The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey5 Stars

I absolutely loved it.  Every single minute of it.  I had high expectations going in, and I had some fears.  I was worried how stretching the shortest book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth into three movies would work.  Where would “part one” end?  Would things just be dragged out to fill time, since each of these movies will be clocking in at just under three hours?  Would the film feel “bloated”?  After seeing pictures of the dwarves, I wondered if they would be mostly used for comic relief?  Would I get to see it in theatres, or miss it and have to watch it on DVD in a few months?  Fortunately none of these fears came true.

Rather than my usual format of reviewing, I’m just going to run down a list of everything I liked

  • I wasn’t the only one in the theatre after six weeks of release.  I was pleased to see that there were still about 30 to 40 people in attendance Friday night; though that did mean I couldn’t sit anywhere I wanted to.
  • Ian Holm and Elijah Wood.  It was very nice to see them both back for a few minutes to reprise their roles of Frodo and “old Bilbo” from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The Hobbit movies are essentially told as a flashback as old Bilbo writes his memoirs to give to Frodo just before The Fellowship of the Ring begins.
  • Radagast the Brown.  Only mentioned once (I believe) in the novel, mentioned again in Fellowship of the Ring, actually used in The Silmarillion, and absent from the previous Lord of the Rings movies, we get some original material for the character in this movie.  Though many may think his role somewhat as comic relief or padding, he really does help the story.  Here is a wizard friend of Gandalf’s who brings him the news of the threat of the Necromancer, a side quest that Gandalf takes on one of the many times he leaves Thorin and Company during the book.  The Necromancer of course leads directly to the return of Sauron and the future Lord of the Rings books/movies.  Yes it’s original material, but it is interesting, and helps tie all of the Jackson-Tolkien universe together a little tighter.  Also he’s played very nicely by Sylvester McCoy, so I’ve got a Doctor Who link too!
  • Gollum.  Possibly the most important chapter in the book, Riddles in the Dark, Gollum opens the door for the future of Middle Earth in print and on screen.  Andy Serkis may have been even better than he was in The Two Towers; where are this man’s Oscar nominations?  Sadly we rarely get to see his real face on screen in any of his roles, but it was nice to see he was also Second Unit Director, in addition to his acting responsibilities.
  • Time.  I’m not talking about the length of the film, because I’ll tell you, two hours and forty-five minutes is a long time to deal with the weight of the world on your bladder and no pause button.  When I speak of time, I’m just thankful that we haven’t lost any of the main actors from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It would be very hard to recast Gandalf, or any of the leads partway through the series, so I’m glad that once again Peter Jackson shot all three films continuously.
  • The Dwarves.  Yes, they were a little comical, both in action and guise; but the film offered (to me) an excellent explanation for that.  In flashbacks we see battles and Dwarf kingdoms at their height (no pun intended… know, because dwarves are short….); through a a fierce and serious lens. The dwarves in Thorin’s company do not look like the sort to kill a dragon and reclaim a kingdom.  Overweight, old, young and irresponsible, and even hard of hearing, but as Balin put it: they’re toymakers, craftsmen, farmers and fathers, they’re not warriors but they’re the ones who were loyal and the ones who came to answer their King’s call.  It was nice to see them flesh out a bit of personality for some of the dwarves, and I’m sure that those who didn’t get much attention this time out will get their share in the following films.  Balin, played by Ken Stott was my favourite dwarf so far, though Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield was pretty impressive too.
  • Bilbo.  Martin Freeman, was perfect as Bilbo.  Charming, timid, and funny, his character is growing slowly to heroic levels.
  • Peter Jackson.  He obviously cares about the source material and is leaving no page untouched, and even adding a few new ones.
  • Smaug.  I called it!  In my review of the animated Hobbit I said we wouldn’t get to see the dragon this time out, and I was right.  A glimpse here, a shadow there; obscured by smoke and flame; an eye opening; and a shape covered in gold were the only hints we saw of Smaug, excellently building suspense for the next act, though I’m sure that the surprise of what the dragon looks like will be ruined by a toy company or even the movie poster.
  • Singing.  If you read my post on the animated Hobbit a few weeks back, I was crossing my fingers that the songs from the book would be included in the new movie.  I was very pleased that a lot were.  We didn’t get my favourite “Fifteen Birds” song when the company are trapped in the trees by wargs and orcs, but we did get the “Chip the Plates” song at Bag End as the dwarves cleaned up.  These little touches are what make both this movie; and life in general; such a joy for me.  A nice reminder that the world of film need not always be dark.  The Hobbit was not a dark book; it was a fairy tale; it was a gentle story about inner strength, confidence and compassion, and I think having the singing in the movie helps remind us of this.  Oddly, I think the exclusion of songs would have soured me a great deal on the movie.

Filled with action, humour and heart, An Unexpected Journey delivered pretty much everything I wanted from it.  Yes, the 3D was unnecessary; as it is in pretty much every 3D movie; but it didn’t detract like it does for some.  Yes the chases and battles were wholly unrealistic, a team of thirteen dwarves, one wizard and a hobbit would not escape hordes of orcs unscathed, but I can suspend my disbelief for the sake of the story, because it is a fantasy movie in a fantasy world about dwarves, wizards, hobbits, orcs and dragons; and it’s one that I really enjoy.  I still haven’t re-read the book lately, for I fear I may have lost my old copy, but that’s my own doing I suppose.

I can’t wait for The Desolation of Smaug.


Posted on 13-01-27, in 5 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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