The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro

I must begin this review in a manner to alert my readers to my status. It is not too often that this type of disclaimer be required on a film review, though I did a similar thing earlier in the year with my review of Skyfall, though that was of much a different sort. The Lord of the Rings is massively popular, both as literature and, in our times, perhaps even more so as a fames film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson that won something close to about a gazillion Academy Awards. I am not an LoTR fanatic, though I do very much enjoy the series. I have also never read any of the books, The Hobbit included. So when I saw this film, it was not through fanboy eyes, nor with any preconceived expectations based on the book.

The Hobbit is the tale Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the father of Frodo (Elijah Wood), who, in years to come, would embark on an adventure involving a ring. This is very much the prelude to that grand adventure, but before Frodo, there was Bilbo. Selected by Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) to becomes the 14th member of a group of Dwarves, even though himself a hobbit, Bilbo leaves the comfort and normal of The Shire to help the Dwarves reclaim their homeland, The Lonely Mountain, which has been occupied for many years since a dragon came to claim the large amount of gold as his own. But signs have been popping up to suggest the dragon may be gone, and the Dwarf clan aim to reclaim what once was theirs.

For those who are fans of the series, I fully expect that this film will please. It appears, in every facet, to be more of the same from Peter Jackson and team. As such, I felt a little unenthusaed by it, which may prove a difficult emotion to explain given the circumstances. Let us start with the technical perspective, as that is perhaps where in lies the greatest aspect of the series, and this film in particular. The special effects are a lock to get another Oscar nod for the series, and more than likely a win. They are stunningly beautiful and extremely well done. The cinematography, production design, etc. are also top notch. When Jackson and his crew set out to create the world of Middle Earth they go full bore and leave nothing out of the equation.

Which brings me to the brilliance of Peter Jackson: his ability to create and imagine such a world and place his characters right in the middle of it where they seem to have been at home for so long. Peter Jackson had to continue directing the series. He is so comfortable here that it is hard to imagine another’s attempt to recreate what he has already so wonderfully built. But that also had me a bit ho hum about seeing this film. I have seen it three times prior, it is more of the same, which is great, but it also seems as though there are no new thoughts brought to the table. A small irk in the grand scheme when I consider the original thought to be so brilliant. But my true gripe of the film is that it seems to want too much of itself. There are too many sequences that seem about twice as long as would be necessary, something I found unattractive about the original trilogy as well.

“Every good story deserves embellishment,” or so says the film. Well, it at least lives up to that motto. It is certainly embellished, which was one of the detractions for me, but the other half of that quote also says that it is a good story, which is very much is. The story may be better than the LoTR trilogy, and is told with great humor and poise from the cast. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is superior to Wood’s Frodo. He seems more likable and adventurous, more endearing and relatable. The Dwarves are a fun bunch as well, creating laughs and at the same time heart felt compassion for their plight. I enjoyed the journey as much as any other, perhaps more so. If only they could find a way to trim it down around the edges and make it not seem so self-indulgent at times.

***1/2 – Great


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