The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
It was eleven years ago that one of the most well-known novels was brought to life on the big screen, in the hands of a lesser known director, one Peter Jackson, who created the realm of Middle Earth that had only been fantasized about. What followed was a huge box-office success that catapulted the career of a director as well as many of the film’s actors. Now in December 2012, after the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been told on film, its predecessor, The Hobbit, is in theaters with Jackson once again at the helm.
The film opens with homage to the original trilogy. Older Bilbo Baggins is writing his memoirs of past adventures to give to Frodo when he leaves. We see a quick cameo from Elijah Wood before we’re thrust back in time. A younger Bilbo is doing what hobbits do when he’s visited by Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and a band of thirteen dwarves. The dwarves, many years before, had lost their kingdom to a fire-breathing dragon named Smaug, leaving them displaced. Now that Smaug has not been heard from in some time, the dwarves are on a mission to regain their home. In order to be successful, they need a “burglar,” someone who can slip in and out of places unnoticed, and that’s where Bilbo comes in. The armed dwarves head off with Gandalf and Bilbo to decipher a map and find a way into their old kingdom while battling trolls, orcs and internal emotions along the way.
Jackson appears to have picked up right where he left off. We’re once again treated to breathtaking shots as we follow the group on their journey. One of the major differences between this film and the original trilogy would be more profound use of CGI. While the technology has come a long way over the years, sometimes it can be a little much and start to look cartoony. A group of trolls hardly look realistic, nor does the arch-nemesis of the would-be dwarf king, Thorin. Then there’s a big duel between stone giants that looks like a slow-motion battle between awkward transformers in the middle of a storm among a mountain range. I admire Jackson’s desire to bring the book elements to life, and there are some things one just can’t leave out, but in terms of making it look realistic, it definitely appears to be a challenge.
It was nice to see some old faces back from the original trilogy. There’s a particular scene with Gandalf, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Kate Blanchett) and Saurman the White (Christopher Lee) that brought back the joy we were left with in The Return of the King. However, these characters appearance is brief as the story focuses on the dwarves’ quest. It’s not until later in the film that we get to meet a younger (but looking the same) Gollum (Andy Serkis). Andy seems to have been born to play this role and creates a memorable scene with Bilbo regarding the “precious.” As or the newcomers to the film, it’s hard to get attached to any of the dwarves as there are thirteen of them. It doesn’t help that their characters aren’t necessarily developed much beyond that of Thorin, but this is only the first of three films so we have plenty of time for character growth.
It feels unfair to give The Hobbit a rating as it only covers about the first 100 pages of the book…maybe it won’t be so much of a rating as opposed to a “progress report.” The Hobbit has many flaws, but it’s still visually appealing and has enough well-directed action sequences to keep the audience from noticing the film’s near three hour runtime. Tolkien die-hards will most definitely love the film while Tolkien enthusiasts may nitpick at some of the film’s elements. But in the end, regardless who you are watching the film, you’ll walk out of the theater happy you saw it and looking forward to the next installment in this Hobbit trilogy.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars