Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

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Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Empty Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Post by Deviss on Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:00 pm

"Loyalty... honor... a willing heart... I can ask no more than that."

  • Story: Four and a half Stars
  • Acting: Four and a half Stars
  • Directing: Four Stars
  • Visuals: Four Stars
  • Overall: Four Stars

If you had told me nine years ago after the release of "The Return of the King" that Peter Jackson would return once again and adapt J.R.R. Tolkien's precursor novel "The Hobbit" to film, I would've brushed it off as nothing more than a fan's abject desire. Then again, being only eleven years old I probably wouldn't have cared either way. However, in months since it was first announced, through potential bankruptcy, rampant set fires, and loosing its original director, the theatrical release of the first installment has finally managed to come about. But was it everything we'd hoped it would be?


It is the day of Bilbo Baggins' (Ian Holm) one hundred and eleventh birthday and after a brief visit from Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) Bilbo decides to recount the adventure that he took part in many years ago in full. After unexpectedly meeting the "wandering hermit" Gandalf (Ian McKellen) Bilbo is soon set upon by a company of thirteen Dwarves, led by the brooding Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Initially reluctant to be swept up in the Dwarves' quest, Bilbo soon succ*mbs to the temptation of adventure and joins Thorin, Gandalf, and the other Dwarves in their quest to retake the long-since lost Dwarven kingdom of Erebor. But retaking "The Lonely Mountain" will be no easy task, because the dreaded dragon Smaug has taken the Dwarven kingdom and guards its hidden riches ferociously.

The last time I had touched my copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" was so long ago that I couldn't begin to guess. I've had all four of Tolkien's books sitting on a bookshelf in my room for years and attempted to read "The Fellowship of the Ring" but was unable to "get into it". However, I do still remember being young and having "The Hobbit" read to me by my mother, so I've had a general understanding of what happens in Tolkien's first novel. The one aspect I still remember is how much shorter it is compared to any of the "Rings" installments. I know for a fact that there are more dedicated fans of Tolkien than I am, but from the hardcore fans to the newcomers, when the announcement came that Tolkien's modest first novel would be adapted into three, count 'em, separate movies every one of us was concerned.

As wild as those fears might have been (perhaps worse now), director Peter Jackson hasn't failed in taking us back to the wondrous place that is Middle-Earth he has succeeded. It wasn't a total success however; drawing on nearly every available resource to put some more meat on this passable bone and presenting us with such an overabundance of CGI that one would think they were watching 2009's "Avatar". Thankfully it wasn't egregiously done, but it was more than obvious at times. Specifically with the film's antagonists.

One of the best parts of each "Rings" film was the presentation of the Orcs and Uruk-hai. The actors that portrayed them wore fantastic prosthetics and make-up, not a smattering of CGI tracking dots. I knew going in to "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" that, for myself, the CGI was going to be an issue and as the film played out, while they looked "cool", the Wargs, Orcs, Azog, and the Goblins (ugh) were wholly disappointing. Out of everything, the worst part was the Goblins. I'm not sure if this was Guillermo del Toro's lasting touch, or is Jackson was simply too lazy, but the Goblins were poorly done. I wanted the same skittering, fierce, and shrieking Goblins we saw in 2001's "The Fellowship of the Ring" even though that wasn't what we were given.

That complaint aside, everything else that was presented in this first installment was just as fun as "Fellowship". This film even mirrored "Fellowship" in some cases, but it wasn't a carbon copy. One particular example was Gandalf and his "nuggets" of advice. Whether sitting down with Bilbo early on or muttering angrily to Thorin, by the end of the film those lines rang true. As those moments came and went, I was almost cringing in expectation of a flashback or a superimposition of Gandalf repeating that particular line. Thankfully that never came to pass.

Ian McKellen, as well as Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, and Christopher Lee, was pitch perfect as the unassuming yet noble wizard. As each of their respective characters came onto the screen it was like putting on an old, familiar glove; welcomed, enjoyable, and engaging. Cate Blanchett was ethereal in her time as Galadriel and in one standout scene it seemed as if she and Gandalf might've had something special many years ago. Even though I doubt it will be expanded upon in the following two films, it was a nice thing to see. Mr. Serkis was fantastic as the twisted once-Hobbit Gollum. The riddle sequence was absolute fun, as was Gollum's reactions and Serkis' performance. When Gollum lost "his precious" I almost felt sorry for him.

The cast of Dwarves... they were quite a merry gathering indeed. Not very many of them stood out to me, which is both unfortunate and expected given the fact that there are thirteen of them. They each had their respective moments, some joined together with one or two others, but the only characters that stood out were Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, and, of course, Thorin Oakenshield. It has been said that Richard Armitage's Thorin was "the new Aragorn". While it was understandable how that could be seen, Aragorn never had the sense of purpose until "Return of the King". Thorin has it in abundance and the reasons why were interestingly given through flashbacks of Dwarven history. Although I was surprised at how gruesome those flashbacks got, especially since "The Hobbit" is much lighter than "The Lord of the Rings".

A particular standout of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was Howard Shore’s exemplary score. From the quieter, more personal moments to the all-out, blade-swinging action scenes, Howard Shore’s work was continuously felt. My favorite part by far was the quiet, thought-filled scene in which all of Thorin’s company is sitting by the fireplace and Thorin begins singing “Over the Misty Mountains Cold”. I’m not ashamed to say that I sang right along with them.

Once everything was said and done and the credits began to roll in front of my eyes, this first journey back to Middle-Earth was quite enjoyable. The scenery has never been better, even with Jackson's characteristic long, sweeping shots. From the vast underground city of Erebor to the stunningly beautiful Rivendell, everything was well done. Two very important things that I'm still biting my nails to see is how Jackson presents Smaug the Terrible and the Battle of Five Armies. Even though we were given the brief glimpse here and there, we never see much of the fierce dragon but that will be taken care of next year in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". Gee... I wonder what will happen in that film.

Here's to this time next year and venturing, once again, into Middle-Earth.

This was a review by tMG, thank you kindly for the read.

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Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Empty Re: Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Post by Tempest on Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:42 pm

Good stuff! One thing that bugged me was the fact that the eagle's never spoke. There was a lengthy conversation with them in the book. If we can have the hokey speaking trolls, then I can have my talking eagles!

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