28 December 2012

The Hobbit

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

I went. I saw. I liked.

Most of it. Fantasy films have lost a lot of the epic meaning in favor of epic sound, visuals, and action, in my opinion, and in parts I found The Hobbit too contrived for the male 18-30 year-old demographic to do Tolkien justice. But that's a rant for a different day. Martin Freeman is brilliant, the countryside is beautiful, and Richard Armitage's performance was like good wine—better and better with time (not that I know anything about good wine; but I've heard the line many times). 

Some parts were delightful, some parts were charming; other parts were hilarious; some parts tried too hard; some parts were sad; some parts gripping; other parts, soul-searching.

A good mix, in my opinion.

I like to take a notebook with me when I go to movies, like Maegan talks about here. I did, anticipating some great story ideas and themes, grandscale ones like the notes I took from LOTR when I was a teenager. You know, blow-the-world-away kinds of ideas. Ideas that give stories meaning.

So I was disappointed when I walked out of the movie, three hours later, without having once cracked open my red Moleskine or tapped to the FreeWrite app on my iPod touch (great little app, by the way, for you mobile writers). Disappointed in the movie. Disappointed in myself. Perhaps just too grown up to play with stories any more. They come with less and less ease over the years. 

But even after I left the theater, noteless, I found I couldn't quite dismiss the movie. A ghost of the old childhood sense of meaning and the Tookish longing for adventure stirred, and I took that as a good sign. A little late, but still there. I decided to feel it out. Maybe the film wasn't as originality-starved as I'd thought, and maybe I hadn't completely lost my touch.

Later, as I sat here to work on yet more dry, grown-up graduate school stuff, to edit someone else's story again, I realized that some parts, some message, had indeed stuck with me from the movie, that the experience hadn't been as Hemingway-empty as I'd thought first-reaction. One part in particular came back to me: Bilbo's call to action, refusal of the call, and then ultimate acceptance.

No plot spoilers here, of course. You all knew that Bilbo goes on the adventure, right?

But Gandalf's counsel to the headlight-eyed, heart-palpitating half-Baggins/half-Took agonizing over the decision (to go or to stay) that has been thrust upon him, despite his best Hobbitish defenses, struck me:

"The outside world is not in your books and maps, Bilbo. It's out there."

How true.

I cringed a little with Bilbo when I heard that. Because I identified with him. And still do. My own hobbit-hole life is dry and warm, and I am surrounded by friends and family and love. I dream of the outside world, but when it comes right down to it, my Hobbituman-nature turns more often to books and cyberspace for experience...a safe, though virtual, experience. Second par. But comfortable. 

Sometimes it bothers me how little I actually go out and do, how much I instead watch and read and dream and, thus, miss

But adventure, or coming of age, or natural events, or simply real-life progression—or whatever you want to call it—has a way of finding everyone. And when my turn comes, I hope I'll have the pluck to fly out the door, handkerchief-less and hatless and maybe a little bit late, but racing to catch up with the herald and accept the call to action.

So. The film didn't fail. And neither did I. I just got material for a different audience. Not for the world through me, but for me. And that has its own private value. 

That's what separates a great story from a good story. A meaning that prompts awareness or change in the individual. 

I'm happy to say The Hobbit passes muster.


  1. I completely agree, on all counts. I hate to admit it, but I'm a much bigger fan of the LOTR movies than I ever was of the books, and it was no different with The Hobbit. I think the filmmakers did a great job of capturing the spirit of Tolkien's story, even if they weren't completely faithful to every plot point. Martin Freeman is indeed remarkable. And how great was that end credits song?


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