Thursday, 20 December 2012

[WHY...] - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Is A Near Masterpiece




Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt
Certificate: 12A
Run-time: 169 minutes




IN SHORT: An Unexpected Journey is a visually impressive start to the series and I can't wait to see where Peter Jackson takes the story next. Go and see this in regular 3D for the ultimate experience.


So a tiny little film called The Hobbit was released recently. You probably haven't heard of it. It's about dwarves and wizards and it's 3 hours long, so it's pretty obscure. Oh but that's only the first part of it too. That's right, Peter Jackson (he made those 3 boring films about the ring) had the audacity to split this little read book into three 3-hour films. He's clearly seeing dollar signs, the fiend!

Seriously though, all I've heard in the build up to this film's release is whinging and whining about how long the film is, how unnecessary the 3D is, how some people fell asleep. Yada yada yada. Before I went to see The Hobbit, my expectations were at an all-time low. I went in expecting to be disappointed. Three-hours later (it felt like two), I was left staggered by a) the beauty of the film and b) the mass over-reaction by critic's. 

So instead of a traditional review (because you've probably read loads already), I thought I'd tackle the generic complaints regarding The Hobbit and why, I feel, some people have placed unfair expectations or just flat-out misunderstood it.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Martin Freeman is a natural Bilbo Baggins.

COMPLAINT #1: "It's too long, The Hobbit was only a short book"

For me, it's very clear that Peter Jackson is making The Hobbit because he has a love for Tolkien's creation. The behind-the-scenes video diaries show that he cares what fans think, he takes great pleasure in creating Middle Earth. I don't think the split into three films has been done entirely for monetary gain. 

An Unexpected Journey doesn't feature plot-lines solely from The Hobbit. There's a great deal more included. For example, Radagast is briefly mentioned in the book but Jackson has included him as a pivotal part of his film trilogy. Neither does the Necromancer play a large part in The Hobbit.

Some may say Peter Jackson has made the film 'bloated' but others, like me, would say he has given the fans even more by including obscure, smaller Tolkien stories in The Hobbit. As for the length issue, I really didn't find it long. And besides, with three Hobbit films and three LOTR films, there's a nice symmetry.

COMPLAINT #2: "It's too childish and not as dark as LOTR"

This criticism, which I've alarmingly seen a lot, is an extremely unfair one. Not only are you putting preconceived expectations upon a film, your expectations are completely wrong. The Hobbit IS A CHILDREN'S BOOK. That's why it was short. My first copy of it had pictures! If anything, Peter Jackson has made his filmic version much darker by including the Orc warrior, Azog, the Necromancer and other more menacing elements.

Middle Earth is a far more peaceful place at the time The Hobbit is set in. Lord Elrond even says this himself in the film. There are no Nazgul flying around snatching people up, no hooded rider's, no Sauron. The main theme of The Hobbit is adventure and wonder - two things intrinsically linked to childhood.

The Hobbit illustrated book
It's a children's book, dammit!
COMPLAINT #3 "it was boring, not much happened"

I honestly cannot fathom how somebody was bored whilst watching this film. SO much happened. Yes, they spend a good 40 minutes in Bilbo's house and that maybe damaged the pace of the film but once they leave the Shire, there's action in almost every scene. I think this is the criticism that bothers me the most. If anything, certain scenes went by too quickly.

There are some massive set-pieces in this film - the Goblin mountain is the biggest one and the way that was captured and brought to life was brilliant. But we also see Gollum's cave, Radagast's house, flashbacks of Erebor in the golden days, Rivendell. Not to mention the fantastic scene with the three trolls in the woods. There's arguably more happening in this film than the The Fellowship of the Ring, a film infamously labelled as a 'film about walking'.

COMPLAINT #4 "there was no ending, it just finished"

I can sympathise with this complaint but at the same time, I will leap to the defence of the film-makers. First of all, The Fellowship of the Ring finished in a very similar fashion as Frodo and Sam look out at Mordor. I would also argue there is an ending to An Unexpected Journey

Bilbo spends the entire film trying to convince Thorin and the other dwarves that he's a capable member of the 14th company. He also spends a lot of the time trying to convince himself. After Bilbo leaps to Thorin's defence, Thorin finally accepts him into the group and he says that doubting Bilbo is the biggest mistake he's ever made.
I would call that an ending, of sorts. With Bilbo finally accepted into the company, everyone can move on and take the quest seriously. There's a unity and trust in the group now that Bilbo, an outsider, has proved himself. I think that's a great place to end it! 


Bilbo Baggins sword
Not used to Orcs and troll,s Bilbo's courage is tested during the film.

COMPLAINT #5: "48 FPS makes the film look cheap and tacky"

Of all the complaints I've read, I must admit I do agree with this one. I've only seen the film in the 48FPS version and that's why my current rating stands at a MUST SEE and not a CERTIFIED CLASSIC. 

The 48FPS really took me out of the film and ruined the immersion, which is so vital in a fantasy film. It took me about 40 minutes before I got over the glossy sheen of the film and how fast the whole thing looked. In action segments, it was quite hard keeping up with what was happening as everything seemed so quick. Another downside is that the 48FPS made everything look TOO realistic, i.e. you could tell certain parts where shot in a studio.

I'm just glad that audiences have been given the choice to see it in 48FPS or at a regular frame-rate. For me, it was an interesting experiment but I didn't find it very comfortable. It took me out of the experience.

VERDICT:

I loved this film. Every single minute of it. Nothing felt like filler, nothing felt unnecessary and I'm very excited for the upcoming installments. People are allowed their own opinion, but I do feel that The Hobbit has suffered from band-wagon jumping in the last two weeks. How somebody could rate this film a 5/10 or lower is beyond me. It's an insult to the level of artistry involved, from the fantastic sets, to the glorious CGI.

I could've talked about a lot more but I think I've got my opinion across. Don't be put off by negative reviews. Go and see this yourself and make up your own mind!


19 comments:

  1. I was quite disappointed by the movie. Had not read a single review. I yawned a lot and nearly fell asleep during the random Brown Wizard and Hedgehog scene. Had to get some fresh air to make myself stay awake.

    The truth is, what put me off was how much I felt the movie was a tribute by Peter Jackson to Peter Jackson rather than the adaptation of a classic children's book by a genius. The self-congratulating was inappropriate and the movie felt plain wrong.

    Also the humour made me cringe a lot.

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    1. You left the cinema to get fresh air? I could never do that. You may have missed something vital.

      Which points were self-congratulating? I'm genuinely interested to hear.

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  2. the person yawning is an idiot.he is clearly trolling,dont listen to this idiot

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  3. Great write-up and excellent pointers in countering the negative complaints that have been swarming the internet. I for one truly loved the film and thought it was a great introduction for this new trilogy.

    I understand that some people may have been a little disappointed over their expectations not being met with this entry, but I don't really understand the hate that's sprung up. There seems to be a necessity to bash this production into the ground, because of the smallest of problems that people appear to have with it and that's a shame. Especially when these problems seem to be personal preferences of what they wanted to see on screen instead of what director Peter Jackson and his crew wanted to do with their retelling of this classic story.

    To me the film felt like it was created with the same love, dedication and vigor that the heralded Lord of the Rings trilogy was, and I'm having a hard time trying to comprehend comments like; boring, too long and childish. It's a sad state of affairs when a project that obviously has so much passion behind it is being labeled in such a way that it disregards all the hard work and devotion that the cast and crew have put into it.

    I'm glad that you enjoyed the movie for what it was and took the time to counter the comments that have been made about it. An Unexpected Journey looks to be a wonderful beginning to a new awe-inspiring trilogy. I for one can't wait to see it all unfold.

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    1. Disappointment is fine because that shows people atleast tried to enjoy it. I feel like some people take great enjoyment out of hating something so popular. They'll deliberately rate it a 1 on IMDB, slam it on RT and troll forums.

      The most disappointing movie for me this year was Prometheus but I still rated it a 6 because of the visuals and some great moments.

      You are right when you say "felt like it was created with the same love, dedication and vigor that the heralded Lord of the Rings trilogy was". I really did get that feeling from the film.

      Oh well, I just wrote this post to vent a little. I guess all that matters is that WE enjoy it. Roll on Smaug!

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  4. I am all for adapting a children's book but this movie just had too much slapstick humor and one-liners. Pair that with a ridiculous amount of poor CGI (goblin scene) and it leaves me a little disappointed.

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    1. Is the CGI really poor? Yes I would've preferred old school prosthetic make-up like the Uruk-Hai in LOTR and I'm not sure why PJ went down the 100% CGI route (maybe something to do with the HFR?) but is it poor CGI?

      Poor CGI, for me, would be a film like Skyline or a SyFy produced film.

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  5. Good write-up. I know you read my review so I'm on board with you for the most part. The length didn't really feel that long to me as much as my complaint about it was due to the inclusion of a lot of things that just didn't "fit".

    I also have to pull out the dick card and state that you mentioned Moria as the home of the dwarves (it's Erebor) and that the Necromancer actually has a mention in The Hobbit. However, in the book he's more of just a sorcerer and Jackson decided to change the character and link him to Sauron for continuity sakes.

    Good job, though! lol

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    1. Thanks for the corrections. I was writing some things from memory, I thought the Necromancer was in the Silmarillion. I've actually asked for the Hobbit for Christmas so I can re-read it and see just how faithful everything was.

      Radagast is one thing that felt incongruous to me but I have to admit, I was so swept up by all the visuals, I didn't think about it too much.

      I appreciate you reading and commenting Nick. Many thanks.

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  6. I'm going to be honest, I had no intention of seeing this film, especially after the reviews came out. And the running time has some influence, as well.

    But I think you have interesting taste in movies, so I'll give it a chance. Plus, it's vacation--I have nothing better to do.

    --CL

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    1. If you didn't like/haven't seen Lord of the Rings, I'd be quite wary of seeing The Hobbit.

      They're not similar in tone but if you're not interested in fantasy, dwarfs, wizards and the like, at three hours long, it could be a rather dull movie experience. Peter Jackson has gone into a considerable amount of depth, especially into the mythology, which could leave casual watchers overwhelmed.

      Thanks Cristina :)


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    2. It's funny because I've seen the LotR trilogy numerous times and actually really enjoy them, but have never read the books. I read Hobbit a few years ago and enjoyed it, but have little to no desire in seeing it. I'm baffled by this, as well.

      I'll still give it a shot, because I'm a sucker for fantasy genres.

      --CL

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  7. I thought it was just decent. While things were happening on-screen, very few felt relevant to the overall story, which includes LOTR. Since this movies were made AFTER, they have to be seen like that when comparing. PJ knows this. That's why the characters from LOTR who appear here aren't properly introduced: we're supposed to already know who they are. But I do agree with you on 2 things: 1) The ending here has more closure than the one in FELLOWSHIP. 2) There's more comic relief which made this lighter, but that doesn't mean it's childish. I wouldn't show this movie to a kid; he's crap his pants!

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  8. I'm really surprised by some comments that I've been hearing about this movie, both from above, or the people I've talked with about it...I agree 100% with you. It left me wanting more, and liking Peter Jackson much more than before for taking so much care of details and fans, I think he did the great adaptation (and yes, I've heard some say it was childish, but these people obviosuly don't know it's a children's book, which makes their critic a bit irrelevant to my ears) Maybe cutting a bit of those first moments at Bilbo's, f.ex; but you can't please everyone.


    Anyway: awesome review, and awesome movie!!!

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    1. I'm very surprised by the reactions too.

      You're right about cutting some of the scenes in the Shire but I still found them worth watching. Especially the songs.

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  9. Great review! My thoughts are exactly the same. I quite thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and can't wait for part 2.

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  10. I read so many terrible reviews about The Hobbit, that I was beginning to lose hope. Then I went and saw the film, and found it to be one of the best films of 2012. I highly enjoyed the film, and I'm glad you did too.

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    1. I despair whenever I see a 4/10 (or even lower!) review of this film. For sheer movie magic, score, set design etc. alone, it's worthy a 5. Surely?!

      Thanks for commenting Benny.

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  11. If Peter Jackson loved Tolkien so much, where was Tom Bombadil in Fellowship of the ring? He`s quite a big part of the book.

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