‘Hobbit’ unimpressive, while ‘Les Mis’ performers shine
With the Oscars just around the corner, everyone is talking about the nominees and their chances at receiving the golden statue. I watched two of the most anticipated movies of the year, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Les Miserables,” to see if either of them were worth the buzz.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” is based on the book “The Hobbit,” the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The film has pulled in over $250 million so far. I can only hope most of these moviegoers felt they got their money’s worth more than I did.
To be clear, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise. I have not read the books, nor do I know the story like the back of my hand. I do, however, recognize the great masterpieces that are J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels and the three LOTR films. The Hobbit sticks out like a sore thumb in this franchise: uninspiring, unimpressive and completely un-epic.
Sitting through the first half of the film was an exercise in reminding myself of the purpose of the movie. Gandalf the wizard and a band of Dwarves travel to visit an unsuspecting Bilbo Baggins in order to convince him to join them on their journey to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon. The scenes at Bilbo’s home, while humorous, are dragged out to twice their necessary length.
Though Bilbo initially scoffs at the idea of leaving his comfortable home to go on a dangerous journey, he ultimately decides to join Gandalf and the Dwarves. From there, the group must fight their way through the dangers of Middle Earth. It seemed that Gandalf could have used his powers so much more. What’s the point of embarking on such a quest with a powerful wizard if he’s only going to disappear when you need him most? I suppose it’s for the action scenes.
The second half fares better than the first, with Bilbo coming into his own in the group and finding his courage along the way. The scenes throughout the movie are beautiful; the colors and settings are mesmerizing. The nomination for an Oscar in Best Visual Effects is well deserved.
Another highly anticipated movie nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture is “Les Miserables,” based on the book of the same name by Victor Hugo. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean, a man who served many years as a slave for stealing a loaf of bread. After being released, he dedicates his soul to God, violates his parole and years later we see he has become a wealthy mayor of a town under a different name. The story is set in France during the French Revolution and follows the lives of several characters during a time of political and social upheaval.
The performances in this musical blew me away. When I say musical, I mean I probably heard about two spoken lines in the two-and-a-half hour film. The vocals were recorded live as the actors performed the scenes, rather than recording the soundtrack in a studio separately as in other movie musicals, making the performances that much more impressive.
Deeply poignant at times and funny in others, the characters stuck with me long after I left the theater. I question the existence of your soul if you don’t tear up at least once during the film, if not for the storyline, then for the sheer intensity of the solo performances, particularly the characters Fantine, Eponine and Jean Valjean.
As with “The Hobbit,” the cinematography was wonderful, as the angles and shots were kept simple despite the emotion of the scenes. I forgave some of the over-the-top costumes by reminding myself this was a musical.
Ultimately, those indifferent to the Lord of the Rings franchise will want to skip “The Hobbit.” “Les Miserables” is the film that will be worth the time and money.