The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel, and other books of his
Prequel to: The Lord of the Rings
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett, Bret McKenzie, Benedict Cumberbatch
Many, many years ago, there were dwarves living in Erebor, amassing huge riches until they were attacked by the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). They lost their mountains, their gold and were scattered in many directions. Now Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) last descendant of Erebor’s king, is ready to get it all back. So he put together a group of loyal dwarves, but asks the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to find a 14th member for their party. Gandalf recruits the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Bilbo is reluctant – as a hobbit, he generally doesn’t think much of adventures or leaving home at all – but he is finally convinces and so all of them set off for a great adventure. An adventure that proves more dangerous and connected to more things than initially assumed.
For practically anybody of about my age (and of a nerdy/geeky persuasion), the Lord of the Rings films were more than just movies – they were events that opened me and my friends up to many things, but especially to the intricacies of internet fandom and all that entails. It seems clear that 10 years later the Hobbit can’t quite reach that status anymore. But An Unexpected Journey is a film that I enjoyed for the most part.
First, let me get the technology out of the way. I saw the film in 3D-HFR. And contrary to many people, I did enjoy the HFR. I didn’t think that it made the film look cheap or like a soap opera (something that, for example, teashoe struggled with) and I appreciated the added realism. Yes, there were moments where the movements were not perfect, but I think that that was outweighed by far by the image clarity. (The 3D on the other hand, I could have done totally without. But I’m afraid that that is the fault of “my” cinema, too. They seem to have issues with their projector.)
But now to the movie itself. I was surprised by the framing and plotting of the story. They did add a lot to The Hobbit novel (from what I gather, they took that stuff from The Return of the King appendix and the Simarillion, neither of which I read), and those additions give the film a very round feeling and connect it much better to the LotR than the novel ever was, so hats off to that.
Unfortunately the script is not great all around. The comic relief was a bit grating at times and the dialogues had their headdesk moments (especially when Galadriel says something like “Something is moving in the shadows. It remains unseen. We can not see it. It is hidden.” It is only due to Cate Blanchett’s amazing presence that I wasn’t laughing loudly during that bit). (Or when Bilbo explains to Frodo what a hobbit hole looks like.)
And they did make Thorin all doom and gloom. Richard Armitage is probably a born brooder, but a smile every once in a while and a little sense of humor on Thorin’s part wouldn’t have hurt the movie at all. Instead we get the 100% un-fun Thorin and the 100% fun Radagast and both grate a little bit and won’t quite fit with the rest. [They should have given Radagast the LotR-Tom Bombadil-treatment and just not have gone there. I do like Tom Bombadil as a character, but neither he, nor Radagast fit into the bigger picture for me.]
But generally speaking the film and the cast had me in its thrall. Martin Freeman is incredible as Bilbo and even managed to make me like him. (Though the script makes too much of an hero out of Bilbo, I thought.) Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood – it was just plain great to see all of them again. Andy Serkis blows minds with his performance, as usual. [I wanted more Lee Pace, but I'm gonna get that. I hope.]
I would like to say more about the guys who played the dwarves, but really, they seem to have given up to even properly introduce them before they even started and most of them remain a blur. A few stand out – like James Nesbitt (but probably only because I love him so much), Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner (because they get way more screentime) – but I thought it was generally disappointing that they didn’t even try to make you distinguish them, really. I mean, they finally gave Figwit a fucking name, for crying out loud.
But most of this is fan-nitpicking. Generally speaking, I just enjoyed the hell out of being back in Middle Earth.
Summarising: It was good, though not great and it could/should have been better. But still. My nerdy core rejoiced.