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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Date Posted: 2012-12-14
Tolkien Fan Level: 8
Film Format Seen? 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes

Returning back to the Middle-Earth we loved from 'The Lord of the Rings' Trilogy could not be done in a much better way than seeing 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'.

Technicalities aside, the beauty of the film is in the sheer storytelling and the characters that inhabit the narrative. The cast and crew have done such an incredible job in offering us the same, but somewhat different, Middle-Earth that we know and care about.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the entire film is the presence of Martin Freeman. His portrayal as the titular character is spot on. Comparing the character from the book to that of Freeman's performance is simply flawless. Add to that an Ian McKellen on splendid form, proud dwarf-leader Thorin and the rest of the company together with all the other characters and you get some of the finest moments in Middle-Earth you could possibly ask for.

From a technical aspect, the cinematography, direction and visual effects all contributed to one spectacular first-stage journey. It is also imperative to mention Howard Shore's return and his majestic score to the film. The themes that we've grown to love in the Rings Trilogy have been beautifully interwoven with new ones specifically created for 'The Hobbit', giving it a feel altogether connected as one vast narrative within Tolkien's world.

To further reinforce that connection, Peter Jackson and his team have wonderfully captured moments that resonate strongly withing 'The Lord of the Rings', creating a powerful back story for the even bigger events that come.

One of the many delights of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' is the sheer faithful adaptation from the first few chapters of Tolkien's books. Often containing word-for-word dialogue and character actions, the film is one of the few glistening examples of how a visual medium such as film can capture the exact same essence of the book - without significant or unnecessary alterations. Needless to say, Jackson and Co. have "tweaked some things around" in order to accommodate for bigger themes and provide drama where it is needed - but that is done with such a carefully approach and respect towards Tolkien's work.

It would be wonderful to state that the film was perfect in every sense but a few slightly less positive comments are in order. To begin with (and finish off the subject quickly), the matter of the 48fps. Having seen it in 3D and at this higher frame rate, the results are a balance between what Peter Jackson wanted to achieve and what many viewers disliked about it. Pray! Do not get me wrong; I enjoyed the 3D and thought that the 48fps did indeed help the visuals to stand out so much clearer. The downside is the over-mentioned "soap opera effect", which unfortunately, considering this is a prequel to 'The Lord of the Rings', tends to strain those bonds in the story that were helping 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' to blend so beautifully with Rings. No doubt that the 2D 24fps version will fit in perfectly and cater for that "missing link" which I found during my viewing.

Some viewers have also criticized the fact that the film occasionally tends to be slow-paced and containing an overblown introduction. Contrary to all this, I believe the introductory scenes are a work of art in their own right. Bilbo's voice-over narration of Smaug's attack on Erebor and Thorin's exile provides for an effective exposition, laying the foundations for much of the journey's purpose.

The overall pacing of the film is excellent and once we are introduced to the characters, the action and drama are constant. So constant, however, that it might be slightly disappointing to some of the more hardened Tolkien fans, where a few scenes do not played out in much more detail (Surely the Extended Edition will help fix that).

Speaking of Dwarves, Thorin's company is such a different version than that of the Fellowship - a much more humorous, laid-back gathering, but still retaining that courage and energy as with that of Rings. However, the film could have been better if we had been allowed to spend some more time learning who the Dwarves are and going into more depth with some of them. Although I personally knew who's who and what their personality consisted of before seeing the film (mainly through copious amounts of Vlog viewings and book readings), complete newcomers might find it difficult to root for some of the characters.

However, Jackson does not miss a beat with this first installment of 'The Hobbit' Trilogy and by still retaining the essence of Tolkien's story, he delivers a compelling adventure that will require multiple viewings - not for clarification, but for sheer entertainment and to dispel that sense of nostalgia of wanting to go back to Middle-Earth. Until, that is, we get to see 'The Desolation of Smaug' ...

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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