Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been in theaters for a decade already, yet I still felt the need to comment on the nearly-three-hour-long film. Bilbo and his gang of dwarves have been getting a fair-share of flack since the movie’s release and some of that is justified, but some of it isn’t.
As stated by many bloggers and critics alike, having Tolkien’s universe back on the big screen is a huge victory in itself, especially knowing the struggle it took to get this project off the ground. Although Guillermo Del Toro would’ve added a unique perspective to the series, I think Tolkien and Jackson fans alike were happy to see Jackson back in the driver’s seat.
Visually, The Hobbit looked brighter and felt lighter than its predecessors and I loved the different feel to this new series (the book is, after all, more children-oriented). We caught the film in High-Frame-Rate (HFR) 3-D which really added to the allure and experience of the viewing. I always applaud bold filmmaking and Jackson’s insistence that the HFR, a format which captures 48 frames-per-second, would look enticing was an instinct worth following. It really brought 3D to a different level in a way that hadn’t been done since Avatar. The orcs, other villains and action scenes all looked amazing with this new technique.
It goes without saying that Ian McKellen is the perfect Galdolf, yet newcomer Martin Freeman shined bright as well as the lead, Bilbo Baggins. He captured all of the character’s nervous ticks and bouts of bravery splendidly. And that Gollum scene! Andy Serkis delivered another go-for-broke performance as the vile, ring-infatuated creature, and it just may his best yet, even despite Gollum’s short appearance in the film.
At times, The Hobbit felt simply exhaustive, partially because of its 2hr 45min running time, but also because the audience knows that An Unexpected Journey is only part one of three. Two more three hour films!? That doesn’t sound appealing in the remotest sense. The original book is just over 300 pages. Understandably, Jackson is adding in other scenes and appendices from other Tolkien novels, but still. Stretching this tale to three movies is asking for a whole lot of work and commitment from the audience.
Given the long running time, one would think there would be more characterization for the dwarves. We rarely get to see who each dwarf is or what makes them tick. Comparing this to the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings, it’s kind of a jarring disconnect. By fleshing some of those characters out, perhaps the movie wouldn’t have felt so drawn out. If we cared more about the dwarves, maybe the action scenes would’ve even had more of an effect. Hopefully the rest of the movies can make up for this lost ground.
Bottom line: The Hobbit was a refreshing return back to Middle Earth, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as the original trilogy. It was enjoyable though and any Rings fan should see it, but I highly doubt that I’ll be coughing up an addition $30 for the next two rounds. I’ll catch you on Blu-ray, Bilbo.
Grade: B-3D, Andy Serkis, Bilbo Baggins, Gollum, High Frame Rate, Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit