was completely devoid of emotion as Javert.  Javert is supposed to be a very passionate character and Crowe seemed to be merely going through the motions.
  • Russell Crowe is a mediocre singer.  This would have been okay for many, many other shows but Les Mis IS the music.  He was a poor choice for a show that rests so heavily on stunning vocals.  Also, I found his voice weirdly reminiscent of the cowardly lion (1939) and kept expecting him to bust out some severe vibrato.  Luckily he refrained from being king of the fore-e-e-e-e-est.
  • I’m really on the fence about Sasha Baron Cohen’s performance.  I can’t decide if I didn’t like him as Thenardier or if my judgment was clouded by the fact that I just don’t like him in general.  Thenardier and his wife are kind of a wild card in Les Mis anyway.  They are the comic relief in a very dark and depressing show and they walk a fine line between being too dark to provide comic relief (they are, after all, the most despicable characters in the show) and being cartoonishly slapsticky and over the top.  Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter leaned toward the dark side, which was  a good choice, I think.  Like I said, I’m on the fence.  I liked Helena Bonham Carter’s performance, once I got over Mrs. Lovett (the roles are very similar) being married to Thenardier.

In summary, if you like Les Mis as a show you’ll probably love the movie.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Just a day in my life., Miscellany

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s