Monday, March 11, 2013

Review - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


With the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to post my review of the first in this three part epic. So just what did I think of Peter Jackson’s follow up to his world renowned Lord Of The Rings Trilogy? Find out after the jump.

For the uninitiated, The Hobbit is the first book in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga of the world of Middle Earth. A fantasy world filled with creatures of every shape and size. From Dwarves to Trolls to Dragons to Ghosts to Demons to Wizards to...you get the idea. 

Peter Jackson and his creative team decided to take this rather modest sized book of 300pgs and turn it into a three part epic trilogy. The first of these is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


The film follows the adventure of a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins played by Martin Freeman (with a little help from Ian Holm). Bilbo is a simple Hobbit. He loves his home, and the land in which it dwells, The Shire. Hobbits are basically short Dwarves with really big hairy feet. One day Bilbo decides to begin writing a book about his adventures in Middle Earth and it is here that we join him. Telling the back story of the Dwarven race and their inevitable fall from grace. It’s a sad tale of family, greed and loss and it sets the tone of the film in ways that I never expected.


For some reason, when I heard that Martin Freeman was playing young Bilbo Baggins, I was relieved. Martin is an amazing actor and he brings such subtle character to Bilbo that it makes a rather bland literary character into something really interesting. Martin Freeman does this with presence and poise. Bilbo is your eyes and ears into Middle Earth. It’s his innocence/ignorance of the outside world that leads you through the film. If he sucked...so would the film.


Richard Armitage plays Thorin Oakenshield, the prince and rightful heir to the city of Erebor which lies in the Lonely Mountain; The Dwarves homeland. Richard plays the Dwarven prince with a suitable air of pride. The kind of pride that makes people behave kind of like @$holes. It’s this pride that is Thorin’s challenge to overcome and watching him take that journey is a pleasure. 


Ian Mckellan returns as Gandalf the Grey. A great wizard who convinces Bilbo, very much against his will, to join his merry band of Dwarves on an adventure. Ian is no stranger to the role of Gandalf, having played the character to perfection in the three Lord of the Rings films. Ian is one of the great actors of our time and it is an absolute joy watching him work in anything.


The 13 Dwarves are a hodge podge of different sizes and characters. While it is expected, it is also sad that many of these Dwarves don’t get nearly enough screen time. Some delivering roughly one line throughout the entire film. A couple of the stand out performances in the Dwarf company are Aidan Turner as Kili and James Nesbitt as Bofur. Aidan’s Kili is young and impetuous. Kili seems very excited to be going on this adventure. He is also a skilled warrior who lends his bow on many an occasion. Bofur is a charismatic Dwarf who delivers one of the best scenes from the Dwarf company. A short albeit quiet moment with Bilbo Baggins where he really makes me understand the weight of their journey and what it really means to them. This isn’t about gold and jewels. It’s about reclaiming their home.


That’s the thing about The Hobbit that really connected with me. We are watching a rag tag group of people, who have been driven from their homeland, trying to find their place in the world. And having realized that they don’t belong anywhere, they decide to fight to reclaim their home...even if it means their lives. It’s something that most people want more than anything. A place where they belong.


The action in The Hobbit is of course riveting. You’re driven from one exciting scene to another with the greatest of ease. But let’s be honest here. Jackson’s had three movies before this to get it all perfect. Though I would argue that it only took him two, as Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King had the best fantasy action ever committed to film. The Hobbit continues this tradition with fast paced action. The fighting done by the Dwarves is especially fun to watch as you can see that this a group of people who know each other well and play to each others strengths. 


I’m not going to delve too deeply into the effects of The Hobbit because quite frankly, they are awesome. There isn’t much else to say. I forgot several times that what I was seeing was an effect at all and just dove deep into Jackson’s Middle Earth like a child with his first Dungeon’s and Dragon’s books. Gollum is one area that I noticed improvement. In The Hobbit, Gollum’s already cherished performance by Andy Serkis is even that much better thanks to the improvements in visual effects that lead to even more expressive facial features.


The score is something that I always like to make note of when I can. Howard Shore is back behind the baton for this film and the music is just that much better because of it. Expect to hear a great many musical cues from the original trilogy. The theme of the Shire, The Nazgul and many other great bits. But it’s The Misty Mountains theme that really takes the cake in this score. The strong drums and booming brass of these pieces set the tone. The Song of the Lonely Mountain by Neil Flynn also had a great folksy feeling to it. The kind of music that I would expect from a nomadic race like the Dwarves.

Click to embiggen! This sucker is HUGE!

All in all, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was in fact just that...Unexpected. I had a feeling that I would love it. But I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. If you liked The Lord of the Rings...even a little...do yourself a huge favor and watch The Hobbit. It’s an unexpected pleasure.

5 of 5 Geegamons







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