Ben's Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Nearly nine years after the release of "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," Peter Jackson, along with most of the cast and crew that has remained faithful to him, returns to Middle Earth with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." With the four writers that were attached to the script, the entire objective of this film was to implement the elements that had made The Hobbit such a wonderful children's tale while simultaneously reflecting on the elements that had made Jacksons "Lord of the Rings" films some of the best movies of all time. With nine years, there comes many technological advances. CGI plays a direct role rather than a minor one in how films are executed in today's day and age. This notion is extremely prevalent in the way this film plays out. Jackson decided to amp up the frame-rate for this production, which is something that has never been done in a motion picture before. Though this may be a controversial aspect to his production, it still reflects on all the major changes Jackson and his crew have made for the execution of this film. When all is said and done, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a great adventure film in every sense of the word. It may not mach the sheer brilliance of the original trilogy, but with a wonderful cast and many elements that are brought back that were so close and dear to your heart, its a film that is worth investing in.
The pace of this film was truly startling to me, because it seemed that almost every aspect of the first quarter of Tolkien's novel was implemented onto the screen. I had no idea that the film would reflect the book almost verbatim in its script. This is yet another thing that has become controversial amongst critics regarding this film. Some may see this tactic as a way to stretch the film as much as you can into a three part series, and though this may very well be true, it doesn't distract me from the film's content. I may have not noticed this problem because I am such a huge Tolkien fan, but for those who have not read the book before, this execution may prove to be tedious. For fans of the novel however, the style of the production in terms of its length and how it implements the novel is virtually unnoticeable in terms of strenuous content. The first part of Jackson's new trilogy encompasses the story of Bilbo Baggins at a young age, who is asked on an adventure by Gandfalf to accompany a band of Dwarfs in their attempts to return to the home that they were exiled from by a most hideous dragon named Smaug. Its truly an epic story indeed, but it shouldn't be confused with the style of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. In the trilogy, Tolkien uses many elements that are geared toward an adult reader base. "The Hobbit" however, was a book that was written mainly for children. The way it is written, and the overall length of the book reflects this. That being said, it may be baffling to some hardcore fans of the novel that this film could display such serious aspects to it. It's important to understand the conundrum of Peter Jackson in this regard. Does he create an entirely new style with this film, or does he reflect on the elements that had made his trilogy so popular? I wasn't bothered by Jackson's decision to go with the serious aspect, mainly because I was such a huge fan of his original trilogy. This is up to the viewer to decide if they are bothered by it or not. In terms of the its content overall, the script is extremely well done. The film may divulge into characters that have no direct outcome on the overall plot for extended periods of time, but the film still packs a whole lot entertainment in its screenplay.
The performances are spectacular. Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman display a wonderfully rich chemistry that wholeheartedly reminds me of the way Mckellen and Holm interacted with each other in the original trilogy. In terms of casting, the people that were behind the decision to pick Freeman for the job of playing Bilbo did a great job. The performances of all the actors who played the dwarfs were spot on as well. The completely believable acting is thanks in most part to the wonderful makeup design of the dwarfs. Jackson's makeup and effects crew are still able to make me believe that I am viewing reality. For me, the performances are what truly made the picture. Specifically Ian McKellen who has certified himself in cinema history forever with his performance as Gandalf. He is just as great here as he has ever been, and this made the film all the more better.
The 48 FPS aspect is definitely one of great controversy. I did not see the film in its intended heightened frame-rate, so I cannot discuss how this affected the feel of the film. I can say that excluding the new frame-rate style, the cinematography is excellent for many reasons, mainly for conventional reasons. The way that the original trilogy was shot is reflected in this film without a doubt. This is probably why I enjoyed the visuals so much. There are certainly elements in this film that were not present in the original trilogy in terms of aesthetics and visuals, but for the most part, I felt large amounts of nostalgia in the visual presentation of this film. Though "The Hobbit" may also rely on a heavy amount of CGI in this picture, I still felt that the visual aspect of this production was handled with as much care as the original trilogy. The audience is still presented with the classic landscape sequences that had made the originals so fun to watch. Jackson is still able to act as a showcase for New Zealand in his work.
There are many aspects to "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" that could be considered controversial. The film may upset individuals because of its extended screenplay, or its visual effects that rely so heavily on computerized stimuli. But when all is said and done, the film amounts to simply a great adventure film. It may not catch up to the brilliancy of the original trilogy, but that doesn't mean the film itself isn't well done on its own merit. With some wonderful performances, astounding visual effects, flawless makeup, and a classic soundtrack by Howard Shore, most of the necessary components are in place for this picture. And for the most part, the film really doesn't disappoint. With Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth, he is still able to capture the imaginations of his audience, even after nine years. A commendable feat indeed.