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Re-Playing The Hobbit

This Saturday (September 22) was “Hobbit Day,” the shared birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins.  I might not have noticed, but the marketing for the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made a big deal out of it being “Tolkien Week,” releasing a new trailer and asking via their facebook page what people were doing to celebrate Hobbit Day.  Since it was a Saturday and I’m always up for a random reason to celebrate, (I once threw an elvish party on Orlando Bloom’s birthday, and an Australia-themed party on Australia Day which involved watching movies set down under), I decided to celebrate by eating second breakfast and playing the Vivendi Universal video game The Hobbit on Gamecube.

pic of video game cover

I may have slept in too late to have what could really be considered “second breakfast,” but it at least counted as “elevensies.”  And I did manage to play The Hobbit up to the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter, so I covered nearly as much ground as I predict the first film will.  Plus I was barefoot, so, it was a pretty good Hobbit Day.  Could have used more theme foods, but maybe next year I’ll have more time to prepare.

I was excited about re-playing The Hobbit because I remembered it fondly as my favorite video game, the first RPG that I played all the way through.  (I didn’t grow up with any gaming consoles, so until college I only played snippets at friends’ houses.)  In re-playing I discovered that it isn’t quite so perfect, but still very enjoyable, with the best video-game music I’d heard before I played Skyrim.  The game music for The Hobbit actually won “Best Original Soundtrack of the Year” in 2004.

The drawbacks to this game that I either forgot or didn’t recognize the first time I played include not having any maps to refer to, so if you stray from the courage-point-gemstone-led path it’s very easy to become lost for extended periods of time.  I guess Bilbo didn’t have a map for all of his burgling either, but I was jumping to a ledge so I could fight some goblins to get to the next save pedestal in a cave, and missed, sliding down the cave wall to a level below.  It took at least thirty minutes to find my way up again without a map or courage points leading the way.  It was extremely frustrating, and leads me to another drawback of this game-not enough save pedestals!  Maybe that’s just supposed to be part of the challenge, but you can’t save unless you’re at a save pedestal, and sometimes they are few and far between, meaning I had to keep re-killing the same goblins over and over and jumping up and down the same paths because I would die before I could reach the next save opportunity.  Also annoying is the fact that you can’t go back and re-play a level; when you get to the end of a level your stats tell you if you missed any chests, coins, or loot, but you can’t tell while you’re in the level if you’ve found them all or not and you can’t go back to re-play once you find out you’ve missed some.  (Maybe that is just another challenge and I’m too accustomed to relying on game hints).  Finally, the camera angles are super-irritating; they change in the middle of your movements and make it difficult to maneuver since the joystick direction depends on the camera angle.  If you’re in a corner it’s sometimes impossible to get the camera behind you to look ahead, and you have to sort of jump blind or at an awkward view and hope you don’t miss.

The things that I love about this game far outweigh the frustrations, (except in those moments where I am being defeated by some foe or falling off an edge, in which case I temporarily scream that it sucks, until I go back and vanquish the same foe or difficult jump and then I’m back to thinking it’s awesome.  So maybe I am not the most emotionally stable and rational person when I’m playing a game.)  I love that the tone is a light-hearted, yet at times dangerous adventure, just like the book.   The music does a lot to help set the tone, and as I’ve mentioned it is fantastic.  I love that part of the game is solving puzzles, sneaking around and “picking locks”, like a good Hobbit burglar.

picture of lock picking in game

To pick a lock in game, you have to hit the button as the moving pieces line up with the green. More difficult locks have more pieces to get right, and there is always a timer. Some locks are poisonous, and if you hit the button at the wrong time or run out of time your health suffers. Of course, those chests tend to have better loot.

I love that you can use your walking staff to sort of pole-vault into a long jump, and you don’t immediately drown if you hit the water.  (You can’t swim, but sometimes you can hop out or onto a rock if you’re fast enough.  If it’s too deep, you die rather gruesomely–poor Biblo struggles and then leans his head back, eyes closed, and opens his mouth when he drowns.)  I love that you can climb, up some cliffs if they have vines hanging, and you can hang on ledges by your fingertips and creep along them scooting one hand at a time while hanging.  I love that you get to use Sting as light in dark caves, and use the Ring to sneak invisibly past foes after you acquire it.  (The Ring has a time limit, which is good because otherwise the second half of the game would hardly be a challenge).  I love the choices in weapons–you start out with just your walking staff, but later acquire throwing rocks and the sword Sting.  The staff has a longer reach, Sting does more damage, and the rocks are a distance weapon.  Sometimes you can use flaming or freezing rocks for special attacks.

I’m currently at a stage in the game where I’m trying to sneak past and/or fight goblins, and it made me realize how differently I think of the same “type” of creatures within different stories.  In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, goblins are the enemy, they’ll kill you if you don’t kill them.  But in the Harry Potter universe, goblins run the wizard bank Gringotts.  They have an uneasy history with wizards, but they aren’t goons grunting around in caves.  And in The Hobbit, there’s a whole company of heroic dwarves, while dwarves are hardly mentioned in Harry Potter.  There are several dwarves in The Chronicles of Narnia, but I don’t remember any goblins.  It’s funny how some fantasy elements are universals, but still re-defined in each story.

To give you an idea of what gameplay in The Hobbit looks like, here’s video of someone playing part of the first level, “An Unexpected Party.”  The music for this part in the Shire might be my favorite in the whole game.

I expect there will be new Hobbit video games made in the next few years to go along with the movies, but I think I’ll always prefer this version.  Despite the drawbacks, it’s truly a delight to play.


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“The Hobbit” Trailer Totally Looks Like…

As I continue to re-watch the new trailer for The Hobbit, I’ve noticed more things that it reminds me of.  First, when Biblo is saying “I like visitors as much as the next hobbit,  but I like to know them before they visit!” and looking out the window, then gasping and ducking away to hide in the hallway when Gandalf peeks back in at him, it totally looks like when old Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Rings hides against the same wall in the same hallway and tells Gandalf “I’m not at home!” to avoid having to answer the knockings on the door from “these confounded relatives!”  I love the parallel because it helps remind us that this is the same character, and while the Biblo that sets out on this adventure in The Hobbit and the one who returns and is seen later in The Fellowship of the Rings are very different, they still share many quirks, including the physical reaction to unwanted visitors outside.

compaison picture of two bilbos avoiding windows

While re-watching The Fellowship of the Ring to get the screenshot of old Bilbo above, I noticed that the map we see in this new Hobbit trailer totally looks like Bilbo’s map in Fellowship!  Which is kind of a duh, it’s the same map, (but with some added wear and tear and additional markings!), but it just made me really excited to re-watched the Lord of the Rings triology after I’ve seen all the Hobbit films and think about the characters’ rich backstories.   And it’s exactly the kind of detail that movies mess up on so often, (like Lily’s eyes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, for goodness sakes), and I’m so grateful to the cast and crew of these Peter Jackson-helmed Tolkien movies for caring so much about every little thing.

The map in the new Hobbit trailer.


Gandalf examines the map on Bilbo’s table in Fellowship of the Ring.

The other thing in this trailer that reminds me of something else is Galadriel’s white gown and cape, which totally look like the Tom Ford creation that Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Academy Awards earlier this year.  It’s too bad we don’t get a clear, focused look at Galadriel’s dress, but I think the similarity is still pretty clear.  That observation is not really worth anything, I just noticed it and couldn’t help making a side-by-side comparison.

Did anything else stand out to you in this trailer, that totally looks like something else?

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Guessing Where The First Hobbit Film Will End

When Peter Jackson announced that The Hobbit film adaptation would span not two, but three films, I wasn’t sure about the idea.  But the new trailer today for part 1, also known as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, has erased all doubts from my mind.  How could I possibly not be excited after watching such an exciting preview?

My favorite thing about the previous trailer was the music, but this one does not feature the “Misty Mountains” song and the accompanying music is barely noticeable.  There are plenty of other things to love about this one, though!

picture of map

I don’t see any moon-letters on this map, but I see empty spaces where they might show up under the right moon!

This one tells us more about the story, (which of course we already know, from the book)–an uninitiated audience could glean from this trailer that the dwarves + Bilbo are going on a long journey, to “determined to reclaim their home land,” and that Bilbo is part of their group at Gandalf’s suggestion/insistence.  We see Elrond advise Thorin that “some might not deem it wise” to go through with his plan to “enter the mountain”.  We see Bilbo and Gollum setting up the game of riddles!   We see the band of adventurers facing trolls, goblins, wolves, and stone giants!  I love it all.

I love Bilbo running down a path in the Shire with his great big hobbit feet flapping around, shouting, “I’m going on an adventure!”

screenshot of bilbo running

Though not a line from the book, I absolutely love the inclusion of Gandalf talking about the inspiration he gets from the steadfast little hobbit.  It reminds me of a quote that is in the book The Hobbit, that demonstrates the title character’s extraordinary yet simplistic courage and strength.

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.

pic of gandalf and galadriel

“Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I’m afraid, and he gives me courage.”

I love Bilbo’s elven-made sword, Sting, glowing blue to warn of the presence of a goblin.

pic of bilbo with glowing sword fighting goblin

I love Bilbo propositioning Gollum with “a game of riddles?”   Every time I see that part, (in the dozens of times I have watched this trailer so far today), I want to shout out “what have I got in my pocket?!”

pic of wide-eyed gollum

“If Baggins loses, we eats it whole.”

But as for guessing at what point in the story the first film will conclude, I think it must not be very long after the group takes refuge in treetops to get away from the wolves.  In the book, Gandalf nearly succeeds in scaring the wolves away with fire, but then the goblins arrive seeking vengeance, (because the dwarves not only escaped from their caves but killed the goblin king), and set the trees on fire.   The heroes escape at the last second with help from the eagles.  Well, I don’t see any eagles in the trailer, but I don’t know if they would show them if they’re going to swoop in at the very end.   You’d want to keep that a surprise for anyone who hasn’t read the book, so they’re genuinely scared for the dwarves, hobbit and wizard, right?

Although I’m sure they’ll want to end on a bit of a cliffhanger, it doesn’t seem like the movie will end with the adventurers in mortal peril atop burning trees.  And, the book describes Biblo’s transit via eagle as quite dangerous and exciting itself.   I think a good ending for the first film would be for the eagles to swoop in and fly them out of there, and when they land on the eyrie for something like this exchange from the book to happen:

[Bilbo] found himself saying aloud: “Now I know what a piece of bacon feels like when it is suddenly picked out of the pan on a fork and put back on the shelf!”

“No you don’t!” he heard Dori answering, “because the bacon knows that it will get back in the pan sooner or later; and it is to be hoped we shan’t.  Also eagles aren’t forks!”

In any case, we see Thorin in a treetop, (and I like this “hero shot” much better than the one of him in the first trailer, where he’s on horseback and the sunlight is sort of anointing him), and we see Gandalf in a treetop where the tree is actually on fire.  So I *think* that image of Gandalf in the burning tree is the clip closest to the end of this movie that we see in the trailer.

pic of thorin in a treetop

“I will take each and every one of these dwarves over the mightiest army. Loyalty, honor, a willing heart–I can ask no more than that.”

gandalf in a tree on fire

This picture is the very essence of “fantasy” to me. A wizard! With a great big pointy hat, a beard, and a staff! In a tree, which is on fire, against a stormy sky!

If that is indeed where the first film ends, it means that An Unexpected Journey will cover the first six chapters of the book.  That is just about perfect, considering there are 19 chapters; each film should cover 6 chapters and one will cover 7, or else two will cover 6 and a half.  Also, towards the beginning of the next film the dwarves will have a natural opportunity to reacquaint the audience with their names, when they introduce themselves two at a time to Beorn, so that seems like another good reason for this choice for the split.

What do you think?  Is my theory about the end of part 1 right, or do you think the cut will be somewhere else?  Oh, and how great is that last voice-over line from Gandalf, “Home is now behind you, the world is ahead,”?!  Fantastic.  I’m definitely excited.  Is it December yet?!

*update* Ooh, how fun, four alternative endings to the trailer!  I think I like the first one, with the contract, best.


Filed under Books, movies, trailers

How Do We Feel About Splitting “The Hobbit” Into THREE Movies?

Breaking News, Peter Jackson announced on his Facebok page this morning that he will officially be splitting The Hobbit into not two, but three films.  There were rumors that this was being discussed in the last two weeks, but I guess I didn’t believe they would really do it.  I’m not even sure how I feel about it; am I thrilled that there will be one entire year longer to anticipate a third film, one more premiere to dress up and go to, that much more footage to swoon over?  Or am I annoyed that they are just trying to make more money, or that they can’t edit things down, or…I don’t know!  I don’t have enough information to form an opinion!  Since there will be three movies instead of two, does that mean each segment will be shorter than Jackson’s typical 3 hours?  And how does a 300-page book get extended into three movies?!  I mean, I know they had already said there would be additions from the Simarillion…does this announcement mean they are adding even more, or is it just that when they finished filming they looked at what the had and realized it was too much material to fit into two movies, so they’re splitting it into three?

Here’s part of the statement:

We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance.  The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.


So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.

I would really like some more information.  I’m equal parts excited and angry, but mostly confused.  I mean, there is a lot of stuff that happens in the short book The Hobbit that is glossed over or summarized, that could easily be drawn out and dramatized at length.  I don’t know what all they are going to put in with Gandalf, but as far as Bilbo’s plotline, here’s my guess at where they might break it into three parts: part 1 could end when the dwarves are escaping the elf king via barrels in the river.  It’s a good ending because the audience would know they are safe from one danger, but hurtling towards another.  That guess is also based partly on “The Scroll” promotional art for part 1, which features several scenes from the story in chronological order and ends with the dwarves in barrells.  So then for part 2 they would arrive at Laketown, where they stay for a few weeks in the book although it’s only a few pages.  Then they go to the mountain, spend several days looking for the secret door, have the whole drawn-out confrontation with the dragon, the dragon attacks Laketown, the dragon dies.  That might be a good place to end the second one.  Then in the third one you could have all the set-up of Thorin suddenly being very greedy and irrational about the treasure, the almost-battle between the men, elves, and dwarves, and then at the end the Battle of Dol Guldur of everybody against the goblins and wolves.  I guess I can see how that could be drawn out…but you’d need a lot of other things happening in the meantime to cut between.  And the movies would have to be shorter, like an hour and half each.

I have a lot of faith in Peter Jackson.  So I want to be optimistic about this.  But I’d really like some more assurance that it isn’t just a money-grab, that it won’t be completely unnecessary, that these films will be on par with the LOTR trilogy and not an embarrassment.  Everything about the production videos so far made me think the two films were going to be awesome.  So I really, really hope that the same will be true of the now-three movies.  But I’m just not so sure yet.

What do you think?


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Singing of the Dwarves (Hobbit Trailer!!!!)

ZOMG, the first trailer for The Hobbit is finally here!  I love it.

I love the singing.  The lyrics are taken from a song in the book, obviously.  There are some lines missing that leave the bit in the trailer a little nonsensical, but they always splice scenes together for trailers, and even in the movie I wouldn’t expect them to include every line from every song.  Tolkien was quite verbose.  Here’s some text from the paragraph just before the song, that I think show how well this movie is bringing the story to life:

The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were lost, and still they played on.  And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes.

Musically, I think the song is reminiscent of Pippin’s song (Edge of Night) from Return of the King.  Here are the lyrics that are sung in the trailer:

Far over the misty mountain cold,

To dungeons deep and caverns old,

The pines were roaring on the height,

The winds were moaning in the night,

The fire was red, it flaming spread,

The trees like torches blazed with light.

These come from two stanzas about half-way through the song as it is included in the book, and there are two lines missing that should come after the first couplet:

We must away, ere break of day

To seek our long-forgotten gold.

Rather important syntactically, (without them it sounds like the pines were roaring to the dungeons, or something), but maybe in the full version of this scene the song will be more complete.  (The flames, by the way, are from “the dragons ire, more fierce than fire,” and there is also a stanza about goblins that was skipped over between the lines of the trailer song.)  I do love that it is a new tune, and that it continues throughout the second part of the trailer.  New music!  I mean I love the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, and they instantly increase my level of excitement when Peter Jackson includes them in his vlogs as he has been doing, but these are new films and I’m so stoked to be getting new, epic music to go with them.  (The score is by Howard Shore, who also composed the music for all three Lord of the Rings films).

The tone of this trailer is undoubtedly dark.  The song lyrics included talk about deep dark dungeons and burning landscapes, and several times Bilbo’s chances of survival are called into question, which I think is a little bit silly because we all know that this is a prequel and that he’s going to survive.  I think they could generate excitement or market this as an action adventure full of dangerous escapades without trying to make us believe that Bilbo might die, don’t you?  But they didn’t really need to work at convincing me to be excited for this movie anyway. I am duly excited.  Maybe I will re-read The Hobbit during the holiday break!

**update 12/14/12**  The full version of this Misty Mountain song, as sung in the movie and on the soundtrack, has these lyrics:

Far over the misty mountain cold,

To dungeons deep and caverns old,

We must away, ere break of day,

To find our long forgotten gold.

The pines were roaring on the height,

The winds were moaning in the night,

The fire was red, it flaming spread,

The trees like torches blazed with light.


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