- Special Features
The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyDirector: Peter Jackson Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, and Guillermo Del Toro Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aiden Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy Original Music: Howard Shore Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
When they made the announcement that a movie adaptation of The Hobbit was going to be made, I could barely contain my joy. I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so much so that I had jumped into the world of Middle Earth wholeheartedly after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring. I read J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece and fell in love with the strange company of dwarves, elves, wizards, and hobbits. While I found the three books attached to the Lord of the Rings a little slow to read, I flew through The Hobbit. It was a wonderful adventure tale full of action, courage, and laughs that had me mesmerized. And through all the production delays and director changes (the original director was going to be Guillermo Del Toro but Peter Jackson ended up taking the reigns), I always believed that sitting in the theater watching The Hobbit was going to be an amazing experience. But with my expectations for the adaptation so high, could Peter Jackson and company live up to them? Will stretching the movie out to three separate films change the story too much? Will The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey truly live up to the greatness of The Lord of the Rings? On December 14th, those questions were finally answered.
For a return trip to Middle Earth, there’s no question how absolutely beautiful and perfect the landscape of New Zealand is in this film. Peter Jackson picked an amazing place to shoot, one that truly fits the fantasy story’s epic imagery. The Lord of the Rings gave us a taste of it, but The Hobbit really shows us how incredible the place is. The 48 frames per second and 3D certainly helps give us a better vision of Middle Earth. Watching certain scenes will literally take your breath away. A little warning for people who get motion sickness though, the 48 frames per second is a little jarring at first. But if you can stand it, the movie is truly magnificent to behold on the big screen.
While The Lord of the Rings is pretty serious tale of good versus evil, The Hobbit is written to be a whole lot more fun. It’s an adventure tale with a colorful cast of dwarves and a reluctant hobbit that provides laughs more than lessons. I’m happy to say that the film adaptation certainly keeps some of those fun moments, and that you’ll be smiling more than once while watching Bilbo Baggins struggle to ride a pony or Gandalf smoking his pipe. And while Peter Jackson made an effort to connect the feel of The Lord of the Rings into The Hobbit, there’s still a lot of moments that will make you smile. All twelve dwarves do an amazing job making their quirky pers0nalities stand out, and they are the source of a lot of laughs. Having Gandalf the Grey back in action, who is certainly more laid back than Gandalf the White, is also a lot of fun. You will find yourself enjoying the little moments between this strange company.
The Lord of the Rings had it’s fair share of epic battles, but The Hobbit seems to be trying to top that. It’s filled to the brim with non-stop sword fighting and adventure, with warrior dwarves battling everything from trolls to goblins. Within the first few minutes of the film we’re party to the epic battle when Smaug attacks the dwarf city of Erebor. While we don’t see the dragon in action, it’s still a pretty cool to watch all the destruction. We also get to see the story of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his fight against the Pale Orc – an orc leader who pursues him throughout the film. Once Bilbo, Gandalf, and the company of dwarves set out on their journey it seems that they get out of one dangerous situation only to find themselves in another one. The action doesn’t stop, and it is a lot of fun to watch.
The Riddle Scene
For me, there was one scene that stuck out as being the absolute best. Watching Bilbo and Gollum meet for the first time and play their game of riddles was hands down the best moment of the film. While the action and adventure was thrilling, there’s nothing like watching these two characters talk for several minutes. It’s funny, emotional, and incredibly important to the rest of the films (as the ring Bilbo finds in Gollum’s cave turns out to be the One Ring). It lived up to my every expectation. Andy Serkis as Gollum does some amazing work through motion capture, and Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo Baggins. I loved every moment of these two amazing actors, and this scene truly lived up to the legacy of The Lord of the Rings.
All the Extra Stuff
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins speaks to Gandalf about the unnaturally long life given to him by the One Ring saying, “I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like… butter scraped over too much bread.” This perfectly describes what Peter Jackson has done with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As much as I enjoyed some of the movie, even a fan like me had to admit that it was just too long. I happen to enjoy sitting down to the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with those scenes that had to be cut added back in to make marathon of four hours or more for each film. But trying to make one book into three movies (each of those films being close to three hours) is a bad idea. You’re pushing the story to the point of breaking when you change a simple sentence in the novel into a twenty minute sequence.
While some of the added characters were cool (like Radagast the Brown’s role being extended into a quirky look at a crazy wizard) I didn’t really need all of them. The scenes with Galadriel and Saruman were particularly annoying to me. They meet at Elrond’s place for a little conference with Gandalf, and the whole sequence is figment of Peter Jackson’s imagination – not something that J.R.R. Tolkien wanted. While it’s nice to see Cate Blanchett again, it felt like they just wanted to take up some time and pop in an old character. It could have easily been cut out, and this could be said about several different scenes. I would have preferred to watch the special edition version after seeing the edited, short film in theaters. Instead all audiences have to sit through the extra stuff, which combines to make the the movie longer than necessary.
Connecting to ‘The Lord of the Rings’
Along with adding extra characters, Peter Jackson also tried a little too hard to make The Hobbit truly connected to the the Lord of the Rings films. One of the weirdest ways he did this was having Saruman, played by Christopher Lee, show up (in the conference scene at Elrond’s that was mentioned above) and act all creepy. While fans of The Lord of the Rings will know that Saruman ends up betraying everyone and becoming Sauron’s ally, in the time of The Hobbit he was a good guy. No one suspected his eventual turn to the enemy, and making him seem mean and cold in this film is just silly.
The other addition to the film is showing Elijah Wood as Frodo and Ian Holm as Bilbo. I understand the idea that Bilbo is telling the story of his unexpected journey as he’s writing it down in his book. The problem that I have with the scene is that it doesn’t match up to the look of the two characters in The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo Baggins is supposed to be 111, but Ian Holm looks like he’s had a face lift. There are hardly any wrinkles on his face, which are present in the subsequent films. Frodo’s hair is much too long, and with him being the face of the last movies it was very noticeable. As much as I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite characters they should have been consistent with what came before.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5
I really wanted to love The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’ve been anticipating it for years and now that it’s here I’m a little disappointed with Peter Jackson. He NEVER should have made it into three movies – I’m dreading what he’ll stretch out in the next two films. I enjoy seeing some of the extra stuff, but most of it could be saved for the special edition DVD. Most audiences (who aren’t hard core fans) aren’t going to enjoy it. There’s no need to draw the tale of The Hobbit out for so long. I feel cheated, like the chance for another amazing Tolkien inspired movie has been stolen from me.
Granted, my experience with this film is different from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. I hadn’t read the books and been such a huge fan when I rented (that’s right – I didn’t see it in theaters) The Fellowship of the Ring. Now that I was expecting so much from my hero Peter Jackson, I suppose I should have been prepared for a let down. But it still hurts to admit that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn’t all that I hoped for. For me, it doesn’t compare to the original trilogy in terms of story (though it certainly looks just as beautiful). Stretching the movie has changed it into a much darker version than I would have wanted. While some laughs are still there, it’s not the fun adventure tale that captivated me before. While I’ll still be checking out the rest of the films (and probably seeing this one again in theaters – that 48 fps is gorgeous), it will be with a grain of salt. And I probably won’t be reading the book again until the movies are all done on the big screen. If you haven’t read Tolkien’s story then you probably will be able to appreciate this movie as another amazing addition to Peter Jackson’s filmography. With a stellar cast and beautiful landscape it certainly has some amazing moments. But hardcore fans might not enjoy the many changes that have been made to what was already a great story.