We’re back in Middle Earth, to go for a walk with a bunch of dwarves, a wizard and the titular Hobbit. This time, as opposed to walking to a fire mountain to deposit a gold ring, they are walking to a mountain containing a fire breather to reclaim a gold fortune. This is the Unexpected Journey we were all waiting for, but does this prequel to the Lord Of The Rings movies hold up?

The_Hobbit__An_Unexpected_Journey_74THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Directed by- Peter Jackson
Written by- Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro
Bilbo- Martin Freeman
Gandalf- Ian McKellen
Radagast- Sylvester McCoy
Thorin- Richard Armitage
Bofur- James Nesbitt
Gollum- Andy Serkis

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDnYMbYB-nU?rel=0]

Middle Earth. It is the morning of Bilbo Baggins birthday party, as seen in Fellowship, and he decides to chronicle the complete tale of his youthful adventure for his young nephew Frodo. We are swiftly brought back in to their world, as we are told of the plight of the dwarves, how they lost their gold filled mountain city of Erebor to the vicious dragon Smaug, and we begin the tale of how Bilbo Baggins got caught up in a quest to reclaim it.

A WELCOME RETURN

It is important to say right up front that this movie fits right in with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy: The look; the music; the epic scale; the everything. The whole movie looks amazing. The vast landscapes are still stunning, and the production design is all incredibly impressive, and intricate…as you would expect. It really doesn’t take long for you to get back in to the world of Middle Earth.

There is a lot of good in The Hobbit. As previously mentioned, the film looks amazing. The cast is also very good. Those returning, McKellen, Wood, Weaving, Blanchett etc, slip effortlessly back in to their roles. Golum looks awesome too, with Serkis shining through the pixels, alternating from devious and menacing, to vulnerable and sympathetic. His scenes are amongst the highlights of the film.

The new cast are very good too. Despite there being a dozen different dwarves, they all stand out as individuals, in character, voice and look. The particular stand outs of the movie though are Martin Freeman as Bilbo, and Richard Armitage as dwarf leader Thorin. Freeman is the perfect choice. He IS a hobbit. His facial expressions, intonations and body language are exactly what you would want. Armitage is charismatic and powerful as the dwarf leader.

The music is good throughout, as it always has been in this series. The familiar soaring strains from the LOTR trilogy illicit happy memories, but the score also brings new moods and themes to the movie. The fireside song, sung by the dwarves in Bilbo’s hobbit-hole, is moving and forms the basis for the music heard throughout.

WORLD BUILDING VERSUS STORY TELLING

That being said, the music also highlights one of my main complaints of the movie. It is too long. The fireside song may be touching…but the other songs are pointless and gratuitous. For instance, the plate tossing song is quite annoying. Sure, it establishes the dwarves as a fun loving and coordinated people, but is it not vital to the plot? No. They would have made a nice addition to the Blu-Ray Extended Cut, but are really not necessary in the theatrical version. And this same issue can be brought to other aspects of the movie.

There is a lot in this movie, presumably lifted straight from the book, but how much of it is strictly necessary? Just because it is in the book, does it necessarily have to be in the movie? And on top of that, is there really a need to go looking through the Silmarillion and other Tolkien tomes to find additional material? Probably not. The movie plays a little long…and there are still two movies to go.

The action, while being impressive and fantastical, can sometimes feel a little unnecessary too. The “stone fight” for example looks stone-cold-awesome…but also quite gratuitous. The more epic action scenes are also not as bloody as the LOTR movies, which brings up another issue.

AIMED AT A YOUNGER AUDIENCE

The whole tone of the movie is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the LOTR movies. This movie is definitely more fun, and less weighty, than the Rings movies. This is most evident in the action, and the humour. The humour of the movie is rather silly in places. That is not to say it is not funny, because it is, but it is squarely aimed at a younger audience. It never reaches Jar Jar levels though. The violence, too, is more sanitised. There is a decapitation in one of the battles, and it is played for laughs. That gives you an idea of what to expect. Thing to remember though is that the book was aimed at younger readers, so the tone is in keeping with that.

So… This is a good movie, but not a great movie. It is epic, looks great, and is fun. It also maintains the basic tone and standard of the originals. But it is long, and it never quite reaches the peaks of the originals either. While it is great to return to Middle Earth, some of the spectacle may have lost a little lustre. At the end of the day though, this IS a good movie, and I am still looking forward to seeing what happens next. Smaug!

3.5 stars out of 5.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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The Author

Cathal Ó Míocháin

Cathal Ó Míocháin

What to say...born in the last year of the seventies, the decade of the best music and movies, Cathal's earliest memories are of movies and comics. Star Wars, Batman, Superman and Indiana Jones filled his childhood, and not a whole lot has changed. He lives in Dublin, with his supremely understanding wife. Cathal voice his opinions across the various corners of The IntarWebs: @CatHaloMovies on The Twitter; Cat Halo Movies on The FaceSpace; and on the Major Spoilers Forum, where all manner of opinions are aired by all manner of folk on a wide variety of topics.

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9 Comments

  1. George Mummert
    December 15, 2012 at 11:12 am — Reply

    I can only imagine that the reasoning behind the inclusion of so many “unnecessary” scenes is that Peter Jackson probably has a few regrets about what was not able to be included in the LotR trilogy.

    Cutting entire sections of the books, most notably the entire Tom Bombadil story, had to have seemed like a missed opportunity in hindsight. Middle-earth is one of the few fantasy realms that people are willing to spend an extended period of time immersing themselves in, and many viewers of the original trilogy still feel a tad cheated by what opportunities were missed.

  2. Oldcomicfan
    December 15, 2012 at 7:11 pm — Reply

    Not to be insulting but in my opinion, just having gotten back from the movie, the reviewer is suffering from an anal-cranial inversion. If I had to hazard a guess I would suspect the reviewer has never actually read The Hobbit. The “Chip the dishes, crack the plates” song as well as the Eribor dirge are lifted straight from the original book, and if Peter Jackson hadn’t included them, we would have heard howls of protests just as when he excised Tom Bombadill from LOTR.

    I was worried how Peter Jackson might fit The Hobbit into his vision of LOTR, since The Hobbit was originally a stand alone story and was almost more in keeping with the Chronicles of Narnia than LOTR with its talking animals and silly elves and dwarves. The story is much lighter-hearted than LOTR and contains many modern day references that, I am given to understand, Tolkien later came to regret, such as “like corks from a popgun”. I don’t think all the extra material with Rhadagast and the elves were necessary but they did serve to set the stage for the LOTR trilogy. As for the stone giants, they were a necessary part of the plot – it’s in the book, my friend – and it’s the reason the Company took shelter in the cave.

    Jackson kept in enough of the original silly humor to honor the original story, but also managed to weave in enough material to tie the movie in with LOTR better than the original novel did. May I suggest the boxed set “The History of The Hobbit”? Among with the original version of the story and the final authorized version, this boxed set also presents a few surviving chapters of Tolkien’s aborted 1960 attempt to rewrite The Hobbit in a style and tone to match LOTR. Luckily for Hobbit fans, Tolkien was persuaded to abandon the attempt. The people he showed the first draft told him “It’s a fine story, but it’s not The Hobbit”. What Peter Jackson has done was, more or less, to complete this aborted attempt on Tolkien’s part to rework The Hobbit into a stylistic match for LOTR. I did catch myself, during the movie, reminding myself that all the extras were meant to tie the new films in with the old, and to view it as an interpretation. The new elements did serve to take me out of the movie, which was unfortunate, but I believe I will come to accept the differences over time just as I did with the LOTR films.

    For Tolkien purists, may I recommend the Rankin-Bass animated version of The Hobbit? It’s a more faithful adaptation of the book. I enjoyed Peter Jackson’s version, and I will watch it again. I look forward to the next movies and the day when I will be able to watch them all on DVD in series with the LOTR movies.

    If anybody cares to go back a few years in the Major Spoilers comments, when people were speculating how they could possibly make two movies out of The Hobbit, I believe you’ll find that I predicted, years ago, that the story would be divided after the dwarves made their way to the far side of the Misty Mountains since it was the most logical breaking point in the story. Looks like I was right. Ouch! I think I just sprained my arm, patting myself on the back for Extreme Cleverness.

    Three and a half stars out of five? Fine. I will give it SIX stars out of five. I would NOT take young children to see this movie unless I had first seen it myself, but all in all, it was a fine film, and I didn’t notice any major difference between this movie and any other, though I doubt my small-town theater was showing it in 48 frames a second. I should mention that I saw it in the 2-D version. I could see where some of the flailing weapons, sled jumps and warg leaps were designed to show off the 3-D effects, and I bet the stone giant sequence was awesome in 3-D – but not enough to get me to spring the extra eight bucks to see it in 3-D. Great movie. Don’t let the review above dissuade you from seeing it.

    • December 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm — Reply

      Not to be insulting but in my opinion, just having gotten back from the movie, the reviewer is suffering from an anal-cranial inversion.

      If the intent was not to be insulting, then this comment has sadly failed. It is one thing to have passionate opinions, it is yet another to make a personal attack on someone who doesn’t share them. There’s a reason why we say ‘Mileage varies,’ after all.

      Please note that all comments are moderated and will be removed if deemed inappropriate, as this almost was.

    • Cat Halo
      December 16, 2012 at 6:31 am — Reply

      Your guess was wrong… I have read The Hobbit. Admittedly, it was over twenty years ago, but I did read it. And while I remember enjoying it, i do not have the reverence for this book that you clearly have.
      I reviewed The Hobbit as a movie, not as an adaptation of the book. The movie is good, but long.
      Also, while on the topic, I never read the LOTR books. I got as far as the beloved Tom Bombadill, and went no further. But my lack of familiarity with the source material did not take from my enjoyment of the movies. I love the movies.
      While I do not feel like I should defend my star rating, because as Matthew says “Mileage varies”, I will point out how I view star ratings. 5 Stars- Classic. 4 Stars- Excellent. 3 Stars- Good. 2 Stars- Fair. 1 Star- Tragic. The Hobbit is a good movie, maybe even a very good movie, but it is not excellent, nor is it a classic either. It is a good fun movie, definitely worth seeing, but it is undeniably flawed.

  3. Spiderlover
    December 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm — Reply

    Just got back from seeing the movie. First and foremost the tone is different. If your looking for lord of the rings keep walking. The tone isn’t necessarily child friendly but it has a lighter feel than lotr. I like the songs all but the goblin one. I feel that was better in my head or from that awful cartoon.

    Bilbo doesn’t come. Of as heroic and he isn’t supposed too. However he has some great moments. Freeman and artimage steal the show in my opinion I could understand and relate to artimage’s decision and emotions. Overall I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5. My only knock on this was the distance covered in one movie if this is supposed to be three.

  4. MisterGooey
    December 16, 2012 at 9:33 am — Reply

    I am set to go Sunday the 23rd. My only question: Is it worth watching in the 48 frames? I am not a tech geek and don’t usually care about film speeds, shot angles, what sort of camera they use, etc. Only when the technical aspect is horrible and distracting, do I care. The only technical feats I can think of, that i was impressed with are usually grand shots. The scene in RotK when Gandalf rides on the Pelennor Fields towards Minis Tirith and the shot follows him to reveal the scope of how large the fields and city are, was impressive. The other was the shot in Attack of the Clones when the army is gathered and Obi Wan looked off the balcony to see ll the clones in formation and the republic ships taking off.

    I don’t expect anyone to have seen it twice already, I just wonder if there are any opinions on this.

    I apologize for my diarrhea-of-the-mouth. Sometimes I tend to over-ask a question. My two boys 10 and 2 (not their names) tend to ask a million follow up questions, so I have learned to ask detailed questions.

    I am done now. Thanks in advance.

  5. Sock3263827
    December 17, 2012 at 8:56 am — Reply

    A very good movie. I did not see the problems with Rhadagast the early reviews pointed out – I didn’t find him to be a Jar Jar type, and actually found his childishness to be appropriate to someone who spends that much time with animals. Would NOT take my 8 or 5 year olds to see it – the decapitation played for humour is not the only one in the movie. No worries on nausea – I found Avatar to be rougher than this one. A little, but not bad at all.
    Stone Giants was an awesome scene, worth the slight vertigo it caused.
    Don’t expect LOTR – this is a different book, movie and series.

  6. December 17, 2012 at 9:38 am — Reply

    I loved the movie. Thought it was well done. I saw it in 2d and was perfectly happy with it. Wish 3D would die.

  7. Frank
    December 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm — Reply

    After seeing the movie, my first impression is that was very good, but not quite LOTR – because it was not intended to be LOTR. I would give it a 4.5/5.
    I did not find Radagast annoying but thought the scene would have been better suited for the Extended version.
    As for 3-D, I don’t think it added anything to the movie, though it probably darkened in the underground scenes too much.

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