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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Lofty Expectations, No Magic

  • Andy SerkisCate Blanchett...
  • Action & AdventureFantasy
  • Peter Jackson
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Lofty Expectations, No Magic
With the success of The Lord of the Rings behind him, Peter Jackson embarked on another cinematic rendition of J.R.R Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy novel,  The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

This is the first and opening film in a planned trilogy; a narrative that actually predates The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, The Hobbit falters under pressure and fails to deliver the magic. 

The very thin plotline, taken from Tolkien’s three-hundred page novel, opens up with Frodo (Wood) and an older version of Bilbo Baggins (Holm) talking about an  autobiographical story that Bilbo has been secretly working on; a story that ultimately takes us back sixty years to its very beginning.

Young Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), a hobbit who enjoys the comfort of the Shire, doesn’t do much socialising.  His pipe-smoking alone- time is very precious and he doesn’t appreciate or welcome company.  So when he receives a visit from Gandalf (McKellen) – who insists on enlisting Bilbo on an expedition to the Lonely Mountain along with a dozen of other dwarfs – Bilbo is not pleased and initially hesitates towards the invitation. The dwarfs’ plan is to reach the mountain and try to reclaim the Kingdom of Erebor; the land which was taken from them years before by the evil dragon Smaug. Despite Bilbo’s many excuses of why he is not cut out for the voyage, Gandalf insists and eventually convinces him to join. 

Of course, the trip to Lonely Mountain is not easy.  The group encounters all types of creatures along the way; including weird looking Trolls, greasy Goblins and a pack of stern-faced Orcs. They eventually run into a few familiar faces from the ‘past’; Elf King Elrond (Weaving), his ghostly telepathic Queen Galadriel (Blanchett) and even Wizard Suruman (Lee) makes an appearance. Furthermore, Gollum (Serkis) also makes a comeback and ends up sharing quite a bit of screen time with Bilbo in the second half of the film.

Jackson’s beloved The Lord of the Rings trilogy enjoyed a great amount of success, mainly due to the complex and multilayered story.  He also had enough material to work with; Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels were just over 1600 pages long, combined. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of The Hobbit.  The novel is pretty slim in comparison and Jackson plans to release the already filmed trilogy over the next couple of years. How he proposes to do this with the story still remains to be seen.

The pitfalls are endless. The boisterous dwarfs , who burst into not just one song, but two at the beginning of the film, bring an unintentional infantile element.  The group entangle themselves in a few, rather slow-moving battles that always result in a last minute save, usually by Gandalf. However, Gollum, who doesn’t appear until the second half of the story, is the only invigorating factor of the entire story.

What makes things worse, and some might disagree, is Peter Jackson’s decision to shoot it in 3D. The film is shot at a frame rate of 48fps as a pose to the standard 24fps and the result is a bit of a mixed bag.  The crystal clear picture of every single shot makes The Hobbit look like a Spanish soap-opera.  Giving it that ‘studio’ feel, doesn’t really work for this type of storytelling and although it does manage to work for some scenes, they are very few.

As Bilbo Baggins, Freeman withstands the ridiculousness that surrounds him.  As does McKellen, who is still a perfect fit for the wise and caring Gandalf. Blanchett, Weaving and Lee collectively fail to register; their brief roles in The Hobbit barely skim the surface, and one wonders whether their appearance was at all necessary.

Taken as a whole, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is disappointing.  There is nothing ‘unexpected’ about it and one can only hope that Peter Jackson pulls out all the stops in the upcoming releases. 

Like This? Try

The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003) , Harry Potter (2001-2012), The Hobbit (1997)

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Guillermo del Toro was originally slated to direct, but after years stuck in pre-production limbo, he left to pursue other projects. 

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