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16 December 2012 @ 12:33 am
Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  
The first installment of The Hobbit trilogy has arrived, starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, and Richard Armitage. I did not see it in 3D since I'm with James McAvoy on 3D being a rip off and a headache.

So, I'm going to start with what I disliked about this movie so I can end on a positive note.

For anyone going to see this movie who has seen the previous LOTR trilogy (which I'm guessing is like 100% of the viewing population), your previous exposure to Jackson's work with Middle Earth puts you in a bit of a bind. On one hand, there are certain scenes that stir up some nice feelings of nostalgia and portent for what's to come in the future for Middle Earth as we've seen in the original triology. But at the same time, having watched the original, you start to become painfully aware that The Hobbit feels less like a movie in its own right and more of a The Greatest Hits From the LOTR Trilogy. There is almost nothing new in what Jackson brings you stylistically or even narrative-wise. And anything that is new is just not that good. Characters stare off into the middle distance and whisper lines of great wisdom, characters stare off into the middle distance in silence before Making An Extremely Important Decision, characters stare off into the middle distance before throwing themselves into the fighting fray. We've seen it all in the previous three movies and The Hobbit is about 80% this. Even the music was largely recycled and somewhat intrusive.

This repeat issue might be less of a problem for me if I wasn't already incredibly annoyed at the fact that Jackson is stretching this to three movies. From what I've seen of the first film, there is no need for this storytelling-wise. If anything, the pressure to make three movies from this one book has seemingly led to what felt like a lot of filler sequences and long lingering shots that started to weigh down the movie. My experience with watching The Fellowship of the Ring was that so much happened in a very short period of time. It felt like only a day ago Frodo was attending Bilbo's birthday party and now he was venturing into Mordor with only Sam by his side. That felt like the start of an epic journey. This felt like a road trip comprised of a series of random encounters that don't really add up to much. At the two hour mark, I did a silent inventory of what had happened so far and all I could come up with was that Bilbo had acquired some new jewelry. If Jackson was going to have to pad the film, I'd rather he'd taken some time to do a bit more character development. We have 14 characters in this group and the bulk of them I could barely tell apart. When the Fellowship in the first LOTR movie broke up, I was trying to hold back tears. In this, I only knew three out of the 13 dwarves and could barely care if a handful came into danger because I really had little idea who they were.

But onto the positives of the movie because buried under the fat of this film is a good story with some good acting.

Jackson really can't ask for a better actor as his Bilbo Baggins than Martin Freeman. He somehow managed to look and act like an adult and yet be childlike at the same time. The combo of which really drove home the idea of hobbits being naively brave creatures. The entire beginning at Bag End really did a nice job of subtly showing us that underneath his fussiness and homebody mentality, there lurked a curious and quietly adventurous mind. One of the few genuinely emotional moments was Bilbo running out of his home, shouting to his neighbor that he going on an adventure. His development from someone who'd never left the Shire to someone who was outwitting Gollum was pretty seamless. Freeman was also the only one who successfully walked the awkward line of this movie wanting to be a comedy and a drama. He could do all the humor stuff that's clearly meant for the younger audiences while slipping into the more serious acting that the story required.

The other highlight of the film is the sequence where Bilbo acquires the ring. I wasn't a huge fan of Gollum in the previous trilogy but he was a welcomed familiar face in The Hobbit. It was really during their game of riddles that the film really felt like it was taking off, setting up all the pieces that would come to fruition 60 years later in the story of Middle Earth. There's a lovely bit of reacting acting by Freeman toward the end of his time in the caves with Gollum which I would show if I were an acting coach teaching a segment on acting with just your face.

I also give a nod to Richard Armitage in the acting department. He sometimes seemed a little out of place when the movie slid into more just pure comedy. But man, was he good with the drama. Even underneath all that dwarf prosthetic, his intensity shined through and I only wished he had better lines to work with. Still, he made the most of what he got and I do look forward to what's in store for him in the next two films.

Overall, after seeing this film, I'm even more convinced that the addition of a third film is nothing more than a money-making scheme. And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth and a desire to start chopping at scenes the way Thorin Oakenshield chopped at the arms of orcs. However, if you can sit through some filler moments, you can get rewarded by some good acting and pockets of sequences when the movie feels much more like a genuine story than a 2 and a half hour excuse to film some stuff that'll look exciting in 3D.
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: TemptingFateguardian_chaos on December 16th, 2012 07:34 am (UTC)
Hnnnnggg, I want to read this, but I don't know if I should! *yanks on hair* Tomorrow needs to get here quicker, so that I can make Hobbit-related decisions with less trepidation, gosh darn it! *flails everywhere*
Shezan: Agrippashezan on December 16th, 2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
Haven't seen it yet, would like the experience of 48fps in 3D only for technical reasons (I wasn't a great fan of the first trilogy), but I expected Freeman would be good, and what you describe sounds very much like what Cumberbatch praised as "Martin's incredibly subtle Mike-Leigh-type thing... which upped my game".The Gollum scene has been hailed by all the reviewers I respect. Hope this works as the Hollywood A-list audition for Freeman, Serkis and Armitage.

Edited at 2012-12-16 06:25 pm (UTC)