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This was my first film watched of 2016, so naturally I made sure it was one with Christopher Lee in it! I missed these films in the cinema, so have had them on my Lovefilm list for a while in order to catch up, and having now seen this one on DVD I regret not making the effort to see it on the big screen at the time. It was very definitely made with that scale in mind, so that some of the fight scenes in particular were difficult to follow even on my quite substantial TV. This applied especially to the scenes of escape from the goblin mountain, during which our main party were frequently little more than pin-pricks on my screen, while the generally brownish-grey colour-scheme did nothing at all to help me tell who was whom. I might also add that the bumps and falls which our merry band sustain in this scene and indeed throughout the film with no significant ill effect make what Bruce Willis manages to survive in Die Hard look positively realistic.

That aside, though, I enjoyed the film very much. It is a long time since I read the book (at least 24 years, I reckon), so I wasn't in the least bit bothered by any departures from (or more usually additions to) the original narrative - rather, just generally glad that Tolkien bequeathed us with these extraordinary soaring legends in the first place, and that I live in an era when they have been brought to life so magnificently on screen. OK, so there's a slight feeling of 'I Can't Believe It's Not Lord of the Rings' about this trilogy, but that's inevitable really. And besides, there's actually quite a case for saying that The Hobbit gains something for having been told on screen after The Lord of the Rings, and experienced in its wake. I was struck for example by the sense that Gandalf was both written and played as distinctly less wise and experienced than I remembered him being in the LoTR trilogy; while meeting Gollum for the first time and seeing the pivotal moment when he first loses his Precious was just so much more powerful and captivating seen in the light of what will happen later than it could possibly be the other way round.

Christopher Lee's scenes are minimal, of course, partly to allow for his age and partly because Saruman's character is one of Jackson's additions to the original story, so is only inserted as a cameo really. He filmed them against green-screens in the UK, separately from the other actors in the same scene (this YouTube video shows how). Nonetheless, they are well worth watching if you are a fan, mainly for the same reasons as I've given in re Gandalf and Gollum above of getting to see a different take on his character in the light of what you know will come later. Lee puts exactly the right irascibility and dismissiveness of his fellow White Council members into his delivery, without ever tipping the character over the top into anything actively obstructive or power-hungry, to show us how and why Saruman will eventually change his allegiance, but also why Gandalf and the Elves still trust his advice and seek his input at this stage in the story. Just what we might have expected of him, in other words, but I'm glad it's there on screen and that he lived to do it.

I shall definitely be lining up the next two instalments on my Lovefilm list, in spite of the small-screen issue, but also looking out for opportunities to see all three as they were meant to be viewed in the cinema.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 18th, 2016 11:19 pm (UTC)

The Captain loved the Hobbit films.

He is mostly on the side of Smaug.

He does a passable Gollum impersonation. I say impersonation. Sometimes I wonder.

Jan. 19th, 2016 10:42 am (UTC)
A good side to be on! As for Gollum - maybe he is a method actor?
Jan. 19th, 2016 11:07 am (UTC)
It took me a while to work out that he was outraged about the dwarves stealing Smaug's gold.

I'm not sure I'm happy to encourage his method acting. So far it seems to involve him riflling through my pockets stealing my bus fare and hiding under chairs trying to bite my ankles.

He sat still through the first film (in two installments). His previous record for sitting still was about 20 minutes.
Jan. 19th, 2016 11:24 am (UTC)
Heh, I had to have a break half-way through the first film myself! I am used to watching Hammer films, which are never longer than 1.5 hours.
Jan. 18th, 2016 11:28 pm (UTC)
I think my favourite moment was the look on Gandalf's face when he hears Saruman's voice for the first time.
Jan. 19th, 2016 10:45 am (UTC)
Haha, you are so right! I've just re-watched it (here), and it's a very clear "Oh god, not you, you interfering old bugger!"

The off-screen voice introduction is a great way to announce Lee's cameo, too. It's a classic 'tease' intro for the star we all know is coming at some point, and as such a great tribute to him.
Jan. 19th, 2016 11:01 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, it works very well indeed.

(One of the annoying things about the Hobbit trilogy is that it has marvellous bits like that. And then it has over-the-top battles and awful comedy.)
Jan. 19th, 2016 09:31 am (UTC)
Completely unrelated, but I love your condor icon :-)
Jan. 19th, 2016 10:46 am (UTC)
Cheers! It is actually some poor person's Cities of Gold fan-art, which I nabbed off the internet a million years ago without noting down who had made it, and which I've therefore felt slightly guilty about ever since. But yes, it's definitely a great piece!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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