MOVIE REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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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

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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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