‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Review
Driven by passion, Peter Jackson once achieved a nearly impossible task: he made a cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. The result was a morally weighty, visually absorbing, thematically moving and award winning trilogy that pleased the fans, stunned the critics and put Hollywood formulaic blockbusters to shame. Grossing a total of $2.91 billion, it turned Jackson into one of most successful and trusted directors in the world.
Driven by greed, Jackson decided to return to middle earth by blowing up J.R.R Tolkien’s little delightful 300 page children adventure “The Hobbit” into a new trilogy, leaving the critics skeptical and the fans worried about this odd decision. The result was a visually dazzling but an overlong and overstuffed first part.
The Hobbit: An unexpected journey tells the well known story of a young Bilbo Baggins and his grand andunexpected adventure with his wizard buddy Gandalf and 13 dwarves to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom of ‘Erebor’ from the dragon ‘Smaug’, coming across all manner of beasts (superbly designed and animated) and dangerous situations. As intriguing as it sounds, the film doesn’t really get going until a good forty-five minutes into the narrative. But that won’t matter for the fans who just want to see middle earth again and Bilbo Baggins being Bilbo Baggins. The movies are destined to make money and a lot of it because after all revisiting middle earth is always a treat. Even in ‘The Hobbit’, middle earth was flawlessly realized on screen, a totally immersive universe populated by weird and authentic characters and where artificial sets were wondrously blended with the real breathtaking landscape of New Zealand, Jackson homeland. Shot in 48 frames\second Middle earth became strikingly real. This groundbreaking method of shooting at a faster rate captures gorgeous images and creates clearer and sharper scenes with incredible details. Middle earth simply looked different and there’s too much to look at in ‘The Hobbit’.
The main problem with ‘The Hobbit’ is that it’s not really about a Hobbit as the title suggests. Not a lot happens here, the story barely focuses on Bilbo Baggins and more time was given over to fill the movie with needless side-plots that aim to please the fans. The Hobbit as a book was a charming novel, because of its simplicity. It’s not an epic tale of good-versus evil, it’s simply a story about a character that was spending his life safely in his hobbithole then decided to step out of his cozy place and start a journey that will let him eventually realize that the world is a bigger and a more interesting place than his beloved town. There are some good and charming moments in the movie, like the house party with all the dwarves and their behaviors .Martin Freeman delivered a delightful performance as a hobbit desperately witnessing his place being disrupted by the dwarves. Freeman is a natural born Hobbit, but sadly enough he gets so little chance over the course of nearly three hours of running time to develop his character.
Every time the focus wanders away from Bilbo, we get this feeling that there’s no coherent narrative structure here. The elves became the center of the story and not Bilbo, and Thorin (Richard Armitage) became the main protagonist. Armitage, the new Aragon,is really good here but this is not his story. One of the weakest points in the movie, if not the weakest, is the fake sense of epicness that Jackson was trying so hard to force, for a simple reason: In The lord of the rings, middle earth was in trouble. The Dark Lord Sauron wanted his ring back so he can conquer and rule all of Middle-earth, there was a real crisis. In the Hobbit, the dwarves want to get their gold and city back from a dragon, does this look like a crisis? Is there anything urgent about it? Did we really need a countless amount of action setpieces that tried so hard to create a sense of urgency? No, because simply, there’s nothing that urgent in the Hobbit, it’s not an epic tale. Jackson who co-wrote the screenplay excessively used Gandalf’s character whose appearance at the very last moment of every dangerous situation was an emphasized deus ex machina, a plot device that Tolkien barely used it in his books. It made the scenes predictable and less interesting.
My favorite part in the movie is definitely Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, genially played by Andy Serkis and looking more realistic than ever, the scene was worth the wait. Filled with witty dialogue and beautiful performances, it delivered more reliability than the entire movie. Andy Serkis portrayal of Gollum is simply transcendent, it’s a CGI character but there’s a lot of psychological complexity and it’s very clear thanks to Serkis’ talent and acting abilities.
When I was reading about Tolkien a couple of years ago, I found out that the man used to rewrite some of his stories to give them more grandeur. He couldn’t do it with the Hobbit, because he felt that the story will lose its soul, and he’ll ruin its light adventurous humorous essence. Peter Jackson is trying to do what Tolkien himself failed to do, and based on what I saw I think Tolkien was absolutely right. You can’t force epicness. It’s either an epic story or not, and as I said above ‘the hobbit’ is certainly not. “An unexpected journey” is not boring, but it’s not engaging and despite its fake grandeur the movie, that lacked a good narrative structure, created an oddly empty experience.