‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ (2012) is an unexpected joyride.

6 Jan

The Hobbit-An Unexpected Journey posterThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a film for Tolkien fans. Lets get that out there, because this movie is aimed at the appendix-reading fantasy fiction heads than the Lord of the Rings trilogy was. For the disciples of Tolkien, this film is a wonderfully detailed and elaborate retelling of his first novel. For the casual movie-goer, it is an exciting if overlong series of battle sequences which ends far too abruptly.

This film acts less as a direct prequel, and more as a provider of backstory for the previous Jackson trilogy. Bilbo Baggins, the adoptive father-figure of Frodo’s from the Lord of the Rings, is hesitantly persuaded to join a group of dwarves (featuring a return of Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey wizard) in a quest to reclaim their stolen mountain fortress from the dragon Smaug. Cue battles with orcs, trolls and goblins galore as the group ploughs on in its lofty plight.

Seeing as the novel is a mere 300 pages, which is shorter than any individual part of the Lord of the Rings saga, dragging the film out to not only the three hour mark, but also making it the first part of a trilogy, seems like a major stretch. Various plot lines were pulled from the assorted appendices and lore of Middle-Earth’s history, so it’s all Tolkien’s work. But the narrative unquestionably suffers as a result of this padding. The movie goes off on so many tangents; scenes with Radagast the Brown wizard are awesome in their own right, but are so removed from the main plot that they just feel tacked on and unnecessary.

The acting, scenery and music is all as immaculate as one would come to expect. Howard Shore returns to conduct another beautiful score, and Jackson returns to his home of New Zealand, its rolling hills and snow-capped mountains providing the perfect fantasy backdrop. Martin Freeman plays an excellent younger Bilbo, and Ian McKellen is as reliably amazing as ever. Several major characters from the last trilogy return, though their presence is justified, and are not mere cash-grabbing cameos.

That being said, however, I still didn’t enjoy this film nearly as much as any of the Lord of the Rings movies. Now I know that this is the first of a trilogy, and so a dramatic arc needs to be established. But I adored The Fellowship of the Ring on its own, simply because it functions well as a standalone movie. Sure it ends on a cliffhanger, but it knows when to stop. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey just ends so abruptly and, to quote the title, unexpectedly. The Fellowship of the Ring was about forming the fellowship, which it showed. This starts the “unexpected journey”, but doesn’t finish it.

I had the luck of catching this film not only in good ol’ 2D, but also in the regular frame rate. I haven’t read a single positive review for the 48FPS version of the film anywhere, apparently it makes the experience more akin to watching a badly made video game. I’m told that the 3D isn’t as dark as most other movies, but contains that awfully tacky gimmick of throwing swords, arrows etc. at the audience just for the sake of it. I’d recommend seeing this the same way I did.

In short, if you’re a fan of Tolkien’s work then I heartily recommend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as its attention to specifics and detail should enthral you. However, if reading simply isn’t your thing, then maybe you should check out something a little shorter, and perhaps a bit more concise.

Simon says: fool of a Took!


2 Responses to “‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ (2012) is an unexpected joyride.”

  1. CMrok93 January 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    If you’re not a LOTR fan, you might not like this movie though. I can’t wait for the next two movies, but God forbid they end up like the Star Wars prequels. Nice review.

    • Simon Mernagh January 7, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

      If you’re not a LOTR fan, you almost certainly won’t like this. Unless you’ve some crazy bias against the LOTR trilogy for some odd reason, I can’t think of a single person who’d love this and dislike LOTR. Thanks for your feedback dude, much appreciated! 😀

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