The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The HobbitInvited on an adventure by Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) soon finds his home raided by dwarves as they answer the call of rightful heir Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). On the road to the Lonely Mountain to defeat the dragon Smaug, the company will have to overcome trolls, orks and goblins, including the creature responsible for the death of Thorin’s father and grandfather. Bilbo, meanwhile, finds himself lost in the cave system that is home to Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the one ring to rule them all. That about sums it up, really.

One criticism often directed at Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy is that it’s just a load of people walking. But whereas Lord Of The Rings features a fellowship trudging forever on, An Unexpected Journey doesn’t even really have that. The Hobbit, you see, may be a load of people running, yet it somehow takes them twice as long to get anywhere at all.

Flashbacks aside, it takes us about a third of the films running time to even leave The Shire. While it is a fundamental part of Bilbo’s character that he doesn’t want to leave the comfort of his homely hole in the ground, it seems to be one that he shares with his director. Instead, rather than plot or action or even characterisation (at least beyond the above) we get song, washing-up and Gandalf trying on the audience’s behalf to tell each dwarf apart.

It becomes clear quite early on that Martin Freeman is just going to play Martin Freeman throughout, and as a result Arthur Dent and Nativity‘s Paul Maddens too. But while his bumblesome gurning is just about beareable in something home-grown and low-key like the BBC’s Sherlock, it jars awkwardly against the mature themes and epic grandeur of Jackson’s New Zealand. Around him, the rest of the cast — a mix of old and new — struggle and often fail to make the division work. No thanks, it must be said, to James Nesbitt.

There are elements that work, namely every time a camera is pointed at the countryside or a rock obscures Freeman during his encounter with Gollum, but such moments are few and far between. For every witty line there is a mention of Smaug’s jacksie, for each well-handled set-piece there is a botched battle between ridiculous rock giants, and for every ten minutes we spend with Gollum we must spend an equal amount of time watching weightless dwarves scurry — Scooby-Doo-style — away from an army of CGI goblins.

The biggest problem with The Hobbit is that it’s not really The Hobbit at all. Whereas J.R.R. Tolkein’s Hobbit could have been told in one film (two at a stretch), Jackson’s has been spread across three films. Instead, rather than picking and choosing the elements that are necessary to the story, the director is having the throw it in wholesale (with extras) to justify his decision. As such, it’s just as episodic as the book, only now you’ve got twice as many filler episodes thanks to the appendices (and Lord Of The Rings-era bookends) used to flesh out the film.

Even though Jackson has been handed three films to tell Tolkein’s (or, rather, his) story once and for all, An Unexpected Journey is still almost three hours long. It’s a sizeable commitment to ask, even more-so when Jackson has chosen it as a debut vehicle for 48 frames per second. This new way of watching cinema has been describes not so much as an embellishment of what’s on screen, rather than an attempt to remove the screen entirely. It doesn’t work, and you are left to reassure yourself that it doesn’t work over one hundred and sixty-six long minutes.

A lot has changes cinematically since the release of Return Of The King, but while 3D and 48fps will cease being issues on DVD and Blu-ray, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will forever be burdened with a needlessly long running time, a plot that spends too much time setting up future events and a lost struggle between the old and the new. Problems is shares with just about every other tent-pole film released this year.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

  1. Pingback: December 2012 – I’m gonna finish him like a cheesecake « popcornaddict

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