Print Edition: January 9, 2013
For nearly 10 years, many have wished to return to the wonders and enchantments of Middle Earth. Now, it has returned. Peter Jackson returns to the director’s chair in the film that was squabbled over by production companies for the better part of a decade. Some feared that with such a length of time, Jackson may have lost his touch with the very world he created. Thankfully, he brings the same magic back to the screen – for the most part anyway.
The Hobbit was Tolkien’s first major novel was aimed for a child audience unlike the more mature Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson keeps Tolkien’s creative wishes in mind as he returns to the realms of Middle Earth. We travel back in time long before The Fellowship of the Ring to when Bilbo was only a young hobbit. Martin Freeman does an excellent job at making the character his own. He makes Bilbo a compelling and realistic character with his awkward humour and his reluctance for danger (outweighed by his curiosity for adventure). We find him accustomed to a peaceful lifestyle and he becomes rather perturbed when Gandalf the Grey invites 13 dwarves over to his home. There he is given a contract to help them take back their homeland from the dragon known as Smaug.
We are reintroduced to the low swept hillsides of The Shire and majestic beauty of Rivendell. But he also introduces us to new locals such as the Misty Mountains and halls of Erebor. Weta Digital provides amazing visuals of the expanding hillsides and mountains as well as the numerous monsters and creatures Bilbo comes across. However it gets to be a bit excessive. Some scenes are pleasing to watch such as the riddle scene between Gollum and Bilbo. Weta Digital has definitely advanced their tech in both lighting and texture with their animated characters and helped make that one scene the stand out part of the film. Other scenes made the CGI feel unnecessary. Rarely were the goblins and orcs ever actual actors in costume. It does present a more childlike persona but it takes away a little of the dread these creatures emitted in the Lord of the Rings series.
Avatar brought a functioning and profitable form of 3D experience, The Hobbit brings the 48 frames per second 3D viewing option. Twice the speed of traditional film, the film looks to almost be moving in fast forward. It feels uncomfortable at first but once you get used to it, you can see the increased clarity in the visuals and the animations. The quality is beyond comprehension and exceeds that of Avatar.
The Lord of the Rings films were excellent because they orchestrated all aspects of the films to ensure all worked with each other. The actors, the sets, the costumes, the music are all part of the story and The Hobbit follows a similar path. The supporting cast including Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Richard Armitage as Thorin all excel in their roles by developing their actions and the story around them. The soundtrack follows the story with familiar tones and rhythms from the Lord of the Rings. There however are only a few original tunes consisting of dwarf songs and a theme song from Howard Shore that appears to be on repeat. The soundtrack really fails to deliver anything new but it is still nice to listen to.
The first issue of concern for any who has read the book is how can the children’s novel be extended into three separate films? It is undeniable that there is a certain amount of filler in this film. Whether it was done for revenue purposes or Jackson firmly believed that the book could be dragged out, the strains of length are very visible in this film. The film takes too much time establishing characters that are not necessary or giving backstory that isn’t entirely needed. Sometimes there are moments of CG awe but afterwards, you are left wondering if that had any real purpose if not to extend the film.
In terms of trilogy starters, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does not stand on the same level as Fellowship but it makes a good attempt for it. Despite dragged out sequences, an overabundance of CGI and rather repetitive soundtrack; it still is a mystical and wonderful adventure full of great characters, amazing locations with added humour and lightheartedness unique to the film.