Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Movie Review

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." ~ The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Review: 2.75 Stars out of 5 Stars

The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien, came out in 1937, the idea springing from the simple phrase, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit," which he wrote on the back of an exam he was grading.  Tolkien was a philologist, an expert of languages;  he began inventing languages in his youth, but these languages expanded and grew, and there came a point when he realized that the only way these languages could continue to grow was if they belonged somewhere, someplace.  Where these languages eventually belonged was Middle-Earth.  Tolkien spun tales and poems, epic stories that filled out a broad Universe beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings . . . and because of that, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, begins to lose itself, getting swallowed up by Peter Jackson and the grand scope that is Middle-Earth.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is no longer a retailing of a children's classic, but a bridging of The Lord of the Rings movies and The Silmarillion, with additional tidbits added by Jackson himself: A melting pot, a smorgasbord, a movie greatly in need of editing.

The Hobbit should simply be that, "The Hobbit," as told to his children the way Tolkien first imagined.  

It was nice seeing different aspects of Middle-Earth fleshed out.  The design of the Dwarf kingdom was brilliant with interesting details, showing art deco influences.  All the design given to the dwarfs and their world would make a great concept art book.  Finally seeing Gollums cave, and the events therein, is a childhood dream come true.

But if each book in The Lord of the Rings series could brilliantly get their own movie, why then must The Hobbit get three?  Honestly the entire book could have gotten its own, singular movie, with sharp editing and more concise storytelling.  There's an art to adapting a book to the screen, but even then we're not getting a literal retailing of The Hobbit.  For instance, there is a Wizard known as Radagast the Brown who is only mentioned in The Hobbit, but plays a role in The Lord of the Rings and The Unfinished Tales.  Jackson completely removed Radagast from The Lord of the Rings, and made him a main character in The Hobbit trilogy, though he was never meant to be.  Oh, and the bunny sled, that's a Jackson creation.  Radagast's character brings plot points and events into The Hobbit that was meant for a later time, thus helping to inflate The Hobbit into three movies instead of the necessary, though less money-grossing, single film.  

A huge bright spot to this retailing of The Hobbit is the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.  He's fantastic in the role, and a joy to watch.

In the end The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey left me lamenting, wishing Jackson could simply tell the story without filling it out.  How is there going to be two more movies?  If he wished to create a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, he should have done a singular movie instead of dragging The Hobbit into it.  With all the extensive material Tolkien created to better flesh out his world, an interesting movie could have simply been spun, and Tolkien's works could have remained intact.   

MPAA: PG-13 for extended sequences for intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.  Though The Hobbit is written for kids, the movie isn't created for children in mind.  If you have young children, you may wish to view the movie first and decide if the material is suitable.

(As a note, I know there is a lot of buzz about the 48 frames per second, aka high frame rate.  I choose to view the movie in 2D at 24 frames per second.  At some point I do want to view the film at 48 fps to form my own opinion, but I'm already a little biased.  I hate walking into Costco, seeing all the flat screens set to high frame rates.  It always annoys me!  So I'm pretty sure I won't like the higher frame rate.  I'll reserve judgement.)     

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