December 16, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey (HFR)

I have always been more Star Wars than Lord of he Rings, my reading habits growing up leaned more towards Asimov and King than Tolkien and Goodkind. With that said, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was an amazing cinematic experience. It was a massive undertaking that revealed itself masterfully on the big screen. Following its success questions arose of whether director Peter Jackson would return to the franchise for The Hobbit. Well, after years of wrangling, it has finally arrived on the screen. Was it worth the wait?

With the knowledge that I was more science fiction than fantasy, I have to say that I am not sure I needed to see this. This is not to say it is a terrible experience, but I found I did not have all that much to say about it. The movie is technically sound, but I also think it feels a bit self indulgent and perhaps just a little bit of a money grab. There is no reason this needed to be expanded into a trilogy. The book is not all that long and intended for a younger audience. Is there a legitimate reason to pad it out to three features? I can't think of one, much less three features that will each likely be close to three hours apiece.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey drags and has very few moments that legitimately held my interest. Fortunately, there are a lot of pretty pictures to look at. A good example of this dragging out is an early sequence where the dwarves start showing up at Bilbo's house. They all start arriving individually and hen proceed to aid the pantry and clean the dishes, along with sing two songs, all for a scene whose purpose is to invite Bilbo along on a quest to retrieve their home from the dragon Smaug.

Seriously, I am not sure what to say about the story, overall. Knowing it is a trilogy puts a limit to how much appears here, when it ends, it does not feel as we got very far. We learn of the dwarves desire to regain their home, lost years earlier, we have the issue between the orcs and the dwarves, there are the elves who for a long time offered no help, and Gandalf helping them on their quests. For the audience, we have the outsider Hobbit, Bilbo, to identify with.

Peter Jackson and his creative team have done a fine job of adapting the tale to into the established cinematic world of The Lord of the Rings. The film is more or less fine, I just found it dragged on much too Long and I really just did not care much about what they were doing. I just liked certain things about it.

Martin Freeman's Bilbo is rather endearing, easy to like and the performance is solid. Ian McKellan is fine as Gandalf, he brings a certain quality and class to the screen. The dwarves are pretty much indistinguishable, visually they each stand out, but for who they are, well, they were interchangeable to me.

The best moment in the film was when Bilbo encounters Gollum. Their exchange I clever, funny, and quite entertaining. It is shame it was their only sequence. I also enjoyed the dwarves battle through the Orc stronghold. There were pieces of it that played like a video game, but I was still fun.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has a few good moments but is ultimately a little boring and way too long. I will surely be back for the future installments inhales they are an improvement on this outing.

Technically speaking, there is little to be disappointed with. The score from Howard Shore is quite good, the cinematography is beautiful and there is some great work done with makeup and effects. Not enough can be said about the creation of Gollum, if you thought he was good last time you saw him, wait until you see this. The technology is phenomenal and Andy Serkis brings it all home.

Peter Jackson is a good director, but I think he may need an editor to make some judicious cuts. Perhaps he needs somebody who will say no. It just seems he wants to be the Michael Bay of epic and make everything EPIC. It is hard to believe this is the same guy who made such movies as Bad Taste, Dead Alive, and The Frighteners. Would love to see him make one of those type of movies again.

Now, I guess I have to spend a little time on the presentation. I do not a problem with 3D, I like 3D. It is an interesting and still developing tool and it is used well here, it looks good and adds a nice level of depth to the imagery. Now for the bad side, high frame rate. Much has been said about the fact the movie was shot at 48 frames per second. I do not like it, not at all. Yes, it makes it look like you are watching through a window, but it also looks like I am watching video. I like my movies to look like movies, this just looks weird, it makes fast motion and action look unrealistic. I hope this doesn't catch on. I can see how some people my like it, but not me, I like my movies to look like movies.

Mildly Recommended.

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northierthanthou said...

It's a shame. It would have been wonderful to see this story done well. I haven't heard anything good yet, though.

Unknown said...

Peter Jackson has that "epic" problem. I'm torn between the theatrical cuts of The Lord of the Rings and the Extended versions, because there ARE some good moments added back into the trilogy but at the same time, there's more unnecessary moments added as well. And then there's his version of King Kong. Good god! He takes a near flawless 90 something minute film from 1933 and somehow remakes it into 3 bloated hours.

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