Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Firstly, I would like to start off by saying that The Lord of the Rings films are probably my favorite movies of all time.  So, when I heard that The Hobbit was finally being made I was ecstatic and immediately set my expectations unbelievably high.  Now having seen the film I can definitely say it has pretty much met those expectations. 
                The story is rather straight forward. 60 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins(Martin Freeman), is unexpectedly(hence the name of the movie) recruited for an adventure by Gandalf the wizard(Ian McKellen).  The adventure is to journey to a far off city to reclaim a land for 13 dwarves, from a dragon. I’m not giving anything away to tell you right now, they don’t make it there by the end of this film, so get rid of those ideas now.  You have part two, The Desolation of Smaug, to look forward for that.
                First thing to keep in mind with this film is that the book The Hobbit is based off of was made more for children then The Lord of the Rings. So some parts of this film might come off as a little strange and childish, but I think Peter  Jackson has done well to combine the seriousness of The Lord of the Rings with a few lighter moments that fit the more kid friendly side of the Hobbit. 
                The next thing to know going into this film is it is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, so some of your favorite characters from those films are either nowhere to be seen or they are in smaller parts.  If you are expecting to see Aragon or Gimli, look somewhere else, they are not a part of this story.  So you will need to get to know all new people.
                This time around Martin Freeman(Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) takes over the lead and the role of Bilbo Baggins(formerly played by Ian Holmes, who has a cameo). Freeman works perfect in this part, he displays the right amount of skittish hesitance and heroic strength. He makes it easy to want to follow him in this journey and he makes a very believable younger Ian Holmes.  Ian McKellen(Lord of the Rings, X-men) returns in the role of Gandolf the Grey and because of the lighter take the book has, we get to see a more playful fun side of Gandolf. He is still perfectly cast and great to see.  As far as the Dwarfs go, there are 13 of them so you can imagine, even with a 2 hour and 45 minute movie, it is going to be hard to really flesh out each one.  Each one does have their own distinctive trait and Peter Jackson does give each dwarf a moment to shine, but even so it can be hard to keep track of them all.  The one stand out among them all is Richard Armitage as Thorin Ockenshield, the leader of the Dwarves.  He is a very commanding presence in the movie and manages to bring a lot of what Viggo Mortensen brought to Aragon.  He is very intense, but we do manage to get a lot of his back story to know why.  The rest of the cast is made up of a few old friends reprising their roles from the original trilogy.   Obviously the stand out of them is Andy Serkis once again as Gollum.  He falls right back into this role perfectly and is definitely the highlight of the movie.  Even in the short time he is on screen it leaves you wanting more.
                Even though this film is a different adventure then Lord of the Rings, both films follow a similar storyline. Personally I don’t have a problem with how similar these films are, but I know some might have an issue with how close these films are to each other.  Both adventures start out in the Shire, they both end up making a trip to Rivendale where a council is held, and they both end up in a mine being chased by a horde of bad guys. It’s been awhile since I read the book, but if you have a problem with this don’t blame Peter Jackson, it’s all in there.
                The movie itself looks amazing.  Somehow Mr. Jackson keeps finding these amazing locations within his home country of New Zealand that look completely different from each other, yet perfect for the world of Middle Earth.  Half the fun of watching these movies is the amazing scenery. The special effects and the CGI was once again top notch and just looked stunning and so real.  Also Howard Shore has created another wonderful score to accompany this film.  It is great hearing the small cues from the original trilogy mixed with some equally excellent new themes.  The most prominent one would be the Dwarves theme that plays quite a lot and is a real stand out hero theme.  I will admit on a few occasions the power of the score mixed with the scene it played in almost brought tears to my eyes.
                So, with all those great things being said one has to wonder if there was anything wrong with the film.  Well I saw it in IMAX 3D at the 48 FPS rate and I have to say much of it worked, but it did have a few issues.  The 3D was really good and it was cool seeing things like rain and smoke come flying out of the screen.  IMAX was again awesome because these films are made for the grand scale of IMAX.  The problem came in with the higher frame rate.  Shooting the film like this made everything look amazing and beautiful, but it had one drawback.  Every so often when someone was moving across the screen they appeared to be moving in fast forward which made for a strange look to the movie.  Other than that issue I had no problems with the higher frame rate. 
                Since this is one book that is being turned into three movies Peter Jackson had to find places to add more into the story and I had an issue with one of those additions.  Jackson expanded the role of one of the smaller characters in the book, the wizard Radagast the Brown.  He is a very strange character that went a little too far into the fantasy realm at times.  Also the makeup applied to him looked like a bird had crapped on the side of his face and kind of made me want to gag a few times.  I do feel like he was an unnecessary expansion to the story. 
                So if you are wondering if The Hobbit is worth another trip back to Middle Earth I would most definitely say yes.  With another great adventure and more top notch movie making Peter Jackson has managed to capture the magic all over again.  When this film ended I immediately couldn’t wait for next year’s second part.  If you enjoyed the original Lord of the Rings or any fantasy movie released in the past 10 years then this is a must see for you. 
5 out of 5