Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by Peter Jackson
Where to start? Well, I’m a massive Tolkien fan so I’ve been beyond excited about The Hobbit since the credits rolled on The Return of the King 9 years ago. Finally, The Hobbit comes to the big screen and I had the chance to see it on opening night. Unfortunately…my 9 years of waiting weren’t rewarded. Many of you will read this and hate me; go ahead and hurl your abuse. I’m here not to pander to the fandom, but be brutally honest as a Tolkien lover: The Hobbit was just not that good. In fact, dare I say it, *gasps!*, it wasn’t good at all.
The movie has been planned as a trilogy, like its predecessor, The Lord of the Rings. Where that made sense – 3 books, each about 600 pages long – The Hobbit makes little sense and this is apparent as you watch it fall apart onscreen. It’s a 310 page novel dragged out into 3 movies. There was no need.
The Lord of the Rings was a monster money maker and spectacular trilogy. Jackson (feeling the pressure, I’m sure) tried to top it with extras, action and 3D. If he had just kept to the story, kept it simple and clean, he would’ve killed it again. The Hobbit could’ve been done in one movie, at most, two. Instead, what we get is a 3 hour marathon of disorienting fight scenes (à la Michael Bay), canned lines, corny humour and some massive departures from the book that verge on unforgivable.
Did I hate it? No, I just left feeling like Jackson sold out and has turned this into a franchise cash cow instead of doing justice to Tolkien’s story. He was so careful with The Lord of the Rings trilogy knowing he was treading on hallowed grounds with the fan base. That care was tossed to the wind in The Hobbit and his complacency shows.
Liked: The scenery, as always, New Zealand made a beautiful Middle Earth and the care that went into the costumes and settings was beyond reproach. The orcs are as hideous as ever; their lair in the mountain is reminiscent of the scenes in the mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. The swooping scenes underground can be a bit disorienting but the visuals were incredible. Ian McKellan. The man can do no wrong and kills it as Gandalf. He is always a pleasure to watch and reprises the wizard’s role perfectly. Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Sherlock) as Bilbo Baggins did a great job and saved the film from losing ground in many parts. Richard Armitage (North and South, Robin Hood) as Thorin Oakenshield. He is quite a presence onscreen.
Disliked: Most of the dwarves became caricatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and fell prey to over acting and poor writing with some of the humour coming off as trying too hard. The Dwarves lost their mystique and coolness and became campy. The fight scenes. The movie was plagued with too many unnecessary fight scenes for the sake of seeing how far they could go with CGI. I’m very glad I did not watch this in 3D because I would’ve needed a barf bag. It was jarring at some points. Radagast the Brown played by Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who). I disliked his scenes. Why? Not only were they a bad departure from the book, they seemed to be inserted for cheap laughs and filler. Corny, and cringe worthy, I don’t know why Radagast (who is only mentioned briefly in the book) suddenly became a major character. Speaking of filler – there was a lot of it. Jackson seemed to want to force 3 hours on his unsuspecting audience by inserting many things that were not part of the book for the sake of drawing the storyline out. So many scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor. The additions, (I won’t mention them all here), were just not needed to make this a great film. Lastly, the length. I actually checked my watch because it dragged on forever. I even mentally checked out after what seemed to be the 85th fight scene. I could feel myself losing interest after two hours thinking, “There’s more!?”. It could’ve been condensed. Period. Instead of offering an “extended” version when the DVD comes out, I’d love to see Jackson offer a reverse short version that’s two hours long and it would probably be much, much better.
As a Tolkien fan, it pains me to admit this but this wasn’t a great movie. If you’re a purist/ have read The Hobbit, I think you will have issues with this movie. I understand liberties will be taken in Hollywoord- as they were with The Lord of the Rings, but this was way too much tinkering. This is no Lord of the Rings. It pales in comparison and I left the theatre disappointed. Sadly, Jackson lost the plot here. This could have been such a fantastic movie and instead it turned out to be mediocre at best.
Peter’s Tale: Many reviewers have already commented on how this film is needlessly long, and I will have to agree with them. We have watched about three hours of the story, and have now reached the end of Chapter 6 from Tolkien’s novel. Why is that? Director Peter Jackson has decided that the story of the Hobbit and the Dwarves heading to the Lonely Mountain was not sufficient enough, perhaps not serious enough. Therefore he has added in more material to make the films more heavy and epic. The story of the Necromancer of Dol Guldur is part of Tolkien-lore but is barely mentioned in The Hobbit itself. It looks as if in this trilogy it will be an important part of the action.
We also get to see scenes of how Smaug first took the Lonely Mountain and how the Dwarvish peoples have been reduced to exile. There is another sub-plot thrown in – a great orc leader has a vendetta against Thorin Oakenshield and spends much of the film hunting him down. This seems to have been added in to give the film a darker feel, and avoid the perceived childishness of the novel. Unfortunately, if you have read The Hobbit you will probably be very disappointed with this depiction, for the film strays far too much from the novel and tries to be like The Lord of the Rings. It is sad to realize that two more films are still going to be made that will continue on this story in the same fashion.