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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Review

Review by Chris Guerrero

Martin Freeman

Freeman as Bilbo

A LONG journey through Middle-earth is an understatement when it comes to Peter Jackson’s long awaited adaptation of J.R.R Tolkienʼs classic tale of Bilbo Baggins and his reluctant quest to help a group of dwarves reclaim their once great kingdom of Erebor from the dragon, Smaug. If youʼve been living in a hobbit hole for the last 70 years, and you donʼt know how this story plays out, then that was probably pretty hard and you deserve a medal. Try and keep up.

With every great adaptation there is always great trepidation from the fans. We LOVE these works of art, and whenever someone decides to bring them to screen from the page of a book or graphic novel a lot of people get nervous that some of their greatest memories of a particular story are going to be tarnished. While that wasnʼt necessarily the case with The Hobbit, there are some things that couldʼve been done without. I was fortunate enough to see the film in 3D, and with the new 48 fps format, and I must say the results werenʼt what I was told to expect. The new frame rate format takes some getting used to. It felt like someone kept hitting the fast forward button during editing and the effect took away from some awesome sequences. On the other hand, one technology that I usually overlook is 3D, but this film does it right. The time honored “3D gag” was present all throughout the story, but it was so subtle and fit with what was happening that Iʼm not ashamed to say I flinched a few times. So while they completely won me over on a technology I usually loathe, the new format I was anxiously awaiting fell short and even took away from the film.

Overall the movie felt like it was filmed alongside the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A lot of the same actors returned, and a lot of the original crew as well. The only real difference is the use of CGI and how much more advanced it is, not that Return of the King was any slouch in the CGI department. It oddly makes it more believable and almost nostalgic when you see places like The Shire and Rivendell. And with Howard Shore revising his original score as well as adding some newer compositions, the film feels more like a sequel than a true prequel. Either way its great to be back in Middle-Earth.

A trip to Middle -earth wouldn’t be complete without Gandalf the Grey, played by Sir Ian McKellan making his return from Rings. To see him and Bilbo meet for the first time is cinematic gold, which is made all the more special by Martin Freemanʼs spot on rendition of Bilbo. He smoothly transitions from awkward hobbit to reluctant adventurer to hero, while still having no idea what heʼs doing outside of his hobbit hole. Other notable returns include Hugo Weaving as Lord Elrond and Cate Blanchett as Lady Galadriel. And Iʼll just say right now, Andy Serkis steals the show as Gollum. There are a few other returning actors, but I didnʼt know they were going to be in the movie and I donʼt think you should know either, so youʼre welcome. As for the newcomers, mainly the 12 dwarves that make up Bilboʼs escort to The Lonely Mountain, each one brought something unique to the table, which was a relief being that on my first read through of the book I lost track of who was who. It can get confusing so having the visual guide definitely makes it easier to follow. It’s a little upsetting that the only dwarves you get to really feel for are Balin (Ken Stott), Bofur (James Nesbitt), and of course the leader and dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage. But there are still two more movies and plenty more time for you to fall in love with the rest of the gang. Those three particular roles helped carry the narrative, from Bofurʼs comic relief to Balinʼs story about how Thorin got his badass surname (one that definitely lives up to how badass that character is).

The Dwarves!

At the end of the day its good to be back. And Peter Jackson being at the helm makes it all the better. I donʼt know how a Guillermo Del Toro Hobbit movie would have turned out, or even fit within the rest of the franchise. The continuity of not only the stories, but of the backgrounds and costumes, and even the acting, is something that not even a mega-franchise like Star Wars has been able to top, so for that alone Iʼm glad this movie was made with this team. On the other hand, did The Hobbit, a childrenʼs book that is one fifth the size of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, deserve three movies to tell the whole story? After seeing the first installment I can confidently say no. Is it going to hurt the overall experience that the movies are incredibly long? Probably not, because stories that have been written with rich detail and extensive back story have so much to give us, and while you may not leave the theater feeling the same way you did after you saw The Two Towers, youʼre going to be excited for the next one. And while this probably wonʼt win any Academy awards either, it will fill that need of spectacle at the theater. Stunning visuals and a gripping story equal awesome times right? Just make sure you pee before the movie starts. Its going to be a long journey.

I grew up on Kung Fu theater movie weekends, a lot of Top Ramen Noodles, G.I. Joe's, Evil Knivels Stunt Cycle and Stretch Armstrong. My Movie reviews and Artist Interviews have been a regular around Nerdlocker.com. Follow me on Twitter @arainbolt. or email me aaron@nerdlocker.com