The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

“True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

Cast:  Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage

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One of the issues about hyping up films is that expectations are high for everyone involved, and most of the time, the hype surrounding a film exceeds the actual quality itself. With avid fans of the book and The Lord of the Rings trilogy praising its efforts from the outset, it’s no wonder that The Hobbit had been built up into this marvel to behold. It sounded like Peter Jackson had outdone himself with this masterpiece and although I knew it would be slightly naive to accept these (probably) biased views, I was still pretty amped up about how good it was meant to be.

Now for the shocking part: I wasn’t all that impressed with the result.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Based on the book, the film follows a young Bilbo Baggins in one of his first adventures, 60 years before LOTR’s takes place.

When Gandalf tricks Bilbo into hosting a party, 13 Dwarves arrive on his doorstep with empty belly’s and a dangerous adventure ahead. Due to a dragon taking up its resides on their land and all of its inhabitants being cast far and wide, Thorin and his company of Dwarves have taken it upon themselves to slay the horrible creature. Reluctantly Bilbo agrees to help them out as “hobbits can pass unseen by most if they choose”, and so begins the first film of The Hobbit trilogy.

The first thing that needs to be said about The Hobbit is how bloody brilliant Martin Freeman is as Bilbo Baggins. He seems so right as Bilbo and I can’t fault him on his acting at all. It’s not a role I thought he would fit in so well with, but he really did bring some good elements to the film. A good job too as he is the main focus throughout the trilogy. The Dwarves were also fun to watch, obviously there were far too many for us to get to know in this film alone but it was long enough for us to get to know a few. I’m sure they will be further explored in the next 2 instalments and I’m looking forward to that. We also get to see the revival of some of our favourite characters: Gandalf, Frodo, Elrond, Galadriel,  Saruman and a few others. It’s nice to see these characters back in action and how they related to each other back then.

As with LOTR’s, The Hobbit was absolutely beautiful to watch. The cinematography was breathtaking and was one of the features about the film I was really looking forward to seeing. Also the choice to shoot the film at 48 frames per second meant the whole movie was really sharp and clean too, it ran so seamlessly and was a decision Jackson made that I applaud. It was also really nice to see how The Hobbit sets up events that unfold in Lord of the Rings. The scenes with Gollum and the ring, which is obviously the reason behind the events in LOTR, were really clever. They were probably my favourite parts of The Hobbit.

One of the things I can’t really get my head around is the length of the film(s) compared to the length of the book. The 1937 novel by J.R.R Tolkien is a mere 300 pages, while the films will stretch to a total of 9 hours in length. I just don’t understand how is this possible. There were a lot of moments throughout The Hobbit that I thought could have been tighter or more restrained, and I believe there were a lot of unnecessary scenes. It sometimes seemed this was just another chance for Jackson to show off his talents and take advantage of such a large platform, but I don’t think it really worked in the film’s favour.

Another issue I had was that there are a lot of things that happen in the film that I find just too unrealistic. Yes, I know it’s fantasy but it just feels too convenient how all of the dangerous situations Bilbo and the Dwarves happen upon are so easily escapable for them. It annoyed me at times and I think there should have been more situations with more fatal outcomes.

As a fan of the LOTR trilogy I was looking forward to seeing this film. However due to the expectations I had built up about it, it wasn’t that masterpiece I was expecting, therefore I felt a little disappointed. The way it has been shot is beautiful and it still has that magic essence that made the sequels such a success, but I was expecting much more in terms of story. To look at it simply, it literally is a fairytale: An evil dragon has taken over the castle (being the Dwarves’ land), someone needs to go a slay him (Bilbo and the gang). It definitely deserves a watch but remember that this is a Jackson film, there are a lot of drawn out scenes and you do have to commit an evening to watching it due to its length, though the cinematography should be redeeming in a sense – it certainly was for me.

Star rating:   6.5/10

Directed by Peter Jackson.

Running time 169 minutes.

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