The Hobbit is basically mandatory viewing for any fans of Lord of the Rings and probably any fan of fantasy. So far, the reviews for the Hobbit are not the overwhelmingly positive reviews that the Lord of the Rings trilogy enjoyed, with some people criticizing its pacing and the strange effect that is created by filming the movie in 48 frames per second. I suspect that this movie suffers most from not being Lord of the Rings and if it had come out before the Lord of the Rings movies it would have been better received. As it stands, the Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey,as good as it may be, will be perceived by most as just an inferior sequel.
I’ll start off by saying, I was probably seeing the entire thing through rose coloured lenses. I'm too much of a geek to not be in love with this movie. And I can't really see this movie as 'inferior', but rather just different. It's not trying to be a dark, intense apocalyptic tale. It's just a fun adventure. That being said, I think I understand the criticisms about the length and pacing of the movie. Think about it, this was supposed to be one movie originally. No one complained. Except studio executives I guess, who saw dollar signs and decided to turn the Hobbit, based on one book, into two movies. Alright, alright, it’s a business they want to double dip. Can’t fault them for that. Then a month later they decided to go for broke and turn the Hobbit, one children’s book, into an astounding 3 movies which will probably be about 3 hours each.
|"I have to be in how many of these movies? The first one is almost 3 hours long!?"|
That my friends is gratuitous. The episodic nature of the books translates to a movie where you almost feel like, they could have ended it anywhere after the two-hour mark and had the same effect as it did after 3. After our heroes leave the Shire they go on one adventure after another until the movie seems to arbitrarily stop with them looking at their ultimate destination, the Lonely Mountain. I also got the feeling that the movie had a lot of trouble getting off the ground. It starts off way slow with old Bilbo, played by Ian Holm narrating his life story. As if that's not enough,Elijah Wood as Frodo shows up to add some more padding to the movie. Knowing that you have almost 3 hours ahead of you you find yourself asking, "Why? Why Elijah Wood? Why a flashback scene? Can we just get to the point? Or do we need to make sure there is enough material for 3 movies?"
The slow narration brings us to Martin Freeman, a younger Bilbo Baggins, languidly smoking a pipe when Ian McKellen shows up as Gandalf. What follows is a long but rather long but enjoyable introduction of the 13 dwarves, who recruit Bilbo on their quest to recover their gold from the dragon Smaug. Now here is where I prefer the Hobbit over the Lord of the Rings. Despite having so many characters introduced all at once in one scene, I find most of them to be far more interesting than the characters in Lord of the Rings. Most of the characters in Lord of the Rings are these weird, other-worldy, sometimes alienating archetypes. The dwarves who are central to this story have had their home taken from them by the evil dragon Smaug. To fit into the world we’re told they have been forced to take jobs as craftsmen and merchants. Something about their lost home really resonated with me. Still, despite their tragic history, they can still turn around and party, without seeming impish and bizarre like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. In short, I love the dwarves.
I find Martin Freeman's Bilbo to be a more compelling protagonist than Frodo. He just seems like he's a more decisive character, making choices based on compassion and a desire for adventure. Frodo seemed to have been forced on his journey and is constantly overwhelmed, tormented and broken. That's no fun. I loved the grim and almost bitter character of Thorin Oakenshield played by Richard Armitage. And even though the dwarves are mostly site gags, the scene where they intrude on Bilbo's home manages to hit a wide range of emotions from the dwarves. For those who know the story of the Hobbit, it starts off when a company of dwarves crash Bilbo’s house and start partying, tracking mud all over his house and eating all of his food. They’re singing and partying but when their leader Thorin finally shows up, the scene immediately becomes heavy and reverent. I was enthralled by the dwarves singing Over the Misty Mountains Cold, a lament over their lost home. It was kind of touching.
After that you feel like there are a few slow unnecessary scenes. Where the Hobbit novel is a brisk tale about Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit movie is a meandering epic about the Hobbit, a bunch of dwarves, surprise cameos from the other movies and some pot smoking, hippy wizard named Radagast who rides a sleigh pulled by rabbits (the rabbits must be jacked up on steroids or something). It's not as focused and I think the movie would have had more of a punch if it was centered on Bilbo rather than 3-4 characters at once. Of course, if you know who Radagast is (and have his Middle Earth customizable card game card…which I do), then you may not mind the added detail.
I wondered if the over the top cartoonish action scenes would be off-putting to some. I liked them. To compare this to Lord of the Rings, I would say that although the Hobbit can hit a few dark notes from time to time, overall it’s a funner, lighter adventure than the often morose Lord of the Rings. I can’t write this review without mentioning the fantastic job they did with the Riddles in the Dark chapter from the book which is of course where Bilbo meets Gollum. Again, Andy Serkis is just brilliant as Gollum in a scene that’s funny, scary and sometimes sad. That scene had everything I love most about this movie, namely its ability to hit all those emotional notes without betraying the tone of the story which never strays too far from being a light-hearted adventure.
Concerning the 48 fps. Well, have you ever been watching a blu ray, or a movie in the theater and thought to yourself, “Man, I wish the frame rate was faster!” Of course not, but clearly the same people who would try and make 3 movies out of 1 book, would also be very interested in introducing a new gimmick to sell their movies. This is that gimmick that no one asked for, 48fps! I found the faster frame rate little strange. It makes the movie look like it’s being sped up. You would have to see it to get the full impression, but it is noticeable. Allegedly, this faster frame rate is supposed to make the 3D effects easier to swallow. Now I am a person who likes 3D movies when done properly. This year I saw Men in Black 3 and Prometheus in 3D and thought those movies looked amazing. The main reason is, 3D glasses normally make a movie look dark, so the movie itself has to be projected brighter than a normal movie would. For the movies I just mentioned everything seemed bright enough that you can enjoy the 3D effects without losing the colour and detail of the picture. I also saw the Amazing Spiderman in 3D and didn’t think it looked so good at all. Everything was too dark and the movie ended up looking like crap.
|This looked awesome in 3D.|
Whatever the format, if you’re a fan of fantasy, you’re going to see this movie at some point. You might need a little bit of caffeine to carry you through the somewhat bloated 3 hours, but it seems you’ve already read this review so you are already an expert on ‘bloated’. As a fan of fantasy, seeing orcs battle dwarves, seeing wizards throw fire balls at wolf monsters, seeing a dragon sleeping under a mountain of gold made my inner kid go crazy. The Hobbit is a welcome addition to the world of Middle Earth. It is different enough in tone and atmosphere to not feel like a tedious repeat of what we've already seen and fun enough that I will definitely be seeing it again, while I eagerly await sequels.
4.5 steroid enhanced rabbits out of 5.