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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Date Posted: 2012-12-16
Tolkien Fan Level: 9
Film Format Seen? 2D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? No

A disappointment. The film's script and structure are very weak and the whole thing feels bloated and sloppy in terms of pacing. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying and there is little emotional payoff.

The decision of the filmmakers to stretch this story out to three films was a poor one. Tolkien's novel does not have the requisite three climaxes to support three films, each of which need to have their own satisfying arcs. The filmmakers know this, and thus have introduced the completely superfluous character of The Pale Orc, whose presence is contrived and tedious, and very, very "Hollywood". I will leave speculations as to the reasons for the three-film decision to others, but I do not think it was made out of love for the source material.

While the three "Rings" films were flawed, both as adaptations of Tolkien's material and as films in their own right, they did have a special magic and each felt substantial and rewarding to watch. In "The Hobbit" that magic is gone. Everything feels rote and by the (Hollywood) book.

In regard to the actors' performances, Freeman as Bilbo was earnest but often relegated to the sidelines and even by the end of the film I did not feel we the audience truly got to know this character. In fact, the film's story often seems like it not told from Bilbo's perspective but from Gandalf's. McKellen, as Gandalf, understandably seems bored and does not convey quite the same warmth and sincerity that he did in "Rings". Armitage as Thorin is appropriately grim but he is given very little do and I never felt indignance at his treatment of Bilbo. The rest of the dwarves remain completely undeveloped, except for Stott as Balin, who has a very likeable screen presence, and Nesbitt as Bofur who is given one good scene in which to shine. Finally, McCoy as Radagast is very likeable, but his scenes feel tacked on, tonally a bit off, and interfere with the film's structure.

I think this would have been a more successful film if the attempt had not been made to tie it to the "Rings" material. While the atmosphere in the film is lighter than in "Rings", the underlying sense of groping for an epic tone is always present and distracting. The need to make the subject matter grander has resulted in additions which do not feel like "The Hobbit" or even like Tolkien. The worst of these, as alluded to above, are the Pale Orc's scenes, which often consist of him evilly delivering monologues to his minions. I am also uncertain why he was depicted as a CGI creature when a real actor in prosthetics would have been so much more effective. Even the character design is bland and video-game like, and bears no resemblance to any of the Orcs depicted in this film or the previous "Rings" films, which by comparison seem so much more real and threatening.

The art and technical teams even seem a bit off in this film. For example, the sets and costumes of the (horribly trite) prologue are very "Dungeons and Dragons" and overdesigned. The cinematography throughout the film was not beautiful. The extreme closeups that were used to such great, intimate effect in "Rings" are gone, presumably because there is little room for 3D and CGI in such shots. Establishing shots seem rare and the audience (and characters) are given little chance to marvel at the scenery as in the "Rings" films.

In summary, this is a disappointing film that may threaten the legacy of the original "Rings" films. I wish the filmmakers had been brave enough (like Bilbo in the book), to remain true to their own convictions (if they indeed still have them) and cast off the Hollywood influence that pervades this film.

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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