The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit -  An Unexpected JourneyThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Release Date: December 14, 2012

Director: Peter Jackson

Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Runtime: 169 min

Tagline: From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends

A curious Hobbit of The Shire, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is confronted by the magnificent wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), who wonders if Bilbo would enjoy going on a great adventure. The quest is to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Bilbo soon joins Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Amitage). They must gander through Middle Earth, fighting the likes of Goblins, Orks, and many other creatures. Their mission is to get to the East where the Lonely Mountain is, but the Goblins and Orks are close on their tail. Bilbo learns how to muster up enough courage that he didn’t even know he had, with a little help from the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis).

Mostly everyone knows that Peter Jackson (director of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) is a fairly innovative director. This time, he shows his innovative side by being the first person to film using 48 frames per second (f.p.s.). While it is an admirable experiment, it is mostly a needless one. The visuals have the tendency to get very distracting, even though the screen is very clear. However, the visuals are nonetheless beautiful and usually not that bothersome as other critics might say. It might deserve a second watch in a 2D regular 24 f.p.s. screening.

Everyone also knows that his features are usually lengthy (like The LOTR Trilogy, or his remake [more like new film altogether] of King Kong). He gives us another awesome, but long, adventure back to Middle Earth. He writes it with help from three other writers, including the also legendary Guillermo del Toro (writer/director of Pan’s Labyrinth) and it is adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. All the writers express that they are not afraid to insert some silliness and foolishness into a great Middle Earth fantasy story. However, they insert some jokes so relentlessly, that you may forget that any of the story is intended to be serious. Usually, though, it isn’t bad – and you just can’t help but laugh and have a good time. Especially when the great Gollum shows up. There’s an exuberant amount of comedic dialogue inserted in that specific riddle scene shared between Gollum and Bilbo, but it also makes for one of the greatest scenes in the film. This time around, some of the more talky scenes are the best; while the action sequences are simply visually stunning and intense, but the material we’ve seen before outweighs the new and fresh content.

I am unsure of how faitful the writing is to its source material, but the fun that the cast and writers had making the film is definitely present. The writing is very smart; and the introduction of Old Bilbo putting his journey into writing for Frodo is a perfect touch for any fan of the adventures of Middle Earth. The antagonists (like the Pale Ork or the nasty looking Great Goblin) are also fine and the backstories for some characters and the plot lines are great.

There is never a dull moment in this feature, but there are some scenes that could have been so not over-the-top. When Bilbo, Gandalf, and company, visit the land of Rivendell, the introduction of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) is just too over-dramatic. Sure, she’s beautiful as anything, but it didn’t have to be over-done like that. Also, when Saruman (Christopher Lee) does his brief cameo, the audience (those who have seen Lord of the Rings) will feel a certain loathing because we know what this character will do in sixty years. Often enough, the problem with prequels is we know some good characters will turn evil (like Saruman) or we know some will survive. SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LORD OF THE RINGS Like we do with Bilbo and Gandalf. END OF SPOILERS. It may take away from the suspense, but it’s all about knowing how they survive. The reappearance of certain characters (like Galadriel, Elrond, Gollum, Frodo) will be a treat for any fan of Tolkien’s magnificent universe. However, it’s a little difficult to get emotionally-invested with the new characters like we did the first time we saw the older characters.

There are just too many dwarves to keep an eye on. Thorin Oakenshield, the leader; Ori, the one with the slingshot; Balin, the charming elderly one; and Bombur, the chubby eater, are the ones that really stand out. If any dwarves decease, the viewer may feel sad for a minute, but it’ll soon wear off because there are many others. All share the same traits, and it feels as if the writers took traits from Gimli and Legolas (some dwarves are archers) and lent them to the new dwarves. The majority feel, unfortunately, expendable. They are just a little too alike, or don’t say much. Bilbo is both a new character, and an old one. Those who have seen Lord of the Rings are familiar with the older version of him. Now, we are introduced to the young Bilbo, before he learned all the life lessons or even left The Shire. He is great, and the fact we get to watch him grow is a scrumptious treat. Martin Freeman is the perfect actor to play him, as is the casting of the dwarves.

The first installment of a new Middle Earth trilogy is much like The Fellowship of the Ring; not a lot happens. They only complete a small amount of the journey, and upcoming antagonists and ones that are going to appear again in the series are established. However, please don’t forget that the story will all come together in the end of the trilogy. For what it is, it is a great experience, and there are enough action scenes to probably keep you satisfied. Though, some of those said action scenes are a little familiar. Am I complaining, though? Not particularly, because it’s still fun.

As a stand-alone feature, this is an awesome adventure-fantasy film. Compared to the likes of The Lord of the Rings, it is simply satisfying and usually visually stunning. Some of it is familiar, the visuals are distracting, and the dwarves are a little too alike. However, there is never a dull moment – even when one moment is over-dramatic. The cinematography, the visuals, the writing and the performances are stellar. The silliness is very enjoyable, especially the scene shared between Bilbo and Gollum (and Precious, of course). Simply put, this is the beginnings of a fine, new Middle Earth trilogy.

75/100

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11 Responses to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

  1. Glad you seemed to enjoy it in your review Dan. That grade doesnt seem to reflect a lot of enthusiasm for it, though. 😦

    Still looking for other unabashed fans of this. Apparently I’m the only one who really enjoyed it (Both the film AND the 48 fps, although I’m much more comfortable being the sole fan of 48 fps) 😦

    • Daniel Prinn says:

      I like to say that I can recommend a film that has a score of over at least 7 or 7.5, so this I could recommend whole-heartedly, but only if it’s the viewer’s type of film. I wouldn’t force anyone to see it, if they don’t like Middle Earth adventures like such. It does add greatly to the franchise, though.

      It’s just… do you ever get the feeling of typing out a number, but it just doesn’t feel right? I typed out 80, but it just didn’t feel right… With my scoring system that I don’t put on my blog, it averaged out to a 77; and unfortunately, that’s closer to 75 LOL. It just won’t leave a lasting impression on me as much LOTR does, and that’s the unfortunate truth. The dwarf characters were just so alike… and looking at my sum-up paragraph, I thought: that reflects more a 77 than an 80… I won’t defend myself any longer 😉 But, I would watch it again when it comes out on DVD, or maybe a cheap Tuesday 2D viewing over the Christmas break, to see if my impression would change. I didn’t despise the 48 f.p.s., but it just wasn’t necessary and it was often distracting if one really focuses on it.

      I am glad to see you loved it, Fogs. I’ll check out your review. Despite the score that some may not be too impressed by, this will make an appearance on my Top 25 Best of 2012. It’ll probably be around 12th or so… We’ll see, I guess!

  2. Nice write up Dan. I really enjoyed the film although I thought it did have its flaws – I thought Gandalf having to save the day over and over again got a little tiresome, for example. However, I think it’s important to accept that it’s a different story from Lord of the Rings and is being told in a slightly different way. Very much looking forward to the next one.

    • Daniel Prinn says:

      Thanks, Chris! Yeah, that’s a good point. Half the time I was just waiting – so, uh, where’s Gandalf? Haha. True enough. I love Tolkien’s world. Same! I’m not sure if I’ll go to the premiere again, but opening day for sure.

  3. I’ll come back after Thursday and read the review 😀

  4. Mark Hobin says:

    “The majority [of the dwarves] feel, unfortunately, expendable.”

    They’re supposed to be. This is Bilbo’s story and everything is focused around him. Gandalf and Thorin are pretty important too and they’re great as well. Everyone else is just window dressing.

    I loved the film, perhaps more than you, but you obviously enjoyed it. Can’t wait for “The Desolation of Smaug” next year!

    • Daniel Prinn says:

      Ah, nice point, Mark. I enjoyed the charisma of most. Bilbo is a great focal point.

      That comes out next December, right? I’m excited for that one, too! I wonder if Jackson and co. is making it longer or shorter than this installment… It’ll be great either way!

      (I’ll read your review when I get the chance!)

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