Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Film Review

       The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a film directed by Peter Jackson. The film has an ensemble cast boasting names like Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Martin Freeman, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, and Richard Armitage and is meant to be an adaption of the first third of the literary work The Hobbit by author J.R.R. Tolkien. An Unexpected Journey is the first of a trilogy of films which will be based on the fantasy-adventure story. I, as well as many others, was skeptical that this was simply an attempt by film-makers to rake in extra cash from radical fans who are more than willing to hash out the price of a ticket to finally experience this long awaited film adaption. The film’s director, Peter Jackson, claimed instead that he wanted to spend as much time as he could giving justice to Tolkien’s lovely story, and said three films would make that so much easier. Nonetheless, I remained skeptical. At least, I did until I saw the film for the first time. I’ve seen An Unexpected Journey twice now in theaters. And I do have to say, it's worth the price of admission.

       An Unexpected Journey follows a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins as he is thrust on an unwanted and unexpected adventure, along with thirteen dwarves and one wizard. The journey is a dangerous trek to the lonely mountain, in an attempt that the thirteen dwarves, assisted by the wizard Gandalf, and Bilbo, might reclaim their homeland and the treasure long lost in its depths. The film opens with Bilbo Baggins narrating to Frodo, his heir, his adventures sixty years past. The imagery is gorgeous, and the accompanying score is fantastic. And for the rest of the film, quality differs little. The music is a moving and original score composed by Howard Shore, who also composed the soundtracks for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies. Performance is beyond par, as not a single piece of poor acting can be found in An Unexpected Journey one could search it intensely and find none. Not a bit.
       I’ve heard complaints that excessive amounts of computer rendered imagery plaster this film with impossibility of realism. Honestly, I don’t know where such critiques come up with these things. As with Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, I’m certain there were things in this film that were one-hundred percent rendered by computers. But I’m also quite certain that I was fooled. Some of the animation looks so very real, it’s absolutely uncanny. Of course – there are some lower points in the animation. There’s one particular character, for instance, who is entirely computer generated and it’s blatantly obvious. But for the most part, a generous mixture of esthetics and computer imagery kept things remarkably believable.

       For the most part, the film stays true to its inspiration. For the most part. There are some small story elements that the film-makers shoe-horned into the film which weren’t in the book. Non-canon characters inclusion and whatnot. More alarming to me, was that some parts of the story were altered entirely, be it lines flowing from the wrong characters mouth, or turns of events unraveling differently than they should have. But, when looking at the changes made, I knew there would have to be some. Peter Jackson and the folks who put together The Unexpected Journey are all the same folks who created the film adaptations for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings stories, and while those films were certainly incredible, they weren’t without alterations to the content of inspiration as well. And I mentioned before, the film-makers did leave the most of the story intact in their film adaption. In the end, I can’t remain too cross with them.

       Because An Unexpected Journey really is a fabulous adaption of the first third of The Hobbit and I enjoyed it immensely. Several scenes from the book were pieced together verbatim and were exactly as I imagined them. For instance, in Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds himself lost in the depths of a cave and face to face with a horrid little creature named, Gollum. Gollum agrees to show Bilbo the way out of the cave, if he can stump Gollum with a riddle, as well as answer the riddles Gollum poses to Bilbo. The film did so well in depicting this scene, I found myself wishing I could watch it over and over. Honestly, when going to see the film for a second time, the scene that I was looking the most forward to seeing again was the Riddles in the Dark scene. If only the next two parts of this trilogy can do what this first installment has, they’ll be incredible. I wish they would just go and get themselves released already! I don’t really have any interest in waiting!
       I’d definitely recommend catching An Unexpected Journey while it’s still in theaters, even if you’re not really a fan of high fantasy or Tolkien’s work. Because while it certainly is a long movie, it’s really an immaculate film in and of itself.

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