Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Beautiful to look at, but still kinda cliché in execution.

As each one of Peter Jackson’s movies comes and goes, I find myself liking him less and less.  What started out as an amazing vision for Lord of the Rings has now degenerated into the pretty good but not spectacular production that is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  While I can say that I did enjoy the film and that many parts of it were truly spectacular, Jackson and the production studio’s decision to turn it into three films ultimately made the first installment drag on and come to a rather long-winded conclusion.

In case you don’t already know, The Hobbit pretty much follows the story in the book of the same name, although Jackson, in order to stretch the film out and add more back-story, delved into some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s other works.  So what we end up with is a very long Hobbit movie with lots of other little bits and pieces.  The extra stuff was actually really interesting and I was happy that he did that.  Unfortunately, the execution of the main storyline is a little wonky.  Some parts were changed that didn’t need to be changed, and the main motivator was nothing less than having a few more action scenes in the film - a fatal flaw that most directors seem to be afflicted with these days.

Probably the highest point for me in the film was the acting of Martin Freeman, who played Bilbo Baggins.  He pulls off an amazing fantasy character, despite a few goofy lines he’s expected to say, and is definitely the best thing about the entire production.  I also enjoyed the way they slipped some of the old songs into the film, though they could have gotten away with more.  The singing added a unique element to the film and made it very much true to Tolkien’s story along with the cartoon adaptation that I remember enjoying as a child.  Other highlights include, of course, the amazing special effects (though I did not see it in IMAX, 3D or the 48 fps format) and huge production values.

All-in-all, The Hobbit was a great way to start off the trilogy, though I suspect that three movies was probably one too many.  The excuse for the extra film may have been to put in all the additional content, but the reality is that Jackson just extended his action scenes for way too long.  By the time the last nearly-thirty-minute sequence ended, I was ready to go home, regardless of any epilogue.  It was just too much and too gimmicky to be enjoyable, even in the context of a fantasy film.

Hopefully the next installment will be just as enjoyable, but I doubt Jackson will fix the errors he had in this one.  People seem to love pointless action and so it will continue to haunt movies to their detriment.  Eventually we may get past this old and worn out cliché and be able to move on, but until then, The Hobbit is about as good as any fantasy film is going to get.  I recommend a watch, though make sure to have a little caffeine before you start in.