Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

THE SETUP: Sixty years before the events of Lord of the Rings, a much younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) does pretty much the same thing as his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood)…gets sucked into an adventure he didn’t know he wanted to go on. Just add dwarves.

THE THOUGHTS:  If this were a movie that stood on its own, I’d probably review it differently. For example, if the book or the Lord of the Rings trilogy didn’t exist, I’d have nothing for The Hobbit to measure up to. Unfortunately that isn’t the world we live in. If you’re a big fan of Tolkien, you’re going to love this movie no matter what I say.

What I liked: Director Peter Jackson knows this world. He read about it. He imagined it. He built it. And it looks even more impressive here than in the last series of films. From the mines of the dwarf kingdom, to the home of the elves to the orc caves, it was gorgeously detailed and immersive. As well, the costumes and cinematography blew me away. On top of that, it was great to see some familiar faces return, even if they weren’t overly necessary to the plot. Gollum (Andy Serkis) stole the show in his scene, both in character and in technology. The CGI is leaps in bounds better than it was 10 years ago.

What I didn’t: Didn’t we already see this movie? A hobbit joins Gandalf and a group of warriors for a quest where they walk to a mountain, encountering a ring and a Gollum. Stop me if this isn’t familiar. I understand many will say “but it’s a different story”. OK, sure. But it didn’t feel like it from the first installment. Also, it was long. Unnecessarily so. To milk us movie watchers out of as much money as possible, they are stretching The Hobbit (one book) into three movies. To do this, it felt like there was some extra padding here. Extra shots. Longer than needed conversations. This could have been a much shorter, tighter film. I’m worried it’s going to continue for another two films.

I should clarify; I saw this movie in 24 frames per second (fps) and in 3D. There have been serious complaints about the 48 fps version in that it supposedly looks terrible and cheap due to the unbelievable realistic image. I can’t speak to that, as I didn’t see it that way. I’m very curious though.

3 stars – good movie, take a friend.  Though it feels like we’ve seen it all before and it does push the almost 3 hour boundary, it’s still a fun, familiar place to visit. Is it as good as the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Time will tell. Is it a comfortable return to a world we came to like? Yep. Even an OK Peter Jackson Tolkien movie is still pretty good.

Random Recommendations
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2007) – Martin Freeman (young Bilbo) seems to pop up in some pretty great stuff. The original UK’s The Office and the current SHERLOCK TV series, and the latest version of Douglas Adams’ classic sci-fi story. Life for Arthur Dent (Freeman) sucks, and finding out his BFF is an alien and that Earth is being destroyed to make way for a space freeway isn’t helping.

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