Date Posted: 2012-12-15
Tolkien Fan Level: 7
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
The board is set and the pieces are moving with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a film which doesn't quite live up to the emotional quality of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but is nonetheless a much-welcome return to Middle-Earth. There were moments of pure beauty in this film, but also jarring moments where despite the importance of the scene or the drama of the dialogue, I couldn't help but notice the 48 FPS. I'm used to high-frame rates, but it took me more than half the film to get used to the "smoothness" of it. I think it would best to save the 48 FPS for the 2nd viewing.
The most powerful moments in the film come from scenes that parallel moments from Lord of the Rings, which is both a blessing and a curse. I couldn't help grinning when I saw Frodo nail the "No admittance" sign to the fence of Bag-End, or when Gandalf had the familiar glint in his eye. But there were just one too many of these moments, whether it was Gandalf's booming voice that darkens the room or one of Howard Shore's familiar themes radiating from a moment that doesn't live up emotionally to when it was originally used. The biggest problem with the film is that it runs a little too long. I prefer the Extended Editions of the original trilogy and so was mostly excited about Peter Jackson splitting up The Hobbit into 3 films instead of 2, but I was disappointed with some of the additional scenes. Where was Gandalf questioning Bilbo about the ring? Where was the scene of Bilbo walking past the shards of Narsil in Rivendell? Instead we have a 5-minute sequence of stone giants tossing the company around. Radagast the Brown is an interesting character, but I'm not so sure he had enough to contribute to the film. Not enough time is spent developing the different members of the party, and as a result only half the dwarves are distinguishable. I sound more critical than I should. The sets are beautiful, the enemies realistically menacing, the landscape stunning, and there is wonderful acting, especially from Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis. The first meeting between Gandalf and Bilbo, and Riddles in the Dark with Bilbo and Gollum are exactly how I pictured them to be. Thorin is much more developed and much more likeable than he ever was in the book. Some of the humor and lightheartedness which were excluded from Lord of the Rings gets a welcome place here. An Unexpected Journey has the unenviable task of starting a follow-up trilogy to one of the greatest trilogies of all time, with a story geared towards children. I only expect things to get better because I believe Journey laid a solid foundation for the trilogy, with benefits that won't be reaped until the following 2 films.
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