As huge fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there was great excitement in this house when we were sent goodies from The Hobbit movie plus a copy of the film on DVD to review. And as is par for the course, No 1 Son couldn’t wait to watch it. Here’s his (very thorough) The Hobbit movie review:
The decision to turn The Hobbit, which wasn’t as long as the other LOTR books, into a trilogy of films, results in the pacing being slowed to a snail’s pace. Comparisons are fairly drawn with The Fellowship of the Ring – featuring several of the same characters, places, and even plot techniques. But with Fellowship, there was so much material crammed into one film an overbearing sense of urgency existed which worked perfectly with the quest itself – what the Fellowship needed to do felt like a very real necessity. No such urgency exists in An Unexpected Journey – despite so much time being given wherein very little happens, you don’t feel you learn anything about the characters you didn’t already know.
We like Gandalf and Bilbo, of course, and are pleased to see a brief Frodo cameo, appearances from Elrond, Galadriel, Gollum and Saruman, all with the original cast, but the dwarves are really just thirteen apparitions of the same type of character – a stereotypical high fantasy dwarf. Over the course of three movies I expect we’ll begin to know and like them all more, but currently they blur into one.
Of course, it’s still a Peter Jackson film, and Middle Earth looks as gorgeous as ever. The cinematography is as sublime as the landscapes, both real and CGI, the creatures and people all look spectacular, and there are some genuine breathtaking moments, such as the epic struggle between rock giants with our heroes perched precariously on their knees. Aesthetically it’s still a highly enjoyable film, not particularly scary or gruesome, suitable for everyone.
However the sense of epic fantasy that made the first films the huge successes they are is somewhat dampened by how ridiculous it becomes, and I can’t help but think this was an effort to make it more funny. Humour in LOTR was provided mainly through quips and one liners, whereas in The Hobbit it turns more to slapstick, and it is sometimes ludicrous to the point that we don’t get any real sense of danger or peril. The climax in Fellowship was built up from Saruman’s betrayal, the birth of Lurtz, Boromir’s doubt, and Lurtz’s pursuing of the heroes. In An Unexpected Journey, there seem to be three threats that never really amount to anything – the dwarves fall down comically, and then they get rescued, either by Gandalf or those eagles again.
The journey itself seems like it would make for a good fantasy movie, but one that could be very easily put into one, Return of the King length epic. An Unexpected Journey is very much an opening to a trilogy – nothing is resolved, more questions are opened and left unanswered (to the point of cliché, as Bilbo assuredly states that “the worst is behind us”); but it doesn’t live up to the standard set by Fellowship. The pieces of this puzzle are there, but rather than a sense of excitement and anticipation, it just feels like trying to pass the time on a rainy weekend. 3 stars (out of 5).