Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast Headliners: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen

Release Date: December 14th, 2012

The Lord of The Rings has reached its conclusion, but that is not the end of this fantasy franchise. Before Frodo set foot upon his quest, there was a novel called The Hobbit. It is a prequel set in the same world but with mostly new characters and a lighter tone. Peter Jackson has an ambitious project on his hands. His goal is to both adapt the book and unite this world with the one he has already shown to cinema. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is for the most part very successful at this.
            The novel on which the film is based is shorter than any of the LOTR ones, and yet it is getting 3 films towards it. Each film covers a part, as the film reaches an indefinite but satisfying conclusion which leaves the viewer yearning for more. It is lucky that, like the first string of Tolkein films, the next ones are not far off. In this movie, the classic core tale has been accompanied by added action sequences and dialogues connecting this story to the larger world of Middle-Earth. The addition of a certain chase involving wolves in grassland is welcome as it adds more action, as does the side plot involving Radagast (a character rarely before seen in Tolkein works.)  Radagast is kookily played by Sylvester Mcoy, who through the power of cinema was able to make the character into a sort of medieval hippie. The plot involving a “Necromancer” is under-explained, but does allow some old friends like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) to appear. 
            As for the main quest, it is brilliant. Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman, is a great character. Bilbo is much more likeable and charming than Frodo ever was, from his early stubbornness to a later bravery and wit. He reluctantly goes along with Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who is just as wise and awesome as the character has previously shown to be. The gang of  dwarves are great as well, there are slight worries at first that they may just be “this movie’s Aragorn and Merry/Pippin and etc”, but soon they each provide distinguishing characteristics. It was a difficult job showing traits of all these characters and make the audience care, but Jackson pulled it off.
 The main difference from Lord of the Rings is that most of the characters are “likeable”, and this goes along with the film (and original book’s) tone. LOTR is a dark medieval epic, whereas The Hobbit is a fun and colorful adventure originally written for children. Because of that there is much humor, but after the original 3 film’s darkness it is a nice change of pace. Luckily, the humor is well written. That’s not to say that there is no action, of which there is plenty. Some have complained about the overuse of CGI, but it looks incredible here. This reviewer personally saw it in IMAX3D at 48 FPS, and it looked stunning. The framerate does indeed look different, but one quickly gets used to it and realizes it makes the film look crisper and modern.  CGI effects, also, are needed for the scale of what takes place in this film. Of particular note is a wrestling match between two mountains (this makes sense when seen) and the penultimate Goblin battle.  Nearly every moment is packed with awe-inspiring thrills. This movie also has the perfect incarnation of Gollum (Andy Serkis), whose role is as impressive, humorous, and frightening as always.
            The Hobbit “Part 1” is not a perfect film. The pace can get slow at times, and the tone is all over the place and a bit wonky because it may seem as if it’s not sure of a target audience. The added details and characters are a semi-drastic change from the original text. It is interesting to see a flashback battle between dwarves and orcs for example, but a character from that who re-appears as a villain is a bit mundane.  Overall however, this movie is exceptional as modern entertainment. Its sense of adventure, great characters, and action set piece make it a must see. Bilbo’s first cinema adventure earns  a 9.35 out of 10.

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