DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
May Contain Spoilers!
After nine years have passed since the final Lord Of The Rings film premiered in theatres around the Earth, we return to Middle Earth, only this time, 60 year prior as The Hobbit, which in film terms in a prequel but in literary terms, was written before Lord Of Then Rings, thereby rendering that trilogy as a sequel. The film discretely begins on the same day as The Fellowship Of The Ring, as Elijah Wood’s Frodo Baggins is preparing to meet Galdalf (Ian McKellen) and the 111 year old Bilbo Baggins in readying himself to depart during in birthday party.
We are cast back 60 years earlier as Bilbo is enticed on an adventure with the Grey wizard in order to assist 13 dwarfs in their quest to retake their mountain home which has been captured by a lethal dragon, Smaug. The first issue with this film is that fact that it was originally pitched as a two-part movie, which was pretty generous as the book is actually shorter than The Fellowship Of The Ring, but it has since been carved into no less than THREE movies! Three films sounds good, one a year, each December, it’s like old times but what about the quality issues of stretching a book into possibly nine hours of film? But if this film is anything to go off then Peter Jackson just might pull it off!
The film clocks in at over 160 minutes and even though it’s basically filler, its well paced and constructed with character building, action, adventure and memorable and likable characters on the whole. The Dwarfs are a band of merry but tortured souls, on a mission to reclaim their home, with Gandalf back as the likable, yet roguish wizard leading Bilbo, (Martin Freeman) on his adventure which would ultimately lead him to the One Ring, Gollum (Andy Serkis) and a changed life.
The casting almost perfect, going in the opposite direction to Snow White And The Huntsman and NOT casting A-listers in the Dwarf roles, instead casting the best and most appropriate actors. The story, obviously adapted from the source novel, is good, but so is the direction, falling back into hands of Peter Jackson after slipping from one director to another over the past few years. But it was great to see how faithful they have been and this is how to do a prequel. Be faithful to what SHOULD have come before as it was written first and then you have integrity, rather than just shoe horning in elements which they believe that the audience will want to see. Several key elements of the later Lord Of The Rings are set up or play a role here but it’s clearly what has happened first in the correct context as set up for something later rather than a nod to the audience who already know what’s going to happen. If they can keep this up for next two movie then we could have a six part saga like we’ve never seen before as for creative integrity is concerned.
It was also nice to see the cast include the likes of Christopher Lee, who is now quite flail, reprising their roles. Howard Shore’s music is also a star here. Just as it was with the previous trilogy and I can only expect an Oscar nomination next year and it would be well deserved. If only the visual effects were as good or as consistent. Gollum’s appearance was much improved, with a subtle but striking difference in his skin tone, but as for the rest, this was not the level of SFX which I would expect nine years later, certainly when the LOTR’s effects at time, looked better! I can only assume that 3D cinematography had an impact on some of the effects here.
We saw the movie in 2D, but it was clear how the 3D would have played out but there were also the usual shuddering tracking issues with panning shots etc… But there was one scene towards the end where the group are standing on the top of a mountain where you can clearly see the joins.
In the end this was a smooth transitional film from the 2001 -2003 Lord Of The Rings trilogy as we begin a new for a fresh decade. It’s certainly up there with the originals and so far, blends in perfectly to create a singular movie saga in ways which others, notably Star Wars have failed to achieve but pacing which will normally let Peter Jackson films down, doesn’t and even though this is slow at times, it doesn’t suffer from the bloated padding which King Kong (2005) did and the long but well paced screenplay constantly injects a sense of adventure and excitement into the movie throughout, as well as the learning curve for Bilbo and all concerned.
N.B. Originally posted 31st December 2012. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is out on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D today. (U.K.)