I will try to make this spoiler-free.
I needed to make a decision yesterday: The Hobbit, or Les Mis? This ended up being an easy decision, because my wife brought home the soundtrack to the Les Mis movie, and I spent the entire listening-time ranting, raving and generally staring- aghast- at the laptop that was daring to defy me this way.
Les Miserables was the first musical I ever saw on Broadway, and continues to be one of my favorites. This does not mean the movie will be bad. I may even love the movie. But I don't trust myself to watch it in a crowded room full of people who would rather I not shout at the screen the whole time. I'll watch it on DVD and let you know how it goes then. On the other hand, I have never been a huge fan of Tolkien's style of writing, so while I loved the LotR movies, I've only read the first book-and-a-half of that trilogy, and I've never read The Hobbit.
I hadn't even seen the official trailer, just the one by Tobuscus. Which is funny, but not quite as awesome as his Literal Trailer of Skyrim.
On to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. In brief, I really liked it. I saw it in regular 2D, so I can't say anything about the 3D quality. In longer, here's the actual review:
On the other hand, I couldn't help but be reminded of this comic, from Ctrl+Alt+Del, which is a comic I follow regularly. Mandi, who has read the book more recently, tells me this is done a bit differently in the book.
The scene continues, and I must say I laughed often. Where LotR relies on a heavy sense of Drama and Doom to move the story along, with occasional moments of humor to lighten the load, I feel The Hobbit uses humor as the primary drive with occasional serious moments to remind the audience of the story. Early on, one of the characters says something to the effect of, "We're a bunch of bakers, toy-makers, etc," and another one says, "There are some warriors among us." Well, it's the first part that sticks. It's evident that most of the people in this band of dwarfs have no idea what they're doing.
For me, this makes for an entertaining watch, as it really does feel like we're mainly bumbling from one adventure to another. I've been told that many of the extra scenes- the reason the shortest book ended up told in three movies, as well- have been taken from The Silmarillion, and it shows. The movie takes on the effect of the Canterbury Tales - a group of people happen to be traveling together to the same place, and every now and then the audience gets told a story. Given Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is probably one of the oldest and most famous works of literature most individuals have ever studied, I do not feel this is an insult.
I did wish the characters were more individualized. There is a character who is essentially Aragorn, but a Dwarf, and another who looks a lot like Robin Williams but is not played by him, but I don't think I learned anyone's name other than Gandalf and Bilbo. Oh, and the hedgehog. That was a dramatic moment- you'll see.
My primary criticism of the movie- though some of the blame should perhaps be shifted to Lord of the Rings- is that there are a few canon inconsistencies between the movies. I don't mean inconsistancies that you'll pick up on if you've scoured the books and are a huge Tolkien fan. I mean there was a point in the movie when I went, Gimli WTF?
For those who have seen it, you know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't, you will. There's also a smaller issue, featuring Legolas' homeland, which I think probably comes from taking a story from The Silmarillion and sticking it into the timeline of The Hobbit.
In summary, to quote Tobuscus: "Careful, it's Bind of Pick-up." I enjoyed the movie, and will certainly go to the next one when it comes out, at which point I hope to learn at least one more character's name.
"It happened in that season that one day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, where I lay
Ready to travel to that holy site -
To Canterbury, with my spirits bright,
There came at evening to that hostelry
A group of twenty-nine, a company
Of various folk, to new found friendship come
By happy chance - and pilgrims every one
That for the Canterbury shrine were bound.
- Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (modern English translation)