The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 169min - PG-13
I went to see this movie on Monday of last week and I just got out of the theater to write this review. It’s that long. Let's be clear on my feelings for this movie. I truly enjoyed the incredibly long, long ride. It takes liberties with the story much like the last films, but I enjoyed them. There were a few parts I didn’t care for but I am going to talk about them in the spoiler section. For its length and its use of a higher frames per second incorporated with the 3D presentation I say it is a win. This movie gets a green light from me. Yes it’s a long film, yes Peter Jackson is very proud of the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand, AND yes he is a good storyteller.
This movie starts off right at the morning of Bilbo Baggins's eleventy-first birthday party. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is working on his story and Frodo (Elijah Wood) is still young and unaware of the massive quest that awaits him. Bilbo reflects on all of the history surrounding his journey. This story is told in correct order instead of the information we gather along the way we see the historical events before Bilbo’s journey even begins. I usually go into a breakdown of the film and only talk about the highlight that on might see in the trailer. This time there is so much other stuff that I can’t spend the time talking about it. A good way to explain it is with this example from the book. When Bilbo and the dwarves meet back up after they are separated by the Goblin ambush, Bilbo says he burgled his way out, the dwarves say they had to fight their way out. We see both sides of the story and that’s what takes up a lot of time. When Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is off doing Wizardly things we see what he is doing
Andy Serkis brings Gollum back to life and does a wonderful job with his vocal and physical acting is outstanding. I know they put him in a suit and his actions are what we see with the Gollum body. We see him a lot more menacing this time around. He is still broken into two parts, but the evil part of him is far more powerful and extremely creepy. However the scene where Bilbo spares him is a very well done scene.
The company of Dwarves is great casting. All of them seem to be perfect fits. The one that stands out has to be Thorin (Richard Armitage). He does a good job of balancing the stubbornness with the wisdom of a kingdomless prince. He does have a kingly air about him. The other honorable mentions are Balin (Ken Scott), Fili (Dean O’gorman) and Kili (Aidan Turner). The rest of the dwarves kind of blend together. I felt like Gandalf trying to keep track of them in a fight or while they moved or any time they were together really.
Peter Jackson made a few changes to the format of 3D and using 48 Frames per second. This gave the movie a more lifelike feel. In some of the better crafted scenes this was great it was like watching a play, but the down side was that at times it was very apparent that this was a mixture of CGI and real life. When the screen is more lifelike it’s harder to blend the two and it was a bit distracting at times.
With the additional elements in the story they broke the arch off at a great point. I think this is set itself apart for the previous versions of the Hobbit; Peter Jackson makes the story his own. I weighed the length against the quality and say it’s a good trade off and look forward to the other installments.
Ok, I have a problem with Radagast (Sylvester McCoy). He was a very long walk for at least this point in the story, very little payoff. I know he is the one who warns us of the evil that is rising but he was incredibly distracting, I could not take my eyes off the cackling of bird crap that was on his face. Every scene he was in I could not pay attention to what was going because of the facial decoration.
There is a lot of walking in this movie, at every turn the dwarves and hobbit are running there stubby legs across the New Zealand country side. Don’t get me wrong it’s beautiful countryside but there could have been some cuts made there. The journey does not take Gandalf as long actually he is taller…I mean a wizard, he moves magically.
Azog (Manu Bennett) the albino orc is a bit of a stretch to include in this picture. I can see where you would add him but not as a requirement for this film. It was again something that could have been removed and not harmed the story any.
My parting thought is what do you think the motivation for breaking it into three films was? Money grab? Overly long story telling? Or has Peter Jackson become so powerful that no one tells him no