02 January 2007

Ink Blots XLV - The Hobbit

A new year, and a new monthly theme. Its Talking Dragons Month

You may not have heard, but there is a new movie trilogy based on JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series. Of course, I jest. If you haven't seen these movies, then I am surprised you even have access to the internet, so I will assume that anyone reading this has at least heard of the movies. Back in 1977 (in the age of the other big trilogy) there was no way one could enter Middle Earth, but through the written page. That was, until The Hobbit was produced as a 77 minute animated television special.

This is probably one of the most famous Rankin Bass projects along with the stop-motion Christmas Special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the TV series Thundercats (They also created one of my favorites, The Last Unicorn). The animation style is very typical of their efforts, and is probably suited to this story as it is much more family freindly and light hearted than the Lord of the Rings. The show was a hit. In 1978, Ralph Baksi's theatrical The Lord of the Rings animated film was released with a darker style and less critical acclaim. That film told the first half of the Lord of the Rings saga, but a second follow up film was never made. Instead, Rankin and Bass were again hired to adapt the Return of the King for a TV special. Return of the King finishes the saga (though it doesn't fill in all the gaps) back in the same style as The Hobbit, with fun animation and catchy songs. But I will leave the details of these projects for another day.

The Hobbit remains fairly faithful to the book on which it is based, but of course not eveything could be squeezed in (if Peter Jackson adapted the book, it would probably be 3 and half hours long). Given only 77 minutes there has to be some stuff missing. Still, The Hobbit hits all of the high points. One of my complaints is the odd depiction of the green Mirkwood elves. Orlando Bloom, they are not, nor so they even look like the elf Elrond. Anyhow, what really stands out in the film are the songs. Glenn Yarbrough sings a number of musical numbers, and though he sounds sort of like a man/sheep hybrid as he "baas" the words, the songs are received fondly especially the main theme, The Greatest Adventure and The Roads Go Ever On.

Highlights of the film include the riddles in the dark exchanged between Bilbo Baggins and the froglike "precious loving" Gollum, some nasty spiders, Bilbo's showdown with the cat-faced Smaug the Dragon, and the Battle of the five armies. It is also fun to see where Bilbo gets Sting his sword, his mithril armor, and of course the ring. That Bilbo is a cunning little bugger! Overall, as an adaptation, the film is pretty good, though it does feel a bit episodic, but Bilbo the burglar burgles a B+ for The Hobbit.




The Hobbit

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