The first of the Peter Jackson prequel trilogy. A group of dwarfs set out to reclaim their mountain home, headed up by their King and assisted by a reluctant hobbit.
Welcome back to The Shire, Hobbitses. It's been nearly 7 years since we were last here, indulging Peter Jackson's final fantastical view into JRR Tolkien's Return of the King. A lot has changed in that time. In fact, imagine that the 2003-2005 trilogy didn't happen and Bilbo Baggins is sat back in his house utterly clueless as to his future regarding the One True Ring. That's right, folks. We're back where it all began.
Such were the disappointing critical reviews, I spent two whole weeks umming and ahhing about whether to even see The Hobbit. Even when we decided to go to the cinema there was a mini domestic about whether to see Life of Pi. Just for a change, I lost.
So we went to the local Odeon, with me expecting to be bored to death by an overly long adaptation of Tolkien's precursor to his now infamous trilogy - Part 1. At over 3 hours long, this seems to be the biggest criticism of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, especially when you consider that the Lord of the Rings were around the same length from much more substantial source material.
In truth, it wasn't that bad. There are the occasional filler moments - there is a rather extended scene featuring Gollum (Andy Serkis), which is always going to be popular, that really could have been done in half the time. Overall though, I never actually felt myself getting bored as there was always something on screen for entertainment.
For clarification, we went to see the bog standard 3D as there is no local IMAX so I can't comment at all on the second biggest criticism - the impact of high frame rate (HFR - for those not in the know - doubles the frame rate to 48 per second). I did, however, feel distinctly uncomfortable during the opening scene set in the dwarfish past. The camera panning was far too fast and it never gave the 3D chance to settle.
Upon moving to the more relaxed Shire, the 3D is used far more subtly and the extra dimension makes The Hobbit feel far more modern than Lord of the Rings. The most breathtaking scene has to be the arrival into the elvish Kingdom of Rivendell. Rarely has a film offered a more artistic and aesthetically perfect shot of a fantasy land.
There are many references to the original trilogy - mostly occurring at the start of The Hobbit. In fact, there is a whole scene lifted straight from The Fellowship of the Ring featuring Elijah Wood's Frodo as Bilbo recollects the past. The score is also very influenced by Lord of the Rings - making it very easy to become immersed straight away especially with the now-familiar jingle of The Shire.
Having sat with the review written but unpublished for a couple of days now, I ought to point out something bizarre. Perhaps three hours of 3D reeks havoc with my eyesight. I could hardly see anything on New Year's Eve and now, two days later, I can say my eyes have fully recovered from the three hour battering.
Since seeing the film, I have also spoken to a friend who saw the film in both 3D and 2D and he says that the 3D was so subtly done he didn't really notice the difference. I have to admit, I had to keep moving the glasses to check if it really was 3D, and it was only when I put them back on that it really hit me how well used it was.
Finally, I ought to make reference to the characters. As expected, Martin Freeman's Bilbo and Ian McKellen's Gandalf are fully explored, but the 12 dwarves do feel very lacking. Imagine trying to remember all of Santa's reindeer. Sure, there's Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Enhancer (possibly) and Entrancer (OK, I made some up), but it's very difficult to remember all of them in such a short period of time.
Hopefully by the end of the trilogy its flaws will be ironed out. The signs are all there for a fantastic trilogy - even if each film is lacking the content in its huge substance.
Review by wizzardSS on . Film Rating: 3/5