Having seen the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy too many times to count, I had certain expectations for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” Fortunately, many of those inner-most needs I possessed were met, however, there will still a few stumbling points within the movie itself.
We will start with the good, nay, the amazing! Peter Jackson follows through on his commitment to honoring Tolkien’s years of work as a successful writer. There are so many absolutely beautiful scenes in this movie. Whether it’s a helicopter pan of our team making their way across the deserted, fantastic landscape of Middle-Earth, or a slow zoom-in to the delicate, yet wonderful Last Homely Home of Rivendell.
I wasn’t in love with Gollum in the original trilogy, but I was completely in-tune and fascinated with the riddles in the dark scene. I saw Gollum in new light, where his desperation hadn’t fully kicked-in yet (albeit, on it’s way within a few decades though I’m sure.)
As mentioned earlier, I was once in love with a woman named Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as well as the same tales written by Tolkien himself in his six book series of the same name, so absolutely any inclusion of foreshadowing of the events of the Third Age to come, such as the existence of Sauron, as well as the Witch-king of Angmar sufficiently squelched my need, by feeding it, and then giving me even more juicy details through conversations between ‘former baddies’ such as Saruman, having a somewhat critical, yet joy-filled conversation with the Lady Galadriel, featuring ‘former woman’ from “Cloud Atlas,” Sir Hugo Weaving, reprising his role as Elrond.
Howard Shore again heads up the department with music, and does so to amazing effect, incorporating themes and motives from the “Lord of the Rings,” while making this soundtrack quite distinct, as you will see. You may feel a creep of goosebump-infected nostalgia roll over yourself as you hear some of them.
Now the bad, unfortunately. Or maybe not bad, but a little bit of a downer.
There were added pieces to this story that were entirely unfamiliar to Hobbit-aficionados, which works to an extent, but at some point, the warg chases grow to be somewhat repetitive. In the same way I tired of the non-stop, fabricated ringwraith chases in “Fellowship.” Also the inclusion of, said “one-armed orc king”. Or, the inclusion of, said “fat-chinned, massively over-disgusting goblin leader/king/whatever”.
The funny bit is, fans who are unfamiliar to the children’s book will not notice these additions, and probably won’t care. For those of us who are attached to page-by-page description, it might matter some, or become a deal breaker for others.
I should have added this into the pluses, but there is not a single character who was miscast in their role, neither were there any flat performances by any of our heroes, or villains, for that matter. I was, however, trying to distinguish dwarfs throughout the movie, and by the end, multiple dwarfs just looked to me as the same person. “Lord of the Rings” at least had different races of Middle-Earth denizens, so it worked, but here not so much. Which pains me to say, but 12 characters of the same, yet unfamiliar race make things hard for the audience in my opinion.
Finally, the 3D. I was blessed to view this film also at 48fps, which was quite wonderful, and I think works for Jackson, maybe not only to an extent, but fully. 3D has come off to me only as a gimmick, added to movies just for the effect, but since this was no cheap conversion of an already decent film, the 3D really works here. It’s a little unsettling having arrows flying at your face, or a butterfly teetering it’s way from one side of the screen to the other. The action and fight scenes were completely astounding, with so many humorous moments, yet so many very exciting ones as well. However, in 3D, I was sometimes lost in the action, which was a little disorienting, but a quick recovery will follow, nonetheless.
There were some very cheesy moments, like slinging dishes to the beat, but I think this is due in part to the “Hobbit” being a one book children’s book… But this is inherently, one of the movie’s few problems… It’s not a six book epic. If anything, the “Lord of the Rings” should have been extended to something longer than a trilogy. For this “Hobbit” trilogy, a three movie spread will be very difficult without adding a lot of new material to Tolkien’s work, and while it may be fantastic and loved by many, there will be some of us who grow tired of it. Additionally, outside of a two film spread, I don’t see why we need three movies to tell an already short tale. MAKE THIS CLEAR, I loved “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” I loved practically every minute of it, but I also have a hope deep down within me that this will repeat the same pattern of the original trilogy. “Fellowship” was filled with exposition, where “The Two Towers” capitalized on the exposition, and filled in an absolutely breathtaking three hours to set up the majesty and wonder that is “The Return of the King,” which is one of my favorite films of all time. May we pray that Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy follows suit and amazes us in that very same way. Jackson hasn’t let us down yet in Middle-Earth, so I don’t fully expect him to now.
So quickly, fly on eagles wings, and cast a spell of amazement and bewilderment over yourself as you sit down for this nearly three-hour long spectacle. Hope you like motion sickness. But be very happy that this time, 3D is promised to not be a gimmick. I guarantee you will at least like, if not love, every minute you are in the theater.