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Film Reviews: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
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stainsteelrat
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012). Co-written and directed by Peter Jackson, and based on the novel by JRR Tolkien. The story starts on the 111th birthday of Bilbo Baggins (initially played by Ian Holm). Bilbo is secretly writing the book of his experience 60 years earlier when Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) tried to recruit him to help a group of dwarves return to their homeland, Erebor. Some pre-story is told about how Smaug the dragon drove the dwarves from Erebor, in pursuit of the huge amount of gold and treasure that King Thrór was obsessively amassing. In terms of my preconceptions about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey... I did read the book 25+ years ago, and admittedly can't remember much other than the basic plot outline. I also played the quirky ZX Spectrum adventure game, which I can't remember much of either, other than it was very frustrating. The Hobbit continues in much the same vein as the Lord of the Rings films, both stylistically, and with some story arcs and characters that connect the two. It's important to point out of course that The Hobbit predates the main story in Lord of the Rings (LOTR), and it's a shame in some ways that this wasn't filmed first. There is a feeling at times of having seen this before, not just with repeated plot elements, but also some of the set pieces. There are lots of the same musical cues as well, which hook into that, purposefully no doubt. For those who aren't aware of The Hobbit story, it's useful to know I think that it's not on quite such an epic scale as that of LOTR, not that this is a bad thing per se. I'm not a huge fan of Martin Freeman ordinarily, but he does work particularly well as the young Bilbo. We get a brief view of old Bilbo (Ian Holm) talking with Frodo (Elijah Wood) which may bring a tear to the eye of LOTR fans. Ian McKellen also reprises his role as Gandalf, and yet again does a fantastic job of it. Andy Serkis also reprises his role of Gollum, and arguably steals the film in a wonderful performance, of course helped by incredible CG. The rest of the dwarves are good, but there are a lot of them, and their performances tend to blur. The biggest problem with the dwarves is the variability of the make up, which seems to go from next to nothing to the surreal. I would have preferred a more consistent set of make up for believability. As mentioned above, Howard Shore continues from the LOTR films with the soundtrack and it is excellent, albeit there's a lot of repeated elements. I certainly liked The Hobbit, but for me it didn't quite match LOTR for quality, plus there was that feeling of having-seen-it-before in places. The biggest pain now is we have to wait a year for the next film. I suppose we'll just have to reacquaint ourselves on home video ahead of next year's cinema showing. If you really enjoyed the LOTR films then you are likely to enjoy The Hobbit, as long as you scale back your expectations for the equally scaled back/different story. If you didn't enjoy LOTR, or are burned out from it, you'll want to think twice about going to see The Hobbit. 4/5 (Good)
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