Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is simultaneously lazy, self-indulgent and arrogant. The book upon which it is based is a singular, simple adventure story, it is not the epic, sweeping and grand opus that is The Lord of the Rings. Yet with this film and the trilogy it is a part of, Jackson and co. have tried to turn this source into something its not. Akin to how Gandalf and the Dwarves in this film take Bilbo Baggins out of his element and try and turn him into something he’s not, however the film does not fare nor transform as well as its protagonist. This is a film which is at its best when it’s at its simplest, yet far too many times in this film Jackson goes off on self-indulgent tangents that while offer plenty of detail, slow the film down and results in a frequently tedious and dull experience.
This is a film, which feels like it was filmed upon a first draft screenplay, one that had not yet been edited and cut down to size. There are so many scenes in this film which go absolutely nowhere and do not advance the quest or story at hand. For most of this film it criminally lacks a sense of urgency or fun. The Hobbit does not have the same stakes as Lord of the Rings and therefore in taking the same tonal and visual approach as The Lord of the Rings, Jackson is only highlighting this and turns what could have in fact been an advantage into a flaw. This should have been a simple, fun, adventure. Instead it is an incredibly plodding and pretentious affair. While many fans of the source and Tolkein’s world may be overjoyed with the depth and details that this film goes into, they seem to be mistaking detail for quality. At two hours and forty-five minutes, this film takes a long time to not get very far and if you were to ask me what actually happened in the film, I would struggle to tell you. At the end of the day, this is a film, which is unnecessarily long, as it is stuffed with unnecessary detail that damages it as a film and that unnecessarily seeks to connect itself tonally with The Lord of the Rings. Del Toro having to leave this project was one of the worst things that could have happened to it, this film, due to its separate source in every aspect, needed to fell different visually and tonally to what had come before, it doesn’t.
What really bothered me about Jackson’s approach was that it was alienating and degraded the character of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is supposed to be our protagonist and hero for this journey, yet for most of the film he felt like an afterthought. One of my favourite moments in the film comes late in the game when Bilbo has his this is why I am here moment, I just wish we had seen more of that progression visually throughout the film. In taking this sweeping approach, Jackson has sidestepped his protagonist and in a sense made it not his story. It’s an insult to the great work done by Martin Freeman throughout the film. The best part of this film, by far, is the scene between Bilbo and Gollum, with their game of riddles. I could have watched that for near three hours and come out wholly satisfied. Everything about that scene was perfect, from the stunning visual work being done with Gollum and his seamless integration into a real-life environment and interaction with real-life figures, through to the individual performances from Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis, to the great dialogue which all too often in this film seems to be spoken in a language that is certainly not English (You must venture to the mountain of blahdeblah and find the stone of jokery so you can find the key of zabadeeda and open the gate of galifiankis) It is telling that the film’s greatest moment, is a simple, playful and dialogue driven scene.
However this film certainly isn’t terrible. Peter Jackson is an incredibly skilled filmmaker and there is no denying that visually this film is a triumph. I love how he decides to only show brief glimpses of the dragon, as well as his handling of certain action set pieces, such as the fight of the mountain giants. The visual effects, the cinematography and the art direction are all top notch. The music is superb and while the film seems to repeat the same piece of music ten times, it’s a great piece of music so why not. On the topic of music, the singing of the dwarves, something that could have gone so wrong, is handled so well that I wish all their dialogue had been sung. The performances are also uniformly solid, however Andy Serkis as Gollum once again steals the show as he did in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are great moments of fantasy filmmaking within this, the aforementioned scene with Gollum is perfect, a couple of the action set pieces had me engaged and excited (Although none of the action set pieces in this film will be particularly memorable a couple of months or even weeks down the line) and ultimately the scale and technical accomplishment of the production is something to be admired. Ultimately, in terms of their visual craft and performances they had this film covered, what lets it down is a baggy, lazy, self-indulgent and arrogant screenplay that sucks the simplicity and enjoyment of what should have been a simple and enjoyable tale. This is not a bad movie; the acting, directing and some of the set pieces are too good for it to be completely dismissed. However it is way too long and while by the end it had just about won me over, I was ready for it to end.
A quick note on 48 frames per second, fuss over nothing in my opinion. Anybody saying it’s amazing and the future of cinema is overstating it, however anybody saying that it is unwatchable and the death of cinema is also doing so. As a seventeen year old I may be part of a generation less affected by visual entertainment looking like video games and HD tv, but at the end of the day, like a lot of the film, it just felt pointless, unnecessary and didn’t really take me anywhere.
Was originally going to give it a 6, however the more I think about this film, the less I like it.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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