Films With Friends- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Not so much?
Welcome to our new column, Films with Friends.About once a month or so, I will be posting a review of a movie that encompasses not only my opinion on the film, but those of others that went to see the movie with me as well. Offering a full review followed by comments of friends, this [...]
Welcome to our new column, Films with Friends.About once a month or so, I will be posting a review of a movie that encompasses not only my opinion on the film, but those of others that went to see the movie with me as well. Offering a full review followed by comments of friends, this column hopes to give you a more wide sweeping view of what movie goers think of the latest films. This month…The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Since the opening of Return of the King, the last Lord of the Rings film, fans have been clamoring for a film adaptation of The Hobbit. Rumors seemed to be in the air from the moment production closed on Peter Jackson’s original trilogy from fan sites like the OneRing.Net to movie news gurus at Entertainment Weekly and IMDB, everyone waited with bated breath for the announcement. Nine years later, here we are. The Hobbit is finally in theaters. This classic novel penned by JRR Tolkien is the story of Bilbo Baggins, uncle to the LOTR protagonist Frodo Baggins, Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves who set off on a journey to reclaim their home in the Misty Mountain from the dragon Smaug.
Like many of us, I had heard a number of conflicting reviews of the film before entering the theater. Some critics praised it while others said it was slow and didn’t develop the characters enough. However, I was determined to keep an open mind. After such a long wait for another film could anything realistically live up to the hype? Not to mention that The Hobbit is a classic book and fans of the original text tend to scrutinize every detail. The phrase “The book was better” is practically a staple in the world of book to film productions. However, what I found after watching the film was that the moviegoers may have expected more than even Tolkien himself provided.
One of the largest overall criticisms I’ve heard is that you don’t get a lot of back story on the dwarves or sense of individual personality from some. Which is fair, there are some dwarves who you simple come to know as “the one with all the braids” or “the one who can’t hear well.” What you have to take into account though is that that’s how they were written; many in the book didn’t even have lines. There are also thirteen of them and if you were given back story on all of them the film would have run five hours instead of the almost three which is its current running time.
Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage (BBC’s Robin Hood), is the one exception. As the leader of the company, the dwarf king’s back story is told mainly through a series of flashbacks and in one memorable moment through the story of one of the other dwarves who witnessed him in battle. The development is such that the audience undoubtedly know why this company is willing to follow Thorin to what it seems will be an untimely death in the foolhardy attempt to reclaim their homeland. Armitage instills in the character a good sense of wariness and strength, even some darkness at times in his unwillingness to trust those around him. It seems that it would be hard to project a sense of power in someone who stands two feet shorter than Gandalf and the elves but Armitage certainly brings that to the character in a great way.
I think it was safe to say that Armitage was good casting for Thorin after seeing him as Guy of Gisbourne in Robin Hood. It was also equally apparent that Ian McKellen would once again be wonderful in the role of Gandalf and likewise with Andy Serkis as Gollum. They both know those characters well and turned in awe inspiring performance in the Lord of the Rings films. It was the casting of Martin Freeman (Sherlock) as Bilbo that most surprised and excited me in the lead up to this film. I will admit now that I am a big fan of BBC’s Sherlock and Martin Freeman as John Watson is for me the best interpretation thus far. However that role is a far cry from playing a Hobbit in one of the most beloved fantasy novels of all time.
To my great pleasure Freeman did a great job. When we think of Bilbo we often think of someone who was unprepared and perhaps a bit cowardly at the offset of the adventure. In this adaptation though Freeman made Bilbo relatable and more of an everyman, his awkward movements and inability to admit that perhaps he was not meant to live up to the stereotype of what a hobbit should be, provide both motivation and entertainment.
The film does stray a bit from the book at times. For instance in one scene Bilbo comes to the aid of Thorin, casting the character in more of a heroic light than he was in the novel. There is also an antagonist that plays a large part as an enemy of Thorin Oakenshield that I do not believe was in the book at all. There is a sense that in effort to make the film into three movies certain things had to be added to keep up the momentum. That being said, I don’t believe these changes take anything away from the overall narrative and do serve their purpose.
There were a couple scenes within the film where I felt the entire point was to connect The Hobbit with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While they were done somewhat well they also seemed superfluous and unnecessary. There is one scene I can think of in particular between Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel in which they get together and hold a long discussion that seemed to last entirely too long and be without much point. It seemed to slow the pace of the movie and with a film that is almost three hours in length it seemed to me a good idea but something that might have been better left on the cutting room floor.
Another criticism I, and probably everyone on the internet who is even somewhat interested in seeing this film, has heard is to do with the fact that the director chose to shoot the film at the rate of 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24. Now I chose to see this film in 2D so perhaps there is a difference when you do see the IMAX 3D version, however I saw no huge difference. The images were clearer and film perhaps a bit more vivid than we’re used to but I see no problem with that. In fact I think it could be considered an improvement. I will say that there is one scene in the beginning of the film where the camera twists and spins a couple of times and that did serve to make me a friend a bit dizzy, but other than that I don’t really understand the controversy. My opinion is that any movie in 3D IMAX is going to be a little too much visually.
Overall however, I think the production has everything we’ve come to expect from Jackson when dealing with Middle Earth; impeccable sets and costumes, sweeping shots of the heroes running along the landscape, great scores and strong character performances. Also for those WETA fans out there the film is full beautiful things to look at including orcs, goblins, trolls and all sorts of weaponry. The film was beautiful to look at and the overall experience was very enjoyable.
But don’t take my word for it…(the Friends Opinions):
Cole’s Opinion: Going into The Hobbit having heard some mixed reviews, I was a bit nervous that the film would not live up to what I had imagined it would become with Peter Jackson at the helm. I can honestly say that I couldn’t be happier how far off the negative reviews were, and with how the film turned out as a whole and flawlessly fit in with the world that Jackson built through The Lord of the Rings films. I was skeptical that The Hobbit could be justified as a trilogy, but for the amount of intriguing history of Middle Earth and character storylines that were packed into this first part in the series, I can’t wait for the other two to come out and to see The Hobbit again…and again.
Rating: 5/ 5 seemingly harmless One Rings.
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Ashley’s Opinion: I thought the Hobbit was wonderful. The music, graphics and characters were spot on. I loved the addition of parts that are in the Hobbit but from the Silmerilian. Bilbo is played perfectly and I cannot wait for the rest of the movies! I really had zero complaints about the movie.
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Occupation: Admin Assistant/Student
Mike’s Opinion: The last LOTR movie gave Peter Jackson a lot of hype as a director. Though he layed a goose egg with the King Kong movie, he still has some cred. That being said, there was a lot of expectations going into The Hobbit. The Hobbit and LOTR books are paced very differently, and the movies are no exception. The addition of material from the Simerlian slows things down a bit, but adds some detail to the story. Still, im looking forward to the next two installments!
Rating: 4/5 Stars