Film Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (M)

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Having not read J. R. R. Tolkien’s books but feeling an immense appreciation for Jackson’s thrillingly epic and moving Lord Of The Rings trilogy, you could say I was one of those that jumped on the bandwagon late in the game. But don’t hold that against me because, let’s face it, those impressive cinematic achievements are a decent lot to jump on board with. Despite enjoying the trilogy I was not too keen to revisit Middle Earth. I know there are more stories set there and the die-hard fans would love it but I was concerned that going back there after 10 years would not be worth the wait. This is not to suggest that I went in with a closed mind – if director Peter Jackson could recapture the magic of the first films then I was ready to swept up all over again.

Jackson has taken a not so long book and made three films to chart the journey of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and a bunch of homeless dwarves and assumes a simple revisit to the fantasy location will be enough to pull audiences back. But not this bandwagon jumper. I craved a more compelling story, something that would up the ante. I was not delivered what I hoped for.

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Long, drawn out re-introductions to The Shire and the cast of 13 dwarves (which includes a musical number), who were driven from their castle many years ago by a dragon, make for a dull opening to this padded section of the prequel. Taking about an hour to get going, eventually a hesitant Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves begin their trek to reclaim their castle. Along the way they encounter a variety of Middle Earth beasts that put a few hurdles in their unexpected journey. See? A film that  takes one or two sentences to describe does not need to push the 2.5 hour mark, let alone be stretched to three films.

Familiar characters are slotted in for nostalgia’s sake (Elijah Wood has the most thankless cameo of them all with his almighty two minutes of screen time as Frodo), extending the running time even further. But the most welcome return is Gollum (Andy Serkis) in another unnecessarily long sequence but it is the highlight of this patience testing installment. The appearance of the one ring to rule them all is a nice tie-in to the other stories, also.

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Where The Hobbit soars is in the action sequences that kick in about halfway through. When it comes to scale, Jackson is the master. The action is epic and looks fantastic. But good-looking action scenes are not worth much if you are not invested in the fate of the characters in them. There is plenty of peril, (seemingly endless peril) but the camaraderie between these characters is not a patch on that between those in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. There are close calls but you never believe anyone is going to be injured or die. A little side note about acceptance towards the end (Bilbo has been a bit of an outcast throughout the story) feels tacked on.

Maybe Jackson is just teasing us with this first story. Maybe he is just getting warmed up. Maybe he will let rip in the next film. Whatever his tactic, this introduction to a new trilogy is a major disappointment. He will be lucky if anyone jumps onto this bandwagon.

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One Response to “Film Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

  1. It’s just a shame that it’s going to take a whole other year for the next film to come out when the third film is only going to come out several months after the second one. But regardless, I still look forward to it. Good review.

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