|Overstuffed but Hollow||1 out of 1 user found this review helpful.|
Returning to Middle Earth a decade after The Two Towers came out Peter Jackson hasn't lost a step in showing the natural beauty of New Zealand. It is the telling a story and making a movie part that bears rust. The start of this new trilogy based on a work by J. R. R. Tolkien feels a bit like the Star Wars prequel. A couple of great moments but sandwiched by visually beautiful but uninteresting martial, making it feel even longer than the 169 minute run time.
The Hobbit, is a prequel of sorts to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which were translated to the screen by Jackson and Co. a decade ago. A young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is living his normal quaint hobbit life until Gandalf the Grey comes along. Pretty soon his little hobbit hole is filled with dwarves, 13 of them. They have been called together by their King without a kingdom, Thorin Oakenshield.
Years ago the dwarves lived in Erebor aka The Lonely Mountain. Their king, Thorin's grandfather, amassed tons of riches bringing glory to his people. But where there is gold dragons are not far behind. Smaug comes and annihilates many dwarfs, sending them packing into the wilds of Middle Earth. Thorin and his hodgepodge of dwarves aim to take back Erebor and reclaim their homeland. To do that they need a master burglar, who Gandalf says is Bilbo.
Martin Freeman is entertaining as Bilbo Baggins, using his dry humor to sell the awkward hobbit. The same goes for Richard Armitage as Thorin Okansheild, who rightly captures the stubbornness of a dwarf king. Ian McKellen does appear to be a bit stiff as Gandalf in earlier scenes but soon enough is back to his old self. The acting and special effects are not what is wrong with this movie.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of what now will become three films based on the The Hobbit, written by Tolkien in 1937. This is surprising since the original source is roughly 300 pages long. Going in it is hard to separate the fact that this is now one of three instead of one of two. I've never been a fan of splitting a singular work into multiple pieces. It just isn’t how it was originally meant to be consumed. The promise of having every little thing in there might win over the most ardent purists but stopping roughly halfway just feels like you've been shortchanged. When Warner Bros. did it with the seventh book of the Harry Potter franchise it was OK. Part 1 is a interesting enough road film but on its own it does not work when compared to The Prisoner of Azkaban or the other films. The same is true for An Unexpected Journey.
In order to get enough material Peter Jackson has grafted onto the Hobbit a story involving another wizard, Radagast the Brown. In an effort to explain what exactly Gandalf was up too when he was away from the company of Dwarves. There is foreshadowing to a showdown with a unnamed necromancer but nothing really comes of it and stands out as something that feels completely unnecessary in adapting the story of The Hobbit. The only upside is audiences get to return to Rivendell and see a couple of cameos. The original material from the book is entertaining and among the better parts of the movie. The additions all stick out like a sore thumb. In function it just pads the running time of The Hobbit
The moments with Radagast takes away from characterizing the 13 dwarves, the actual important characters. By the end of it I could vaguely pick out a couple like Thorin, Dwalin, and Balin. The rest of the dwarven names string together well enough but the odds of being picked out of a line up are slim. This is further exacerbated by poor action staging where everyone but a few manage to stand out. There is the dwarf with a bow along with Dawlin and Thorin that get a chance to shine. The rest just make for a homogenous mass of draves killing things.
Since The Hobbit is more in line with a younger fantasy novel than the darker Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson dose add bright fantasy to Middle Earth. Everything is brighter and also more recognizably fake with long sequences of CG set pieces that were entertaining but never engaged. Further adding to the whimsy is the use of songs and the telling of stories. This is how all the drawven backstory and the movie itself is being told. These tales do not last for very long dropping them after the first act. If the Radagast segments had been Gandalf telling a tale in the fashion of the Canterbury Tales than perhaps it would've felt better.
This movie simply goes on for too long and has no dramatic push or sense of urgency, even when they create a deadline. It all just happens scene to scene. By the time the big ending set piece happens I was more ready for it to just be over with than excited to see a Company of Dwarves along with a Wizard fight 1000s goblins all at once.
This is the first of three movies. A lot of exposition had to be done, which actually proves to be kind of interesting. As a road film there is little cohesion to the episodes, some of which just drag. Returning to Middle Earth was a visual treat, it would be extremely hard for Jackson and Weta to mess that part up. On the other side though it feels like my time has been wasted. The second and third films, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again could be a major improvement over this. On its own An Unexpected Journey just isn't worth seeing until The Desolation of Smaug is nearing release.
The Hobbit Production Diary 6: More Location Shooting!
The Hobbit's epic 250-day shoot continues apace, but Peter Jackson & Andy Serkis still have time to show off the majestic climes of New Zealand for us.
The Hobbit Production Diary 5: Location Shooting
Set of The Hobbit, or renaissance fair? You be the judge.
Trailer: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Have you heard of this movie? I'm not sure what it's about. I think it's a documentary about little people in New Zealand.
Behind The Scenes On The Hobbit: Middle-Earth In 3D
Peter Jackson lovingly fondles around three million dollars in cameras in this look at the ongoing filming. But some of them are named for dogs, so I can't blame him.
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