The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reviews
'Far over the misty mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old'
Yep this gorgeous line pretty much gives you the perfect clue to what to expect in this adventure, many caves and many caverns, dwarf country. From the off we are back in the Shire and on very familiar ground as old friends are soon in the fold and we get another very useful eye catching prologue. The visuals straight away are much like an old pair of shoes, it all just slips back into place, you can see its a Jackson film, only sweeter this time.
Plot? errr its kinda simple, bit like LOTR, Bilbo Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves march off across Middle Earth (yep we're doing that again) to Lonely Mountain, the old home of the dwarves. There they will kick out the nasty dragon Smaug (dragons have personal names? aren't they just creatures?) who took over the mountain dwelling from the dwarves in a really quite violent and unfriendly way. Why? beats the heck outta me, cos the dwarves had tonnes of loot inside the mountain and Smaug wanted it all. Why would a dragon need tonnes of gold and jewels? is he going to buy himself a nice car? in fact why does Gandalf care? on with the review!
On the whole the entire film is pretty much as before with wonderful bold colours and imagination bursting from the screen in some sequences, and with dark shady doom and gloom in others. The detail again is superb with every last item you can see, location work is stunning (tourism on the up again) whilst makeup, sets and props are lavishly rustic and genuine. Weaponry stands out in this film as we see many nice swords displayed which do make you wanna own one yourself. But overall its most definitely a much much crisper, tighter, sharper affair all round, looking much better than the LOTR trilogy as you would expect with time. Really I don't need to talk much about the visuals as its business as usual to be honest...but I will.
The only downside as usual with all these films is certain sequences involving the dreaded CGI monster. Yes skies, sunsets, landscapes, Rivendell, the Lonely Mountain and hordes of orcs all look good in this format, but some things never change. The sequences involving the Warg riding orcs still looked pretty rough and clearly fake just like the last time we saw them. These sequences really do look hokey to me I can't deny, like something outta 'Underworld', the same could be said for the sequences within the Goblin caves and the awful looking Goblin King.
I don't want to moan too much about this film as it was a solid entry but you can't help but find small issues. The whole Goblin caves section was pretty much another Moria sequence really, it felt too much like deja vu. Plus the escape from the caves was really totally over the top with some quite ridiculous action sequences, very much like a videogame at times. Remember the elephant surfing Legolas in ROTK? yikes! Did I mention how bad the Goblin King looked? oh yeah...what the hell was THAT about!? like an early concept for Jabba the Hut...really!
Didn't really like the whole tree climbing escape sequence towards the end either, that felt as though they had written themselves into a corner. Unsure how accurate this film is to the books seeing as I've never read 'The Hobbit' but that part really seemed kinda dumb. I'll just pop in that Azog the orc chieftain looks more like a vampire outta 'Underworld' also, yes...I'm using 'Underworld' as a reference again.
To be brutally honest there are other elements that just seemed...pointless? The character of Radagast the Brown wasn't really explored much with no real reason to be there. A minor quibble as I reckon he'll be back with a chance for more explanations. The stone giants sequence seemed a bit irrelevant, unsure if its in the book but it felt like they needed something to fill that gap and add a touch of excitement. Oh and we have eagles saving the day again, boy those eagles are bloody handy to have around huh.
On the plus side apart from the visuals the dwarf company is handled well, cast well and perform well. I liked the variation on the characters even though 'Willow' crept into my mind. Was surprised to find out Graham McTavish was a dwarf seeing as the guy is about 6ft! his character was one of few that was a hardass, the others tended to be a bit dweebish, looked a bit goofy. What is it with the Scottish accents though? why are most dwarves Scottish? am I missing something on dwarf legend here?. Its just amusing that in these fantasy films its always Scottish or cockney accents hehe no problems, just an observation. I liked the dwarf names too, nice, very...dwarfish, but there should of been a mohawk dwarf in the company.
'dwarf scum'...'rebel scum' heh.
Gollum is back unfortunately, but hurray! he finally looks realistic apart from his Disney eyes medical problem, man that decision really mucks up his supposedly creepy looks. Some great facial expressions going on this time, really was impressed with the advancement there, but he's still annoying as hell with that fudging voice.
I must admit I feared the worst, I was reading the film is dull and stretched but I didn't feel it. I actually enjoyed this film more than a lot of the original trilogy. I guess it felt more adventurous as I had no clue what happens, never seen anything of it visually despite knowing how it would look after LOTR. Its not quite as dark as LOTR, feels a wee bit more for the kids, hated the fact no dwarfs bite the dust (some must do eventually!!) but the fact technology has progressed is evident and makes most of the film truly memorable. Kinda makes you wanna whip out your Games Workshop miniatures and play, or Dungeons & Dragons, which ever way you role.
Still, the thought does spring to mind how on earth they will stretch it out over two more films. The first was gonna be sufficiently packed but I fear the second may well be reeeeally stretched seeing as the company is close to Lonely Mountain as it is!. Lets remember this is only about walking to the dwarves old home and fighting a dragon, some films do that kinda thing in a standard 1hour 30 minutes. We will see, yesss we will see.
In returning to Middle Earth, we have to deal with two diametrically opposed feelings. The first is nostalgia for The Lord of the Rings, films which shaped many of our childhoods and which still hold up as a near-perfect trilogy. The danger here is that we could overpraise The Hobbit simply because it feels so good to be back in this beautiful cinematic world; we feel so warmly towards Jackson that almost anything could be offered up and we wouldn't care how good it was in its own right.
The second danger, which flows from the film's production history, is cynicism. We resigned ourselves to Guillermo del Toro's departure on the grounds that Jackson was taking over and we were therefore in safe hands. We raised eyebrows at the 3D and 48 frames per second, doubting their necessity but giving Jackson the benefit of the doubt (neither turned out to be necessary). But extending the fims into a trilogy has been the straw that broke many a camel's back, and it is now very easy to regard Jackson as a mercenary who has completely lost his storytelling marbles. We might even conclude in light of this that we were all wrong about The Lord of the Rings too.
Both of these viewpoints are absurd when taken to their respective extremes. On the one hand, the filmmaking culture which produced An Unexpected Journey is very different to the one which took a chance on a seemingly un-filmable trilogy back in the late-1990s. If New Line Cinema was to go for The Hobbit at all, they would look to milk it as much as possible regardless of what Jackson or del Toro wanted. On the other hand, the source material is very different to Tolkien's later work, and so merely expecting more of the same is to deceive oneself.
Being that as it may, one of the big problems with An Unexpected Journey is its tonal uncertainty. Its attempts to recapture the epic scale and spirit of The Lord of the Rings are frequently at odds with the lighter, simpler story of The Hobbit. While Tolkien conceived of The Lord of the Rings as a mythical pre-history, with meaty subtexts about industry and warfare, The Hobbit is a children's adventure story, a trial run for something bigger and more ambitious.
Jackson's strategy of dealing with this is to consciously integrate the story of The Hobbit into the wider Tolkien continuity. The script adds in elements from The Lord of the Rings Appendices, directly hinting at or passing parallel to scenes that we recognise. We begin with Bilbo as an old man on the day of his birthday party - a scene which ends with Frodo walking down the hill, off to his first meeting with Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring. This isn't so much part one of The Hobbit as 'the first volume of the rest of the history of Middle Earth'.
Having familiar characters turning up is a double-edged sword. It gives an impression of the story being part of a seamless whole, something that a del Toro adaptation might not have achieved. And there is something charming about Sir Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett returning as the characters only they could play.
But there are two problems with this. The smaller problem is that we have older actors playing younger characters; while Galadriel looks the same, neither Elrond nor Saruman are entirely convincing, both looking older and/ or heavier than their later incarnations. The bigger problem is that the more these scenes and characters turn up, the more we respond in a manner which takes us out of the main narrative. We are either irritated by them as a distraction from the actual story of The Hobbit, or are left nostalgically longing for the relative meatiness of The Lord of the Rings in the face of something more childlike and playful.
Whichever way you look at it, An Unexpected Journey is too long and very baggy. Even without its status as the first part of a trilogy, there are whole sections in the first hour-and-a-half that could have been sped up, shortened or cut. There are several moments in which the film mirrors Fellowship, with the goblin fight being akin to the orc battle in Moria, the scaling of the mountain similar to the journey over Caradhras, and of course the similar scenes in Rivendell. But while Fellowship took a little while to reach Rivendell, everything that happened up to then felt weighty and significant, and you couldn't say the same for everything that happens in The Hobbit.
That being said, there is still much about An Unexpected Journey which needs to be celebrated. First and foremost, it is every bit as beautiful and spectacular as The Lord of the Rings, with the only real differences in quality lying in marginal improvements in visual effects. Jackson's eye for composition and the superb attention to detail puts paid to any arguments about the film being entirely an exercise in cashing in. Put bluntly, no cash-grab has ever looked this good.
On a performance level, the film also comes up trumps. Whatever the wavering fortunes of his counterparts, Ian McKellen does convince us that the Gandalf we are seeing is somewhat younger. Sylvester McCoy is typically eccentric as Radagast, and is so enjoyable that it almost doesn't matter that his scenes are largely irrelevant.
Most of all, Martin Freeman excels as Bilbo Baggins, even if the film doesn't centre around him as much as it could or should. In his first few scenes, it can feel like we have wandered back into his take on Arthur Dent, complete with stuttering British politeness and a dressing gown. But once the quest begins he starts to fire, taking the best from Ian Holm's performance and making the character his own.
The best scene in The Hobbit by a country mile is the confrontation between Bilbo and Gollum in the cave. This scene encapsulates the tone that Jackson was aiming for, the subtle improvements in effects and the on-going brilliance of Andy Serkis. It also demonstrates the terrifying tragedy of Gollum as a character, showing him to be capable of great violence but also utterly broken. Serkis described Gollum as an addict in interviews, and as the tense scene wears on we understand clearly what he meant. The way that Gollum changes from fearful to angry, and pathetic to vengeful so quickly breaks our hearts even as we are compelled to run away.
After this scene, The Hobbit plays its final trump card, namely its spectacularly entertaining battle sequences. Having gone through a slow and plodding 90-odd minutes we are treated to battles with the same energy and invention that Jackson displayed throughout The Lord of the Rings. The monsters are more overtly cartoonish in their grotesque natures, with the goblin king (Barry Humphries) being both gruesome and ridiculous. But whatever else has changed about him, Jackson still know how to construct a battle sequence, using sets and props wisely to create fights that both thrill you and make you laugh.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a film which leaves you wanting more even though all its flaws are in plain sight. While it is too long and tonally unsure of itself, it contains many of the aspects that made The Lord of the Rings so special, particularly in the visuals and performances. However good the subsequent instalments or the trilogy as a whole turn out, this is a good beginning, with much room for improvement and just as much to keep us entertained.
Now with that aside, once the set up is done, The Hobbit frequently exhibits the same magic and wonder of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Despite being so CGI heavy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a gorgeous looking movie. Every frame, cut, and shot is amazing. Chief among making this possible is the high speed projector rate of 48fps. The detail in the shots, the clarity of the movements, and the 3D technology is the most amazing visual experience you will have at the cinema this or any year. The High Frame Rate may be jarring at first because the characters move so smoothly, but once your eyes adjust, it's a truly unique experience.
The action scenes are breathtaking. Martin Freeman's performance as Bilbo melds clever humour with emotional depth. The company of dwarfs are all remarkably lovable characters, and the returning characters like Elrond, Frodo, and Galadriel are welcome additions to enhance nostalgia. Gollum's return in particular is as creepy and suspenseful as any of his scenes in LOTR. This is great action filmmaking, and while Peter Jackson shows his tendency to self indulge a little too much, he hasn't quite lost his touch.
When I saw "Hobbit" in the theater is was a family movie night in Paris. I hadn't got much sleep, and was just tired as hell, and not in an ideal mood to watch a 3 hour movie. I think because of this it really soured my opinion of the movie, because I remember not caring a whole lot for it. Felt it was too long, and nowhere near the quality of the previous "Lord of the Rings" movies. So, I have the Extended Editions of the first trilogy on blu-ray(thanks to my amazing wifey!), and just had to make sure I got the extended cuts of this new trilogy(I'm OCD on my movie collection). So I picked up the 3D Blu Ray and figured I'd rewatch before the new one comes out. No matter what I thought of this first one, I knew I was going to watch the rest because I LOVED the original trilogy so much. Well, I'm glad I did, because I was very wrong on my initial feelings. This is a fantastic movie. Is it too long? Yup. As good as the first three? Nope. But it's still an amazing(and Unexpected) Journey of a movie. The effects, especially in 3D, are unbelievable. The action is great, and the music has been stuck in my head all week(luckily the soundtrack is on Spotify). There are still some things I don't like, like the sparrows not just flying them all to the castle at the end. Plus, just like "Fellowship of the Ring", I hate not having an ending, but I expected it this time around. This first installment of Bilbo Baggins journey to helps the dwarves reclaim their home is fantastic and now I cannot wait to see the second one! I'll just make sure it's on a day where I'm wide awake and ready.
Here's my original review, where I wasn't as harsh as I remembered being. Because for the longest time I told people I didn't think it was very good, but my review says otherwise...weird.
Two quick things, I watched this movie while I was pretty tired and had trouble getting into it(but I would have during any movie). Also, I watched this in Paris, IL, which is a cheap theater and doesn't offer the same quality as, say an AMC theater. Having said that, I thought this was a terrific movie, and one that I can't wait to watch in 3D when I'm in a much better movie viewing state of mind. This is a prequel to the amazing "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and it holds up good next to those three masterpieces. I don't think this is good as those three, but it doesn't diminish the legacy in any way, and actually sets up a trilogy that will be pretty awesome when it's all said and done. This is the story of Bilbo Baggins(Martin Freeman) embarking on an adventure with Gandolf(Ian McKellen) and a group of Dwarves to help them reclaim their land from a dragon named Smaug. Freeman is amazing as Bilbo, and probably my favorite Hobbit of all these middle earth movies. He's funny, and a guy you find yourself genuinely rooting for. Peter Jackson returns as the director and I think that is very much a good thing. This matches right up with the first three, even though it is a much lighter movie in tone. This is more kid friendly that the original trilogy, and that's good, as it will introduce a whole new crowd to these movies. Very good movie, that is a must watch this holiday season.
Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit this is the first entry in a new trilogy focusing on events prior to the LOTR trilogy.
60 years before the events of Fellowship, we follow a younger Bilbo Baggins as he gets thrust into a quest to help the wizard Gandalf and a company of 12 dwarves lead by the mighty Thorin Oakenshield to reclaim the dwarf kingdom of Erebor that was taken over long ago by the dragon Smaug.
Given how the novel is 310 pages or so, it's pretty obvious that there's a lot of padding going on, especially since this one book is being adapted into a trilogy, and this, it's first part, is 170 minutes long. No, it's not really necessary to do this, and yeah, making it two parts would be better, as it's unlikely they'd go for just a single super long film, but at the same time, even though a relatively simple and compact story is blown out into epic proportions, it also means we get a fair amount of supplemental material from the Tolkien canon thrown in as well, which, for die hard fans, might be considered a good thing.
Personally, I'm on the fence about it. Yeah, some of the extra stuff is cool, but I really don't think it's necessary to make things so bloated and lengthy. Of course money is the main factor for all of this, but, despite my disagreements with some of this, I will admit that I'm happy to have more of Middle Earth get the big screen treatment.
And let's be honest: at this stage of his career, serving up epic spectacle is what Peter Jackson really excels at.
The film looks great, and, even though the decision to make this trilogy in 3D and shot in a high frame rate isn't the most necessary thing either, I was glued to the screen for the whole running time.
Martin Freeman is great as young Bilbo Baggins, and we get welcome returns from Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum in what is easily the film's best scene. Other cast members from the Rings trilogy appear as well, and it's nice to see them, but it also felt a tad forced. Among the new cast, none of them are really remarkable except for Richard Armitage as Thorin. All the rest of the dwarves just feel interchangeable and unremarkable.
The action scenes are well done, the effects, though CGI heavy, are also quite strong, and the music too, is quite stunning.
Obviously since this is the first in a new trilogy it's kinda anti-climactic, but since I try to be optimistic more than pessimistic, I'll be nice and call it a nice tease for things to come.
Seeing Gollum again makes up for most of the meandering. Even that segment overstays its welcome a bit but the moment he disappears from the screen, you do miss how well the character is realized. As for the rest of the characters, they blend together without much more than a stereotype to tell them apart.
At the center of it all are the charming Martin Freeman and the perfectly cast Ian McKellen. Because they are saving some revelations for later films you are left with incomplete pictures of the character's motivations and actions but we all know what we're getting - the first part of a trilogy. It's a shame that it really does feel like a very long exposition to a meatier story.
But this is Peter Jackson with material he does wonders with and "The Hobbit" still has its wonders. The world is immersive, the action sequences are mystical and some of the creations like the goblins are wonderful to witness.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" while not as unexpected and surprising of a journey as it could have been is still a good starting point for a trilogy that looks certain to get better as the story gets richer.
The bizarre, unfunny, slapstick humor is painful. This involves snot jokes, burping, poop hair, and lame one-liners. Don't give me the "it's based on a children's book" crap. Sure, the source material was written for children but I'm talking about the movie. Adding all this stupid humor really messes with the tone; it doesn't feel like it belongs in the LOTR universe which "The Hobbit" is trying so hard replicate. The film will go from trying to be epic to pathetic gags. It doesn't work. I don't mind a little humor occasionally but this is just overdone and it makes the film feel very unbalanced.
Now to the pacing. Many say the beginning is slow but they're wrong. The entire film is slow! Radagast's involvement is pointless and his bunny sled is ridiculous. We also get to see Saruman and Galadriel in a boring scene that has absolutely no relevance to the main narrative. Wait, what exactly is "The Hobbit" about again? Apparently Jackson is trying to make connections with LOTR, but "Fellowship of the Ring" already explains past events pretty well. Seriously, all the LOTR fanboy pleasing scenes could have been left out (including Frodo). But no, we need them in order to have enough material for the trilogy. Not good.
And I understand that Jackson is taking material from the appendices of LOTR. I wouldn't have a problem with this if all these extra scenes actually advanced the plot. But the White Council just talks and they never decide to act on anything. Also, that scene has NOTHING to do with the dwarves reclaiming their homeland. At least in "Fellowship" the plot makes major advancements but in "The Hobbit" the story hardly goes anywhere.
Let's discuss the action. It's like watching a video game. The main orc villain, Azog, looks fake. Everything is CGI overload; there's no tension. Characters survive unbelievable situations. Compare the ending orc scene in this film to the one in "Fellowship." Huge difference. Unfortunately everything in "The Hobbit" is cartoonish. Not to mention most of the action has no impact on the story whatsoever.
Now to the characters. Gandalf is great but that is to be expected. Martin Freeman does fine as Bilbo but his transition from weakling to hero happens a little too quickly and feels unrealistic. Thorin is your typical warrior like character; I didn't care for him too much. Bifur is probably my favorite of all the dwarves (hold on, I just Googled his name and realized I got the wrong one, his name is BOFUR, my bad). All the other dwarves are just there and if you were to ask me to name them and describe something about their character, I couldn't do it. And I'm sure you couldn't either.
But the film does have some good. We get to see Smeagol and Bilbo interact in an iconic scene. The finding of the Ring is also significant and is really the only scene that should have any connection with LOTR unlike Galadriel, Frodo, etc. And that's about it. Honestly, nothing really happens. While watching "The Hobbit" you kind of forget about the main adventure because of all the padding. Then at the end you're like, "Oh yeah, there's a dragon." Maybe the second film will improve.
It's such a shame that "The Hobbit" ended up being a drawn-out, bloated, boring mess that lacks compelling characters and an engaging story. I really wanted to love it but it's hard not to ignore the many problems. I couldn't wait to return to Middle-earth but now I'm not sure if I want to go back to this new cartoon version. Hopefully improvements will be made in the sequels but after witnessing this my hopes aren't too high. All these years of anticipation and this is what we get...
unfortunately I was watching in stink and rusty cinema