, pub-5942053480632440, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0, pub-5942053480632440, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Movie Review: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Movie Review: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey


Movie Review: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

(This is a review of the 24 FPS version of the film. Thoughts on 48 FPS will be added on Saturday)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is by far the greatest adventure story put together on screen - it revolutionized epic scope filmmaking and gave this generation its own Star Wars. The raging question on everyone’s mind is if Peter Jackson sold out and desecrated the Lord of the Rings trilogy by making three prequels. The answer is yes, he did. But is the first film any good then? The answer is still yes, but just barely so.

Without a doubt, Jackson has George Lucas’d it this time around, perhaps because of the middling box office returns of King Kong and the crushing failure of The Lovely Bones. Without a doubt the first portion of The Hobbit will make a busload of money, but it remains to be seen if the second and third parts manage similar feats. Because An Unexpected Journey has none of the charm, characterization and newness that made the Lord of the Rings movies so great. It offers nothing technically new or aesthetically unique, nor does it justify the existence of three three-hour-long movies for a 275 page children’s book. It does feel like a meandering mass of more of the same, and it’s a disappointment especially for someone who has to wait two more years to watch the rest of the story on screen.

The good news is that Jackson is genuinely obsessed with the source material, and is committed to bringing you the best looking movie that money can buy. The motion capture in An Unexpected Journey is miles ahead of anything ever done before – Gollum’s detailing straight away makes it obvious that Weta Digital is the best special effects company in the world. The intricacy of a certain CGI creature that makes an appearance in the final frame of the film is jaw dropping to say the least. The rolling hills of Middle Earth are back, as are the bright green pastures and the pitch dark caverns made of nightmares shot by Andrew Lesnie’s camera. And though not as heroic and scary as Frodo’s journey towards Mount Doom, Jackson manages to maintain a nostalgic sense of adventure throughout its rather long running time. It’s hard to not be pleased with the return of Elijah Wood and Ian Holm as Frodo and Bilbo and the great Ian McKellan as Gandalf single handedly carries the film on his shoulders when it begins to meander into banality.

Also making a return are Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, but their presence here seems .. awkward. The weakest segment of the film feature the Elves chatting with Saruman and Gandalf at Rivendell and the characters seem clumsily padded on into the film for financial reasons. The greatest strength of Fellowship of the Ring is the way the world builds in the first half and you’re completely invested into the characters. An Unexpected Journey falls flat in this regard – there are 13 dwarves in the film who hang around Bilbo’s house for what feels like half an hour yet it is difficult to care about any of them and near impossible to recall their names. This is troubling, because you expect characters like Aragorn here and all you get is a pack of 13 Stooges led by a mostly uncharismatic Thorin (Richard Armitage). We ‘re introduced to Thorin’s backstory but it is stunningly pale compared to the beautifully crafted themes of Aragon’s love for Arwen, loss, despair and goosebump-inducing redemption. McKellan seems only too well aware of the problems here and at times tries too hard salvage the magic.

Jackson displays a flash of genuine brilliance when Gollum makes his entry in An Unexpected Journey – the riddle game between Gollum and Bilbo is perhaps the most extraordinary movie scene of the year. Gollum’s animation is fine tuned to make him slightly younger and the finer nuances, the expressive eyes are incredible to watch. The film is significantly less scary than Fellowship of the Ring, however in one eerie sequence Jackson returns to his The Frighteners roots for a bone chilling scene featuring a Necromancer. The impossibly high production values are a swell pleasure, the hoard of Orcs, Goblins, Wolves, Spiders are as realistic as they can ever get. The sweeping New Zealand landscapes once again make it difficult to pick the real world from the fantastical computer graphics. The problem is, most of the action sequences exist purely to make things exciting, unlike in the Rings trilogy where they existed to actually move the story forward. My biggest gripe with An Unexpected Journey is the curiously prosaic soundtrack by Howard Shore, which is a rehash of the score from the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit is part of the LOTR universe but is set in a completely different part of Middle Earth, and one wonders why Jackson refused to even try to make something different here. Hopefully the next movie The Desolation of Smaug will offer something new to see and listen to. Where Jackson did put an effort in is the 3D, but the third dimension is sadly unnecessary and does little to immerse you in Middle Earth. Unless you are ok with loss of video quality and extra glasses, 24 FPS 2D will certainly be the best format to watch The Hobbit in.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a mildly fun return to Middle Earth and despite its first hour never feels boring. However the disappointment is hard to mask, and unless the next two films offer something drastically different, I would be forced to believe what I feared: that Peter Jackson is now Gollum, Tolkien’s literature is his precious, and over the years it has consumed him and turned him into a disillusioned and slightly evil creature that feasts by stealing from your pockets.

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