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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

December 13th, 2012 by Big Phil 2 Comments

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12a)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage
Running Time: 169 min

A curious Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.

Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) is a Hobbit, a creature who loves the simple pleasures in life such as his garden and home. That is until he is ‘invited’ to take part in a great adventure. An adventure that will see him travel further than he has ever dared ventur before

For his travels will take him to lands that he has only ever heard stories of. Lands of Goblins and Orcs, of Elves and Dwarfs. Mountains that have their own tales and deep secrets inside contain treasures and dangers. With one danger greater than the next, can Bilbo and his group of Dwarves reclaim The Lonely Mountain from Smaug, the Dragon?

The Hobbit is quite possible one of the most anticipated films in cinema history. Set as a prequel to the critically acclaimed and box office bonanza that was Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is understandably greeted with high expectation

Sadly, these expectations were dashed, in more ways than one. Whilst the actors do a good job with the script and action sequences, it is hard to find any of the award worthy recognition of the other movies in the series. Indeed, all of the Dwarf portrayers work incredibly well on screen but it is often quite difficult to distinguish one from another in the heat of their battles

Praise should be garnered to Richard Armitage as Thorin, who is the leader of the Dwarves. Indeed this is as much his story as it is Bilbo’s. The problem with Bilbo is that we have seen him played already by Ian Holm (who makes an early appearance writing this story) in the Rings trilogy. This means that the viewer, unwittingly, is comparing his portrayal to Martin Freeman (who is portraying Bilbo 60 years younger) throughout the film’s long running length.

The acting can be appreciated though as it works as a great ensemble piece. However, considering the original source novel, Peter Jackson has once again tinkered with the story to suit his own purpose. Much has already been questioned about the source novel being transposed into a movie trilogy and I am sadly having to agree with the ‘less is more’ motto.

At times there are scenes and characters that were merely mentioned in the book, yet on screen they are given whole scenes and expansion into the realms of Middle Earth that. This is most certainly the case in a pivotal scene in the novel that is now completely rewritten by Peter Jackson et al. Though non-fans will think nothing of it, fans of the various novelizations, back stories and such will be screaming for it to have been left alone.

Fans have loved the extended editions of the Rings trilogy for years, but considering the source novel for those, extended versions were indeed merited. The Hobbit, on the other hand, was a relatively short book in comparrison, and it does indeed seem that too much filler has been used to extract a more profitable venture for those concerned.

The score is impressive, with Howard Shore once again mixing already established musical themes to new pieces, and this is definitely one of the film’s strong points. However, there is one glaring problem that I fear will be this trilogy’s undoing.

The filming of the movie has been made using 48 frames per second and not the standard 24. This has resulted in the movie having a completely different visual feel to it. Yes the picture is without doubt the sharpest film I have ever seen, but there are too many faults. The lighting is quite blatant in certain scenes, whether it is indoor or outdoor, there are several shots early on in which you can almost imagine the flashbulbs over the actors’ heads.

This may be one instance, but with scenes involving miniatures and models, it is impossible not to notice the difference for the worst. When we saw the Rings trilogy we were all amazed at the graphics, the details and the model work as it blended perfectly against the locations or the actors. Now, however, the opposite has occurred in that the models look extremely cheap and totally unbelievable, the fight scenes in places look slow moving and more of a ballet than the fluent movements from the earlier films. I even heard one child say: “Dad, my computer game looks better than this.” ‘Nuff said!

With so much riding on this film, both technically, critically and financially, it is hard to imagine that it will be viewed as a failure and more of an experiment. That said, for repeat viewings, this film will be better watched in the living room on a regular DVD/Blu-Ray player where it will look more athome. A bitter start to a journey and one instalment that may well be forgotten providing the next two are more enjoyable.

3 out of 5 nerds

Please note that the version I saw was the 48fps 3-D version. Watching this film in the regular 24fps may provide a different experience.

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I arrived on Earth in 1977 and have virtually devoted my entire existence to cult films, television programmes and cartoons. I am a very big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek; I may struggle with foreign languages but I can order live Gagh in Klingon! I’m the Nerd that knows the trivia but I’m hopeless at sport!