Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Hobbit (1977)

I have been sent back until my task is done here in Middle-Earth.

 I must admit I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Released in 1977 as a TV movie from good ol' Rankin & Bass, The Hobbit is a very humble production and a decent adaptation of Mr. Tolkien's story. Since I've covered the bigger budgeted grander trilogy, to see it in an entirely new light was a real treat for me and I very much appreciate it from the standpoint of the time when it came out. Of course it would look shoddy and lacking in story compared to three movies and even those were a notch bloated, so no I am firmly not in the camp of disliking this. The movie is almost an hour and twenty minutes long so I'll more take this opportunity to disclose what actually made it into the film. Of course Bilbo Baggins is recruited by the wandering wizard Gandalf to aid in the quest of Thorin Oakenshield to reclaim a treasure stolen by the fierce dragon Smaug. To my delight this adaptation includes a good deal of songs as is customary to the world of Tolkien and to hear recognizable tunes in a more folky style made me smile and is prevalent throughout. The eagles are present and actually given the chance to speak this time so point for this movie staying truer to the book. The battle of five armies is briefly touched on like in the book with Bilbo staying out of the madness. Mirkwood is present with spiders and wood elves. And to use the words of one Leonard Nimoy, he fought with the goblins, he battled the trolls, he riddled with Gollum, a magic ring he stole, he was chased by wolves, lost in the forest, escaped via the barrel from the elf king's halls! Big props also to the movie for namedropping Orcist and Glamdring, they actually did do a fair bit of research for this and I feel the love and attention shows. It's no secret the movie runs at a brisque pace so some things got ommited but just as a simple fantasy story I think it works commendably. The animation style is entirely unique, I know Rankin & Bass is prevalently known for it's stop motion works so it is fascinating to see 2D animation from them, the backgrounds are very simple and yet incredibly beautiful, the character designs lean into the more outlandish as it should I mean it's not trying to give you realistic movement and appearances. I think I would totally have digged the hell out of this if I saw it at a young age, though I'm not sure how much younger I mean for God's sake I was 6 when Fellowship came out, but it would have worked splendidly for me. I think I've seen too much animation though, I was distinctly singling out elements of the animation that looked japanese to me and sure as hell the animation crew hailed from Japan. Though admittedly it doesn't have as many noticeable touches of flair from more recent anime, I'm just familiar enough with early examples of it to where I could see it. The voice cast did very well, I like Orson Bean's upbeat and naive potrayal of the bravest little hobbit of them all, John Huston gives Gandalf that oomph of power in his voice and I actually really love how Gandalf's magic is shown in this, Hans Conried as Thorin did have that more wise and kingly aura to him and it's almost hilarious how the majority of the other dwarves are just there for the background, Theodore Gottlieb as Gollum is so interesting to see potrayed before Andy catapulted this role into legend cause Gollum looks more amphibian and seems more just a strange creature than hopelessly addicted tragic character, and lastly Richard Boone as Smaug I can 100% see where Ben got some of his cues for when he played the dragon he has this smooth yet threatning voice and again the design is something completely unique. And that's just the only way I can sum up this movie, it's unique, it's different, it's something only this movie has. People who even attempt to compare this to the Peter Jackson movies are really just setting themselves up for ridicule, there is no comparison to be made it's just two seperate entities of a children's story so you completely and fully have to just judge this movie on it's own merits. And for me, I liked it a good bit, now was I expecting much? Not at all, I almost thought it would be sub standard at best, but I got a charming, enjoyable, utterly novel adaptation and I'm very appreciative and happy I got to see it. Back in 1977 Lord Of The Rings was still grassroots man, if you were a young kid and you read the books, maybe were into D&D, and getting to see an adaptation of Tolkien's work even as a wee TV movie must have been a big deal cause who the hell else was doing it? Nobody, that's who. Today's movie and tomorrow's review walked so Jackson could run faster than greased lightning. So I give it 3 stars, 7/10, and tomorrow's review has actually been coming since the year I started all this so stay tuned.

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