Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Movie Review

I'm sure most of us could tell some stories about rallying up friends to see the memorable Lord of the Rings movies. I hosted several all-day events where all three of the extended Lord of the Rings movies were watched in one day. They were great journeys that we, as movie goers, took to Middle-Earth. Finally we all get to make a whole new journey to Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), and it was well worth it!
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is swept into a quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East in wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, they must first escape the goblin tunnels where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever ... Gollum (Andy Serkis). Here, alone with Gollum on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even himself, but he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities.
As a long time fan of Tolkien's stories and of The Lord of the Rings, I was chomping at the bit to see The Hobbit. Peter Jackson returned to direct this movie with every bit as much love and detail as The Lord of the Rings. It really felt like we were taking a new journey to Middle-Earth, and it was just as captivating as it was before. We revisit some key locations that we had seen in the previous films, and they looked just as detailed and beautiful as they did before. We saw familiar and new rooms in both Bagend (Bilbo's home) and Rivendell. We get to see familiar characters as they were before Lord of the Rings, which included some unexpected cameos, and plenty of new characters.
One of the most endearing things about Lord of the Rings is that they were perfectly spot on to how we imagined them from reading the books. The Hobbit does this, too, especially the scene where Bilbo is confronted by Gollum. If you've ever seen a movie based on a book that did such a perfect job depicting the story you read, you'll know what kind of a euphoric feeling it is to see it depicted just right on the screen. The Hobbit has several moments like this.
On the other hand, it's also got several scenes that were completely new to me. Peter Jackson obtained the rights to film material that only existed as J.R.R. Tolkien's notes. This expanded the story quite a lot, and made us aware of The Dark Lord Sauron's presence in this story and how events in The Hobbit set into motion events that lead up to The Lord of the Rings. It makes The Hobbit much more meaningful as part of a much bigger epic. However, I think this is also a weak point. I think the peripheral story points sometimes felt like red herrings that drew us away from the main story which gave the movie a kind of uneven and sometimes vaguely confusing quality. But "All good stories," as Gandalf intones, "deserve embellishment." These odd back stories were usually pertinent to the overall story; they weren't simply thrown in to pad the length of the movie. I still feel like some were unnecessary, but I have faith that as more of the story unfolds in future instalments, their purpose will become more clear.
The characters were spot on. Bilbo was a lovable, scared, and very reserved character that we got to see grow and become a hero. He's far from the stuff of legend yet, but he's getting there. Gandalf is still the wise sage with meaningful advice that even I took to heart. Gollum is just as wacky, bizarre, creepy, funny, and tragic as he was before. Thorin Oakenshield was an amazing character who had a strong presence and some interesting personality flaws with which he struggles. Nevertheless, he was an outstanding character whom I would follow on epic adventures given the chance.
I think part of what made The Lord of the Rings so memorable was the music. When a certain melody begins, who can help but think of the quaint and peaceful Shire where the Hobbits live? Or the ominous string instruments that permeate scenes where characters are tempted by The One Ring? We get a whole new set of music in The Hobbit, and it is gorgeous and feels as iconic and memorable as the music from The Lord of the Rings. Right from the opening credits I couldn't help but think that this is what Middle-Earth sounds like. The Dwarven company sings songs of their lost kingdom with great reverence that sounds like ancient hymns that would have been sung by druids of old; it sounds beautiful.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a really good first course in a whole new trilogy. The characters were great, the script was good, the sets were beautiful, and the special effects where fantastic! The pacing is a bit slow at the beginning, but picks up as soon as they leave The Shire. This is a really good adventure story that features some great characters who develop and grow. It ends on a positive note, but we absolutely get the feeling that bigger and greater things lie ahead for our new heroes. I'm anxiously looking forward to the next installment of The Hobbit trilogy. I highly recommend catching this in theaters while you can. I have a feeling this will be as big a cinema event as The Lord of the Rings trilogy was; you shouldn't miss out on it. It will be worth buying on Blu-Ray, but I recommend holding out for the extended edition. I enjoyed this so much, I want to get a copy of the soundtrack in addition to the extended edition Blu-Ray!

What scenes are you particularly looking forward to in the next two Hobbit movies? Comment below and tell me all about it!

4 comments:

  1. Amazing movie! I was a little confused on what kind of hobbit Bilbo was. I mean, did he want to help or what? Many of the dwarves was very much in the background but I understand its hard to flesh them out when there are 12(ish) of them. Thorin is full of dwarven kick buttness!

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    1. Well, Bilbo develops as he goes along. He's a very reserved hobbit in the beginning and is very attached to his domestic comforts. Then he starts growing into a hobbit who is more willing, but still timid about facing the world. And later becomes more of a hero who is willing to do the right thing for the sake of others. He's still got a long way to go before he achieves the legendary status he had in Lord of the Rings. I can't wait to see what kinds of experiences he has to help him gain such a standing in Middle-Earth.
      Yeah, most of the Dwarves had nearly no dialogue, but giving enough screen time to all 13 individual Dwarves would have been tedious and complicated. So, in the end I'm glad they focused on developing just a few of them. And I totally, agree; Thorin is full of Dwarven kick buttness!
      Thanks for your comments!

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  2. Good review Dustin. The level of quality is beyond anything else I have seen all year and in a very long time. The wonder, action, storytelling and fantasy are just too beautiful to scathe or cast down upon.

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    1. I really liked it. I didn't think it was perfect, but it was absolutely wonderful. I had high expectations for The Hobbit, and I wasn't disappointed. I'm really looking forward to the next two films in the Trilogy.
      Thanks for your comments!

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