The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review
Can I just say to start off by saying what a welcome return this movie was to Middle-earth? Despite my concerns about making The Hobbit into three films, and the new technology, I really am glad Peter Jackson returned to make this film.
Why am I glad? Because this fit perfectly with the LOTR trilogy. I could see myself watching The Hobbit movies and then LOTR (well, not really, that’s probably 18 hours of film!) and seeing the same locations, the same, look and the same feel. Well, unless you go HFR, but I’ll talk about that later.
Unlike some prequel movies, oh say, Star Wars, it doesn’t suffer from problems like the fact everything looks so much more advanced even though it’s set years earlier. There’s no obvious change from puppet Yoda to CGI Yoda. Gollum still looks like Gollum, although the technology does allow more of Andy Serkis’ brilliant acting to shine through. It also doesn’t suffer from the need to “make connections” with the other movies. Not to say that Jackson doesn’t do that. There are certainly appearances in An Unexpected Journey that were never shown in the novel, like Galadriel. But these make sense to the story. They don’t feel shoehorned in, and it certainly doesn’t mess with the plot of the later movies.
One thing that has been talked about a great deal is the length of the film. It clocks in at close to three hours, and I understand that, as with the LOTR trilogy, there will be an extended edition with even more footage. This for one of three movies, based on a fairly short children’s novel! As you can imagine, Peter Jackson added a lot to the story. The character of Azog, the Pale Orc, is given a meaty role as the main antagonist. However, it makes sense, because otherwise, the only real antagonist for this portion of the story, is Gollum, and he only appears in one chapter. Having said that, some areas were a little padded. While it is always welcome to see Sylvester McCoy, Radagast the Brown seemed to have more screen time than necessary. Still, even then, I admit I may feel differently once the other Hobbit movies come out, since his fate is left up in the air.
Another concern is the inevitable comparisons to LOTR. I’ve heard some people complain that it is too kiddish and not dark enough, while others complain that it should be a children’s story. Personally, I thought it struck the right balance. No, it isn’t as dark as LOTR. How can it be? It doesn’t have the evil, the heaviness of the ring, and lust for power that comes with it. Still, there are plenty of battles, an evil character in the shape of the Pale Orc, and plenty of adventures which help shape Bilbo into a hero, and isn’t that ultimately what The Hobbit is? It’s a coming of age story for Bilbo- nevermind that Bilbo is actually 50 years old at the time.
And now a quick note about the 48FPS or HFR. That’s the version that I saw, and I quite enjoyed it. Some people have complained about a Keystone Cops effect with HFR, however that wasn’t the case for me. My eyes adjusted very quickly, although it won’t be the same for everyone. The detail was incredible, and I certainly do recommend going to see it in its intended format, if you can. Having said that, you never ever forget that you’re watching HFR and that’s a shame. Rather than taking away a wall, it created an unintended mental wall for me. As interesting as the HFR was, I looked at it like a video game, admiring how real everything looks. That’s not really what you want from a film. So, personally, I can’t wait to be curled up watching the extended edition Blu-Ray in regular, boring, 24FPS 2D. But that’s just my opinion.
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit. True, it was bloated at times, the beginning dragged a little, but once it got going, it really got going., I happen to enjoy the world Tolkien created, and Peter Jackson’s depiction of it. It was good to be back in Middle-earth and I can’t believe we have to wait another year for the next film.