The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Movie Review

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again,  is probably J.R.R. Tolkien’s most read book.  Although the follow up books composing the Lord of the Rings are an amazing piece of literature in both scale and substance, it is The Hobbit that grabs the imagination of children around the globe first.

It took years of compromise and legal maneuvers to get the move into the able hands of Peter Jackson.

The story of Bilbo Baggins, a simple hobbit minding his own business until the great wizard Gandalf collects a group of dwarves for a quest, and gives humble Bilbo a nudge out the door.

First off, the cinematography.  There has been a lot of controversy about Jackson’s filming choices.  He chose to film the movie in 48 frames per second (double the normal 24 fps), claiming it would provider greater detail and would enhance the quality of the 3D.  I agree that it accomplished the latter, but it is certainly an annoying creative choice.  It took about half the film for me to become accustomed to it, always blinking away tears early on as my eyes struggled to keep up.  Once you get used to it, however, some of the scenes are spectacular in detail, but others almost seem cartoonish.  I do wonder, however, if I watch it again…will my eyes again have to make the adjustment?  That would be enough for me to choose the standard version.

The actual  visuals are as beautiful as you would expect, and so closely align with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you almost feel as if you never left middle earth.

Martin Freeman was a brilliant choice as Bilbo.  He fits the role like a glove, and his innocent and sometimes clueless demeanor fits the character perfectly.

The movie takes almost three hours.  Yes, it is long, and I question some of the editing choices.   The first hour is composed of introductions, songs, and some comedy.  You finally get to the ‘meat’ of the story, followed by a visit to the Elvish city of Rivendell.  Even then, it feels like the story is slightly limping along.

It is not until we are introduced to Gollum that we really feel we are honestly in the Hobbit.  Gollum of course is the critical pivot point for both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and the scene lives up to its billing.

Ultimately, I did enjoy the film.  Is it at the same high quality level as the Lord of the Rings trilogy?  Sadly, no.  There are times in the LOTR movies that you feel the story is bloated, but it is doubly true here.  Expanding a 300 page book into three movies, even with Tolkien’s extensive secondary stories added in to fill the blanks, distracts from what should be a streamlined story  I could see this being a 2 movie deal at most.  How he is going to stretch this to three movies, especially at almost 3 hours a piece, and not having hard core Tolkien fans snoring in their seats is beyond me.

That said, I still loved the story, and Peter Jackson clearly loves the source material in a way very few others do.  An enjoyable jaunt through Middle Earth should never be ignored.  But, just not as fun as the last time around.  I hope he elevates his game for the next two installments.