The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review
The grand and magical world Peter Jackson once brought to us with his astonishing adaptation of The Lord of the Ring trilogy is now expanding it starting with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Many disputes went on the subject before its release due to its technical breakthroughs and its story being divided over three films. Having set my prejudices aside and ignoring most skepticism built around it, you will find that An Unexpected Journey delivers once more the gasp and awe we have known to love from Jackson’s mind-blowing universe.
As many of you already may know, An Unexpected Journey tells the story of Bilbo Baggins’ (Martin Freeman) quiet and mundane hobbit-life, suddenly interrupted by a gang of very lively dwarves. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) suggests bringing Bilbo with them on their quest to reclaim their home, the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, from the fearful dragon Smaug.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” is the first sentence you would remember reading from The Hobbit, and while the movie starts with much more background fillers and story twists, it is though how Bilbo’s adventure starts. Keeping the story very faithful to its original source material, the flick adds a couple of new plot points here and there to plump-up an already-established story, in order to keep the audience entertained, but the nostalgia effect is still in place and is effective right as the movie starts.
While little changes were made, they actually made lots of sense giving the movie a much more open view of a story that would be too linear or slow to tell. We see how series of event unfold before the camera instead of learning them when later on without much background story, making the characters and their environments a richer and more fluent narrative.
The one big dispute over fans of the franchise was trying to understand why the hell would the shortest of the Tolkien’s book would be divided into three movies, and long ones too. To tell the truth, my main fear was that I was not going to be able to enjoy it due to the stated reason, because how could they tell such a short story and make it last longer than all previous movies. That said and fear confronted, I do not resent Jackson for doing so (even though we all know why he wants to make it longer—“money sounds”) since it does hold up. It does go by the story in every little detail it was once told and distributes the course of actions very evenly so you won’t feel it stretched-out. They took the liberty to add that Thorin had a quarrel with a white goblin, so he can have a real-time antagonist, adding more depth and backdrop to the character. Like so, there are a few new things but nothing that will change to core spirit or original story drastically.
The difficult task for properly reaching the movie’s true potential was to include over 15 protagonists and having them carry the story all at once, but it was so well orchestrated that the screen barely felt overcrowded. Of course, a lot of the dwarves had little to no lines at all, but I don’t think it would have been necessary to include more with what they had, giving the amount of dialogue they added to explain the stories in parallel to the dwarves’.
The screen-time between the cast is well-distributed, and since it stays close to the book, Freeman has slightly more dialogue than any other character because, like the book, the story is centric around the dwarves’ history and their path to a journey’s end first, next to Bilbo’s new side to come. Freeman, with little dialogue as he had, was still able to steal the show by portraying a very likeable and faithful Bilbo by mimicking the reluctance, clumsiness and kind-hearted we all imagined once back. It’s also great seeing a lot of the cast from the previous trilogy back to life, such as Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and a short glimpse at Frodo (Elijah Wood).
The computer-generated scenes were a bit of a bummer, knowing it could’ve look better with animatronics or just more of that make-up magic, but the one thing that truly didn’t disappoint was the great Andy Serkis, playing Gollum. The facial recognition and realistic textures on Gollum’s character is just phenomenal to say the least. Not being a big fan of computer-generated creatures, Gollum would be my only exception. Not only does he look a thousand times more jaw-dropping than before, but it makes LOTR’s Gollum look like crap. The technical advancements we have so far made the riddle scene between Bilbo and Gollum one of the most memorable and exhilarating part of the movie altogether.
The cinematography, thing being a Peter Jackson film, is splendid and breath-taking. Once again shot in the majestic scenery of New Zealand, The Hobbit blows away the entire time. Not having seen the film in 48 fps, I can say that it looks just awesome in 24 fps, which is probably how most people will see it anyways, so I wouldn’t spend the extra cash on seeing it twice just to compare. It also retains a lot of that magical atmosphere Fellowship was able to transpose, but of course, not being a dark start for this first installment, it did a very good job at balancing it. Of course, this hobbit’s tale is not as grandiose as the rest of the LOTR movies, and so making it hard to compare one another.
For any Middle-Earth fans, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will have enough to satisfy you, without a doubt. It’s quirky, but also grim at times, and makes good use of its actors without overshadowing the story as a whole. The feel of the movie is just extraordinary, but of course makes it hard to compare to its predecessors given the grand-appeal of their respective story-lines. Packed with wits and awes, An Unexpected Journey will please just about anyone who is ready for an adventure at the movies.
Theatrical release date: December 14, 2012
Director: Peter Jackson
Run time: 169 minutes