Film Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

January 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sweeping landscapes, a journey of adventure, and eagles saving the day. No, I’m not talking about the Lord of the Rings, but it’s prequel, the recently movie-adapted, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Tolkien’s first foray into Middle Earth has finally come to the big screen, thanks to Peter Jackson, in a massive two hour and forty-nine minute spectacular – to be followed by (I’m sure) equally lengthy Parts Two and Three.

The movie tells the story of how unadventurous hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Frodo’s uncle) ends up on the adventure of a lifetime, risking life and limb to recover stolen dwarf gold from the fierce dragon, Smaug. Well, An Unexpected Journey tells part of that tale (six chapters to be precise). The rest is yet to come.

The Good

What struck me the most while watching the movie unfold were the similarities and subtle (or not so subtle) references to the Rings trilogy. Unsurprising, of course, given that Tolkien wrote both and Jackson has directed both.

Frodo’s appearance in the beginning brought an immediate smile to my face, and I cannot wait to see how the third movie ends to tie-in with the beginning of Fellowship. Certain scenes were reminiscent of Rings – their escape through the Great Goblins’ caves immediately bring to mind the Fellowship’s run through Moria.

My biggest love of the movie – partly for it’s sheer beauty and partly because it just took me right back to Middle Earth from the outset – was the score. Howard Shaw is, without a doubt in my mind, a musical genius.

The score does what all movie music should, adds and heightens to the emotions being played out visually – whether it’s whimsy, adventure, tension or melancholy. Just listen to the dwarves’ (led by Richard Armitage, who plays Théoden) haunting ‘Over the Misty Mountains’ and you’ll understand.

The Bad

Now, in case you hadn’t picked up on it yet, I’m a fan of Jackson’s interpretation. But like all fans, there are things that irked me. Namely, the Great Goblin. From the CGI, which seemed to be taking a step backwards, not forwards, to the overall depiction.

In the book he comes across as a bit of a bully and menacing in a way that doesn’t intend to frighten children (Tolkien wrote The Hobbit for his children), while in the movie he comes across as a bit of a farce. Aiming for hilarity, and unfortunately falling short.

Another, minor thing, that bugged me was how the appearance of the goblins has changed from the Rings to the Hobbit. Whether it’s down to different people involved in the CGI production or because technology has improved vastly over the past ten years (or both), it bothered me that those changes had occurred. Given that both are centred in Middle Earth I’d have liked to see some continuity in the appearance of the creatures.

The Verdict

But what about the length? What about the fact that a less than 300-page book is being split into three movies? What about the additional scenes? While I can understand some of the criticisms about these very things, in all honesty they don’t bother me that much.

I do think that stretching it to three movies may not be the wisest move in the word, and as a consequence there is – and will be – a lot of material not in the book incorporated into the movies to pad it out. But that’s where you’ve got to keep in mind that it is an adaptation, not a direct, line for line, representation of the book.

When it comes down to it, the Hobbit on screen is one man’s vision of how the book should come to life. It’s not going to please everyone, nor should it. Good movies aren’t necessarily the ones liked by every single person; they’re the ones that provoke discussion and debate.

And because (like it or not) this is now a three-part adaptation, overall judgement should be reserved until 2014 when the entire thing has been screened and seen.

So, will I be heading back to the cinemas this December for The Desolation of Smaug? You know I will.

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