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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Fantasy (Action)
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 169 minutes
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
A Hobbit and a group of Dwarves must travel to a faraway mountain and reclaim their old kingdom from the grips of an evil dragon.

Almost 10 years have passed since the release of LOTR: The Return of the King, and FINALLY we get to watch the Hobbit. Well, the Hobbit plus some appendices from the LOTR, spread out over three movies because Peter Jackson is a greedy slob. I personally could care less that it is three films, more that people have to pay for three films. The Hobbit is the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (If you do not know what a hobbit is at this point, my god.) It takes place 60 years prior to the Lord of the Rings, and details a very remarkable journey. Bilbo Baggins sets off in the company of Gandalf the wizard, and a group of 13 dwarves. Their task is to retake the Dwarven home of Erebor (Lonely Mountain) from the clutches of an evil dragon.

Nerds everywhere have been super patient in waiting for this film to be released and their patience has been well rewarded. So grab your Sting replicas and your elven cloaks, and revel in the awesomeness of Tolkien, one last time (cough, three times). The movie starts and it doesn’t take long to remember that Peter Jackson is a wizard himself, when recreating Tolkien’s vision of middle earth. The sweeping landscapes and unique buildings of this story, truly immerse you in a world of unparalleled fantasy. We meet a younger looking Bilbo as he enjoys a relaxing morning with the sun on his face and his trusty tobacco pipe in his hand. This unassuming creature is about to have his world turned upside down by the famous wizard, Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf has signed him up as a professional thief and treasure hunter for a perilous journey to the Lonely Mountain. This journey is to reclaim the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor, and also dealing with the dragon that may still live inside. After a long scene where we are introduced to the group of dwarves, we then get to see them laugh and joke at Bilbo’s expense. This opening scene makes one thing perfectly clear, that thing is this film is no Lord of the Rings. This movie with its childish humor and musical interludes is remaining true to the book and offering a more kid friendly atmosphere for the movie. While it is cool to see dwarves cleaning dishes and burping beer, I think it would have been better suited to make the film more adult orientated (Just my opinion.) A slobbering goblin boss is a perfect example of appealing to the kids, gone wrong. It had me cringing as it so reminded me of Boss Nass from the Phantom Menace, but at least Jackson keeps most of the cheesy characters to a minimum in this. It should come as no surprise, but there is LOTS more walking in this movie. The journey to the Lonely Mountain wouldn’t be as interesting if it was easy, so the group faces many deadly obstacles along the way. There are evil creatures at every turn, wishing them harm. Goblins, Orcs, Spiders, Trolls, Wolves, and many other agents of the dark try and waylay the group. They also must travel through torrential downpours and unfamiliar caves to get to their destination. You never know when something may attack them from the dark, and that is half the fun of the film.

There are way too many characters for me to critique so I will just mention my two favorite. The first is Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman. I was wary at first because Bilbo should be played by Ian Holm (Old Bilbo) but the dude got old in real life. It only takes a few moments to realize that my trepidations were stupid. Freeman has an easy way with the Bilbo character without making it cheesy. He seems naturally flustered in all the right spots, and can switch very easily to charming when he needs to. Freeman is a likeable fellow, and it makes this film that much more enjoyable. My second favorite character is Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen. He reprises his role from LOTR, and pretty much ruins all other wizards from other films (with the possible exception of the late Richard Harris, as Dumbledore.). McKellen, should play all wizards from this point on as he is that awesome. McKellen can win the viewer over with his quick wit and grandfatherly presence. He can also win the viewer over with a mischievous smile or the swinging of his sword. It seems impossible not to like this film with him in it. Everyone else ranges from good to superb. There are also many cameos from the LOTR films, that will bring a smile to your face as they appear.

As the film carries on there is much to celebrate. The action sequences see many dead enemies piled up, and lots of goblin heads are separated from their bodies. Plenty of arrows hit home, that would make even Legolas jealous. The viewer is treated to fantastic shot footage of deep caverns and expansive mountains, which makes this film breathtaking at times. The movie sees multiple storylines that are all intertwined. There is the Dwarves quest to reclaim their kingdom, there is the rising evil of a new dark power (The Necromancer), and there is the story of old enemies looking for revenge. No matter what story the viewer is following, they will always be intrigued. Unfortunately, this film runs into its own worst enemy, and that is itself. The LOTR films are masterpieces, and the Hobbit just never gets to the same lofty heights. There are too many scenes of barely made jumps across gaping holes. There are too many falls from great heights, where the characters walk away unscathed. There are too many close calls, where the group just escapes through stupid tactics. And lastly, there is too much uncalled for humor. The film tests the laws of physics and the viewer’s patience at times. As the film comes to it close, it sets up the next film perfectly with plenty of unanswered questions. In conclusion, this film is good but not great. There is lots of action and the film is visually impressive. The characters are all fantastic and the story is sound. The negative is that the film has plenty of down time and more cheesy scenes then I cared to count.

Director Peter Jackson knows his Tolkien material and what his fans want. It is no shock that he put together another solid film. It is so easy to fall under his spell and get lost in his vision of Middle Earth. He does take a lot of liberties with believability, but to be fair, this is more for the kids then adults. The key thing is he nailed all the awesome parts from the book (Finding of the One ring, the three troll meeting) and that his incorporation of the appendices was flawless, if not entirely accurate. The film will never be called fast paced and if he was able to edit better, he easily could have chopped 15 to 30 minutes of screen time.

I give this movie a recommendation and while Bilbo may challenge an old acquaintance to a game of riddles in this, it should be no riddle if you should watch this or not.

T Factor + If you have read the Hobbit and the LOTR appendices then this could score higher on the rating scale.

T Factor – If you do not like films that have long running times then this could score lower on the rating scale.    

If you liked this film reel recommendations: The Harry Potter Franchise, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

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