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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Posted by martinteller on March 26, 2013

I was a big fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I’d still call myself a fan, though my enthusiasm has waned a bit over the past decade.  However, The Hobbit is a lesser book, and while I read through all of LOTR twice, I only bothered with its much slimmer predecessor once.  Still, I was initially excited about the idea of diving back into that world cinematically.  That is, until word came that it would be split into three movies — and if this first one is any indication, three long movies — with a bunch of material crammed in from Tolkien’s other books.  And so I didn’t even bother to see it in the theater… a big drop in enthusiasm from that midnight showing of Fellowship.  I figured it would wait for home viewing.

My wife blind-bought the movie on Blu-Ray, so it was delivered to my doorstep.  And I had actually worked up some excitement for it.  That excitement was dashed when it took 40+ minutes for the “unexpected journey” to get going.  This lengthy buildup includes a scene much worse than anything in the first three films, as the dwarves invade Bilbo’s home and act incredibly irritating for what seems like forever.  It crushed my spirits and it was an uphill battle after that catastrophe.

It’s a movie of excesses.  Too much buildup.  Too many battles.  Too many impossible survivals.  Too many Gandalf ex machina moments.  Too many superfluous scenes.  Too many epic helicopter shots of the New Zealand countryside.  Too much overly dramatic music.  Too many friggin’ goblins.  Granted, the first three movies were no strangers to excess, and were guilty of many of the same indulgences.  But there we had characters we cared about.  Gimli was easily my least favorite of the Fellowship, but he had more personality than all 13 of these dwarves combined.  The only one worth caring about is Thorin, and I didn’t really like him either.

Which leaves Bilbo, Gandalf and Gollum.  And they’re terrific.  They save the film.  The confrontation between Bilbo and Gollum is one of the highlights of the novel (and the only thing I can recall from a stage production I saw as a wee child) and it’s by far the best scene here.  It’s not quite how I remember it from the book, but my memory could be flawed and it doesn’t really matter.  It’s witty and tense… Sirkis’s performance leaves you wanting more, and it’s Freeman’s best opportunity to really shine.

And on the whole, the movie isn’t truly that bad.  Jackson made a poor choice in stretching it out to three films, but there’s a pretty decent, exciting film under all the fat.  If the next two movies can either flesh out some of the other characters or focus more on Bilbo (or both), they stand a better chance of being as riveting and engrossing as the LOTR trilogy.  This one was entertaining, but only sporadically Rating: Fair (67)


2 Responses to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

  1. CMrok93 said

    Good review Martin. Not a great movie, but a very entertaining one that deserves to be seen in the regular-version, mainly because the 48fps seems to be messing everybody up. Myself included.

    • Yeah fortunately I didn’t see it that way, but that sounded like a bad choice. An experiment gone wrong. I assume they’re doing the same for the other movies.

      Thanks for writing!

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