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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Review

By   Dec 11, 2012 09:48 AM EST
"In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit." That's how J.R.R.Tolkien introduced us to his first novel set within the realms of Middle Earth -- short, sharp, to the point.. It's a pity then, that in his film adaptation of the same novel, Peter Jackson did not think along such lines.

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Instead, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"'s intro drags on, taking greater pains to tie his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy to his new movie than to introduce his latest offering, and that was even before the titles rolled.

Coming in at a butt-numbing 2 hours and 49 minutes long, the first part of this trilogy covers, unsurprisingly, approximately one third of the book, and although the first movie of Rings was slightly longer, it did at least cover a whole tome that had a beginning, middle and end.

The intro sees Ian Holm and Elijah Wood reprise their roles of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, before moving forward, or more precisely backward, where Martin Freeman then takes over as the younger Bilbo. As a young Hobbit, Bilbo has yearned to see the world beyond the shire, but has apprehensions of doing anything about it, until the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) prods him in the right direction, conscripting him to become a burglar for a group of dwarves who want to reclaim their city from the menace that is the dragon Smaug. The grand gathering of hobbit meeting dwarf seems drawn out as the gathering of the Fellowship; of the band of thirteen dwarves, only two really stand out throughout the movie: Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Bofur (James Nesbitt).

Once the party leaves the shire to begin their quest, the movie itself starts to move along at a more entertaining rate. Journeying through some stunning vistas that has always been a big part of the way Peter Jackson has sold Middle Earth to the audience. With Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) Christopher Lee (Saruman) and the charismatic Andy Serkis as Gollum reprising their roles, there are also two notable new faces: Barry Humphreys as the Goblin King, and Sylvester McCoy as the tree-hugging creature-loving mage Radagast, who really is quite splendid.

With Jackson behind the camera again, and myself having seen his trilogy countless times, there was a feel permeating the film of meeting up with an old friend after a few years. From snow-capped mountains to deserted heathland, the sweeping scenic shots evidenced that once again we were transported to Tolkien's Middle Earth, through the eyes of the director.  Some shots were very familiar; some less so. Add to this the dull melancholic input of Howard Shore's soundtrack, and you know for certain you are back in Jackson's Middle Earth.

Just like in The Fellowship of the Ring, this series opener lays a lot of the story down for future episodes to explore, but in contrast to Fellowship, this has a lighter more jovial feel about it. You can't help but laugh at some of the one-liners delivered, especially from the dwarves. There has been a lot of noise in the press regarding Jackson's decision to shoot in the high definition 48 frames per second instead of the more common 24; after seeing the 48fps version I think it has both its advantages as well as disadvantages. You can't help but be in awe of the detail it adds to the scenic and especially the computer generated scenes, they flow seamlessly, but that has a trade off as some of the other props looked all faked up on close up, but I would take that trade off any day of the week, it works well especially with 3D.  

So all things considered, maybe it would be to unwise to judge Jackson's second adventure  into Middle Earth after just one installment, as I am sure, as with the former trilogy, it will get better with each movie. Then you may ask, why only a "C"?  Originally the story of The Hobbit was going to be told over two feature films, but then the news came it was to be stretched out to a trilogy! I had the feeling it was going to be buffed up with scenes of little relevance to the story, and I was right, a sing-song stacking of dishes seeming to prove my point. Whether that was the studio or the director's choice, I do not know; I just hope An Unexpected Journey is the only movie in this trilogy that will have had to be inflated with irrelevant scenes. My appetite has been whetted for more; already I am counting down for the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug.

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MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 170 minutes
Distributed By: New Line Cinema

For more information about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Paul Kates please click here.

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