Date Posted: 2012-12-17
Tolkien Fan Level: 9
Film Format Seen? 2D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes
My overall review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is an enthusiastic approval. For me, the first installment of "The Hobbit" did not disappoint. I thought that the story was largely faithful to the source material, with few of the departures from the book detracting from the story, and some changes adding to Tolkien's original story. There were some scenes in the film that were quite brilliant and truly beautiful. The absolute highlight for me was the riddle game -- I thought it was spot-on perfect, and played beautifully by both actors. The most memorable moment in the entire film for me is Bilbo's decision to spare Gollum's life. With no dialog to support what is going on, Martin Freeman clearly shows the progression of thought, changing from poised to kill, to compassion, to pity. Martin Freeman is fabulous as Bilbo throughout the film. I cannot think of how he could possibly have done a better job of bringing Bilbo to life, and I look forward to watching the character grow through the other two films.
My only strong complaint about the film relates to some aspects of the score. This fact surprised me, since I absolutely love the scores for all the "Lord of the Rings" films. In general, the new score is beautiful and rich, just as we would expect from Howard Shore. The problem came in two specific spots late in the film, where Shore reused some of the themes we know so well from "The Lord of the Rings." Reusing the themes is not, in itself, a problem: some of the repeated themes from LOTR worked very well, such as the Ring theme and the Shire/hobbit theme. The problems occurred at two pivotal moments: as Thorin went to face Azog accompanied by the strains of the Nazgul/Morgul theme, and when Thorin finally relents and accepts Bilbo, with the Gondor theme in the background. One of the things that I loved so much about the LOTR scores was Shore's careful use of the themes to identify the places and people of the story. He was wonderfully successful in capturing the different cultures and characters with those themes and other elements of the score. Using the familiar themes in those "wrong" contexts, as described above, violates that careful structure, and was so jarring that it pulled me right out of the story, at most inopportune times. I deeply love all of Tolkien's books, and I also love Peter Jackson's films. I could nit-pick and find things to complain about in all the films, including this latest addition, but I won't. Honestly, I don't want to. For me, the bottom line is that the filmmakers care about the source material at least as much as I do. These films are so obviously made with great respect and much love. I am very grateful for that, and for the chance to travel again to Middle-earth. Thank you, Mr. Jackson and all your team, for taking us there and back again.
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