Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images , Running time 169 minutes, Fantasy/Adeventure
Compare to: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Telling a 16 year-old version of myself in 2003 that I would have to wait nearly an entire decade for another of J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle earth-based stories, I would have thought (in my bottomless impatience) “Why even bother making it it’s going to take that long?” But now that the first installment of The Hobbit films is here, I’m glad they decided to do it.
Director Peter Jackson’s return to the series that not only helped reignite people’s love of the stories and launch multiple careers, but change the way movies are made altogether; specifically the technology of motion capture. But aside from anything technical or what went on behind the scenes, this movie is great.
Bilbo Baggins, a neurotic and sheltered little Hobbit, has been chosen by Gandalf the Grey to act as a company of dwarves’ resident burglar. Aside from his timidity, Baggins’ adventure will have him crossing paths with goblins, elves, wizards and the all-around chaotic surroundings that middle-earth has to offer while the dwarves plan to take back their city from the villainous Smaug; one of the last remaining dragons.
Describing the story feels pointless. People either seem to know what this is about, or they don’t care. If you already know what the story is, you also know that what little was described as barely the tip of iceberg as to what Peter Jackson’s adaption of Tolkien’s books hold.
As far as the acting credits go, it’s fun to see any characters from the LOTR trilogy reprising their roles, namely Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey; a character similar to Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars in that he’s a counselor of sorts while simultaneously being the reason for much of the story set in motion rather than just a majestic narrator as his demeanor may imply. Certain scenes when Gandalf doesn’t appear to be as wise or as experienced as we normally think of him create unexpected humor and deeper aspects to a character that often gives the impression of flawlessness, aside from his scraggly beard, of course.
Gollum’s return to film is also a welcome one, the character’s first appearance in nearly a decade gives the feel that this is the first time we’ve seen him at all and this is a reintroduction to remember. Andy Serkis’ protrayal in this particular film may, is some aspects, out do his performances in the previous films. But this could just be bias due to excitement of the character’s return. For any critics of the use of CGI in film is limiting not only limited in their view on film in general, but are ignorant to what possibilities there are in combining CG with great acting. Gollum feels like payment that’s still owed to us even after all these years from Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks.
On the other hand, newcomer to the series, Martin Freeman, may possibly steal the show, maybe even from Gollum. Characters whose main features entail being short, lazy, and meager are rarely on the list of traits an audience would want in a film that also showcases epic war scenes, monsters and dragons, but Freeman’s evolution from meek to heroic not only feels natural, but he remains likable throughout the entire film, allowing us to empathize with the three to four foot tall hobbit even when he’s making the most cowardly choice. There are more fun characters in this film but none as multi-dimensional.
A fight/escape scene involving dwarves, goblins and Gandalf is one of the most enjoyable scenes in film to be presented all year, as the acting, special effects, choreography and anything else involved is blended seamlessly, all coming together for a climax that should have even anti-Tolkienites wondering what’s going to happen next.
I’ve said on occasion if they never decided to make The Hobbit into film (much less three), that would be fine with me, but now that this had been released and brought back similar feelings to 2001’s The Fellowship, I’m glad it’s all coming together again.