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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Date Posted: 2012-12-18
Tolkien Fan Level: 5
Film Format Seen? 3D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes

There was almost no chance I would dislike this movie. I drank the Kool Aid of Peter Jackson’s version of Middle Earth the first time I sat in the theater, watching *Fellowship of the Ring* with my mouth hanging open. And of that Kool Aid, I drank deeply. So the question was really one of degree.

My initial assessment of the movie: It’s very good, with some wonderful moments and performances. It’s got some flaws that I think will be increasingly distracting in multiple viewings. I doubt I will love it as much as *Lord of the Rings*, but I will love it for what it is. It lacks the intensity and emotional heft of LOTR, but it’s a different story, and since it’s not about the impending destruction of Middle Earth, it would be silly to expect the same tone. It’s more light-hearted and goofy, which I also enjoyed. I’d give it 4 stars out of 5 overall.

What’s excellent:

--Acting performances. Some of the acting is magnificent. Richard Armitage’s Thorin has depth and resonance. I think he did a wonderful job making Thorin more than just a “cantankerous old git,” as Armitage put it in one interview. They could not have done better in casting Bilbo. Martin Freeman is everything you could want in your reluctant Hobbit, seemingly so far out of his league (and yet)! Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum may be even better than in the LOTR films, if that’s possible. And it’s wonderful to see Gandalf the Gray again.

--Certain moments and scenes: If you are any sort of a fan of the book, you will love Riddles in the Dark, and the moment when Bilbo spares Gollum. There are also great unexpected scenes and moments, such as the scene between Balin and Thorin at Bag End.

What’s problematic:

--I think the biggest flaws of the film all stem from a lack of editing. One review pointed out that with Lord of the Rings, it was an epic story with much that had to be told in a short amount of time. This movie is the opposite. It feels like an extended edition, with lots of time taken for detail, lingering on moments. As a fan, there’s much to enjoy, but it can honestly drag.** Also, Peter Jackson has before taken potentially exciting moments in LOTR and expanded them a little far; in this case, it means he milks some silly battle/action sequences for all they are worth, to the point that I found myself impatient to move on to something else.***

See comments below on a subplot which I also felt was indulgent and not particularly helpful.****

--The 3D. I saw it in regular 3D, not 48 frames per second, though they are showing it in 48 fps an hour’s drive away and I intend to see it. But the 3D gave everything a very cheesy look to me. Rivendell still looks like Rivendell, and also somehow looks like an illustration made by a teenage fantasy fan, who is a little too in love with his watercolors. Apart from seeing it in 48 fps, I think I will stick to 2D on viewings from here on out.

I also feel inclined to weigh in on the Hot Dwarves question. Armitage is totally believable as Thorin, pleasing on the eyes though he is. And although Kili and Fili don’t really look like Dwarves, I didn’t find them distracting. All in all, it works having “hot dwarves” more than one might think.


**The Unexpected Party is a perfect example. It’s such a hoot to hear the Dwarves sing the “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates” song, and to watch all the details unfold as the Dwarves clear out Bilbo’s larder and trash his house. The Misty Mountains song is pure magic. And yet...the whole thing could be so much tighter. I honestly kept waiting for the Misty Mountains song. The framing device with Bilbo and Frodo is another example. Cute and fun, and good to revisit older Bilbo and pre-Ring Frodo, but it started to feel a little indulgent.

***The sequence with the giant rocks having a battle with each other is an example. It’s like, two lines in the book. And it goes on and on and ON. It’s not a good sign when an avid fan is sighing and wondering what time it is on her first viewing because the director/editor didn’t know when to stop.

****Azog, the big white Orc with the big white Warg. Admittedly, I’m not up on whatever part of the appendices or *Unfinished Tales* this Azog subplot comes from. But I don’t feel like it adds much to the story. Instead, it distracts from the central story of Bilbo finding his courage, and the Dwarves’ quest. The other subplots, like the White Council, at least connect *The Hobbit* to *Lord of the Rings.* This subplot does nothing for me, particularly since Azog himself also felt very cartoony. That may have been a factor of the 3D (see main commentary).

The Ratings
The Other Ratings
Martin Freeman 's performance as Bilbo Baggins?
Richard Armitage 's performance as Thorin?
The Overall representation of The Dwarves ?
Andy Serkis' performance as Gollum?
Ian McKellen's performance as Gandalf?
Bilbo's retelling of the history of Erebor and of Thror/Thrain/Thorin
The Eagles rescue sequence?
The Goblin King ?
Initial impression of Thranduil?
Hugo Weaving's performance as Elrond?
Radagast's portrayal in the movie?
The representation of Goblintown?
Cate Blanchett's performance as Galadriel?
The Bag End Supper scene?
The scene of the Trolls?
The representation of the Arkenstone?
The Stone Giants?
Escape from the Goblin cave?
Riddles in the Dark scene?
The return to Rivendell?
The attack on the party by the Wargs
The first glimpses of Smaug?
The ending of the movie; in regards to leading well into the next film, and serving as a good ending point.
The overall pace of the film
Peter Jackson's vision in bringing the Hobbit to the big screen.

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