We had an interesting holiday weekend. On Christmas, we viewed The Hobbit at Downtown Disney’s Fork & Screen Dine-In Theater. But let’s backtrack a minute.
On the previous day, we viewed the resident alligator at our neighborhood lake where we take walks in balmy weather. This sunny afternoon, the gator had stretched himself out along the grassy bank to soak up the rays. We got a clear view and a perfect photo op. Watch out if you have small pets!
We went to Epcot another day to try out the new Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in the Italy Pavilion. Here you can order small plates to go with your wine or food from the menu at the neighboring restaurant. Passholders take note of a discount off food during weekday lunch hours. This wine bar has a pleasant, cozy atmosphere where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the theme park. Epcot wasn’t so crowded because most visitors were heading toward the Magic Kingdom. We could see the line snaking in that direction from the Epcot exit. Here’s a holiday concert being performed outside near Spaceship Earth.
The Dine-In Theater is the best place to view a movie as lengthy as The Hobbit, nearly 3 hours long plus previews. You can recline in the soft cushioned chairs, put your feet up and munch away on snacks or a full meal at a table aligned in front of you. Wine and beer are on the menu along with soft drinks to quench your thirst. If you need wait service during the film, you merely press a button and the attendant appears. Watching a rousing mainstream action adventure, sci-fi, or epic fantasy film here during a holiday is one of my favorite Disney activities, aside from the theme parks.
So how did I like The Hobbit? [Spoiler Alert!] It’s a lot of monsters and fighting and dark-lit scenes. The plot wanders toward a distant peak without much sense along the way. Bilbo Baggins is recruited by a gang of dwarfs to reclaim their kingdom. Spurred on by Gandalf the Wizard, our hapless hobbit stumbles along in the wake of his Klingon-like warrior friends. They reach their target by the end, the fortress that has been taken over by a dragon guarding a hoard of gold. But there the story waits for the next installment.
From part A to part B is the rest of the movie, a series of adventures involving battles with trolls, orcs, and other assorted creatures. One bad guy, an ugly bald being, stood out, but he wasn’t the best villain I have seen. Baggins has a character arc where he mans up and learns how to use a sword, and the reluctant hero is always a favorite archetype. I did enjoy the pure escapism, the world-building, the grand vistas of New Zealand scenery. The special effects make it worth getting a bonus disk just to see how they were done.
But eventually all the monsters get tiring. The fantasies I enjoy reading, like Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, involve people more than creatures. These bad guys often have fearsome powers. They’re more frightening to me than the ugliest monster because they are more real. I liked the quieter moments in The Hobbit when character interaction took over, and it was a pleasure to see the Elvin kingdom again. But this story lacked a romantic subplot plus it lacked a tried and true friendship like Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings. And it’s those moments of humanity that raise a film beyond the ordinary. While Bilbo has to prove himself to the dwarfs and to himself, I missed the stronger sense of purpose like in the first trilogy. Still, if you’re looking for an exciting escapist adventure, go view this flick.