Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Unexpected Review

So we had the pleasure of seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the midnight showing last Thursday. After 9 years off Peter Jackson has returned to Middle-earth to tell us the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with the one ring before Frodo's adventures in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Before we get into my thoughts, Spoiler alert! I'll probably end up talking about some specifics of the movie.

First things first, I love Kevin Smith's work and he has one of the funniest reactions to the LOTR trilogy ever. In case you haven't seen it here you go:

Now this is a very satirical look at the films, and I'm not knocking the quality of the trilogy as they are cinematic masterpieces and deserved every award they received. Bring this up, not only because it's a hilarious look at the trilogy, but because I was afraid that the Hobbit was going to also be more walking. So immediately when they got their quest and Bilbo agreed to be their thief and they ride off on ponies, I thought it would be a movie about riding instead. Thankfully, there were plenty of action sequences. The way they managed to get a trilogy out of the shortest book is by using stories from other stories and appendices to fill in some things that happen off page from the book and provide more backstory as to the rebirth of Sauron that leads to the LOTR trilogy.

Anyways, the premise is Bilbo writing his story into the book, which serves to tell the background needed to get the story rolling. They show the dragon Smaug desecrating the town of Dale and overtaking the kingdom of Erebor under the Lonely Mountain. There's an unnecessary cameo of Frodo as Bibo finishes writing for the moment. He runs off and we flash back to Gandalf arriving to get young Bilbo to go on an adventure. The interplay between Gandalf and Bilbo is fantastic at this intro scene. Several dwarves show up to Bilbo's house for a meeting and they eat all of his food and discuss their journey. They plan to trek to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim Erebor in the name of the dwarves. Bilbo contemplates and eventually decides to go along.

As they journey, they tell some tales of others and provide some of the extra story. We meet an eccentric wizard Radagast, who serves to bring the bad news of the Necromancer, a mysterious being that has brought the wicked witch king back from the dead. The group manage to get away from a trio of trolls and find some good weapons at their hoard. They get chased by a pack of orcs led by an albino Orc lord with a grudge against Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the group until they find themselves in Rivendell. They leave there and get captured by some Orcs in a cave under the mountains. Bilbo gets separated and finds Gollum, and manages to steal the One Ring and meet up with the group after they make their escape. After a showdown on a cliff, Gandalf calls on Galadriel for help and they fly off on Eagles. The movie ends at the top of a mountain as they look off to see the Lonely Mountain in the distance.

The opening scene showing the background story was brilliantly done. They pull a bit of Jaws by not showing the Dragon fully as we catch glimpses of him as the fires rage and destroy the town. It was beautifully done and I applaud them for their selective reveals. The Frodo cameo was a nice touch as it gives context to put it in the same world as the trilogy. However, it was about twice as long as it should be and the only purpose it serves are the cute nods to the trilogy with Frodo hanging the sign on the gate and then going to meet Gandalf on his way into town. Being introduced to the Dwarves is amusing as they are frantically running around and eating and all around fun, jolly folk.

The scene with the Trolls is one of the strongest story telling moments due to the physical humor and the characterization of almost all the characters. The first hour or so of the movie was pretty stale as it's just starting the journey, but also it is just them riding along then stopping to tell a tale and so on. It works to break it up a bit, but gets repetitive. Mostly this movie works to set up the world of Middle-earth and give back story to the original trilogy while setting up for the next 2 films. That being said, the action scenes were pretty well done and exciting enough to keep me awake until 3 in the morning.

In this movie we get a cameo of the hilltop where Frodo gets stabbed in Fellowship, as well as the the origin of the elf/dwarf rivalry. When the Dragon was decimating Erebor, the Dwarf king looks up to a hill where the Elf king turns and walks away with the army, offering no help.

The scene between Bilbo and Gollum is a battle of wits where they try to trick each other with riddles. It is really well done all around, but I was pretty burnt out on Gollum as a character from the trilogy.

Now the biggest problem in this movie is that the group escapes on some giant eagles after being cornered and backed to a cliff edge. The eagle then drops them off at the top of an odd mountaintop, within sight of the lonely mountain! Why didn't they just fly them to the Lonely mountain! It was right there!!! The only part of this movie that I think wasn't up to par was the use of CG to create all the orcs. The trilogy had a lot of make up on actual characters and only used CG to fill in the huge battle scens and such. It was definitely noticeable that the orcs were CG and not actually there.

All in all this was a very well done movie as expected. The performances are great, especially Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellan as always. I'm excited to see the latter two films and hope they get better as they go. My final thought is this: I'm glad this was a movie not about walking, but rather about running as the group is continually running from the orcs. Definitely a great movie and you should all go see it in theatres.

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