Release Date: December 14, 2012 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D)
Studio: New Line Cinema (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriter: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, John Bell, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Barry Humphries, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Sylvester McCoy, Bret McKenzie, Graham McTavish, Mike Mizrahi, James Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Mikael Persbrandt, Conan Stevens, Ken Stott, Jeffrey Thomas, Aidan Turner, Billy Connolly
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images)
A gas leak, forcing a theater wide evacuation set my nerdish sensibilities on edge. “Where can we go now to see the Hobbit?? It’s already 9:30, and anywhere else is an hour out – meaning it will be sold out by the time we get there!” My heart was racing and my blood boiling, jealous of all my other friends from around the country who WERE getting to see the film, and not I. And as we left the Best Buy next door after figuring out what to do next, we saw that the theater, in fact, reopened, admitting anyone wishing for a cinematic excursion. My friend and I dashed back to the theater, complete with our elvish cloaks, Latmus bread, and pipeweed, ready for a three hour adventure in a theater that was barely full.
Originally a children’s story, “The Hobbit” was no longer a simple tale of adventure. The film evolved the story into an epic thrill ride that was not only humorous, but dark and sinister too. It jumps back and forth from being silly and comical to serious and epic, and does as well as any film could attempting to achieve that same dynamic. Having never read the Simarillion, 50% of the film was unfamiliar to me, making me wonder how much of it comes from the Simarillion and how much of it was made up by the Mr. Jackson himself. Regardless of the answer, everything new and old works well together.
The film itself plays out like an episodic tale with the same set up as a TV drama that’s been contracted out for eight seasons. First published in 1937, the Hobbit is a lighthearted tale of a little man who’d prefer to stay at home in his Hobbit hole rather than go on a silly adventure. Lord of the Rings, however, written during World War II, was a darker tale that, while humorous, had not the same joyous feeling contained in Bilbo’s story. Jackson spills much of his playful side into the film’s more comedic aspects, like with the trolls who resemble a certain slapstick trio from before film had any notion of color. However, the film lets loose and reveals itself to be an over-the-top epic tale that plods on and on, not even making it half way through the book by the movie’s end.
At first glance, the story is as familiar as it can be. But once the film starts, you’ll realize that this isn’t the same Hobbit found on your bookshelf or in bookstores. Certainly the battles with trolls, goblins, and Orcs can be seen, but how the company of 14 gets to these points is far from the same. Don’t be surprised if you see [spoiler alert] rocky mountain people battling it out for an unknown reason while the Dwarves and Hobbit desperately hang on for dear life atop of the knees. The only TRULY familiar points in the film come after the introduction, when the Dwarves honor their uninvited invitation into Mr. Baggins’ home, and during the most interesting riddles in the dark chapter of the story where Bilbo riddles his way to freedom against the sinister and masterfully animated Gollum. But even in these familiar moments, Jackson bleeds in his own take, making them seem somehow fresh and new - emphasizing the tattered soul of Gollum, the apocalyptic comings that threaten Middle-Earth, and Bilbo’s place within it all.
Had I seen this film in 3D, I might not have enjoyed myself as much. However, that being said, I can see anyone who embraces the return of the 3D craze soaking in every last eye popping moment that jumps right out at you during the actions sequences. Buckle your seat belts because this is going to be one big cinematic theme-park ride of your life. For me, personally, the fight scenes tended to get a tad bit silly. I understand that this film was tailor made to meet the expectations of both the lover’s of 3D and the ones who could care less, but I would have preferred to watch fight scenes that didn’t feel so kiddish and immature. Was it just me, or did the Orcs, Goblins, and Dwarves seem to have a bit more skill than what was displayed in the “Rings” trilogy”? What with their jumping and flailing about. I guess that’s just me and my need for story continuity to be consistent within anything I read or watch.
My complaints about the skill levels of each culture of creature aside, the mystic feelings of Middle-Earth stay in tact, allowing for speech and dialog to occur within the monsters and creatures not resembling any likeness with humans. Although (and this is the nerd in me) I was a tad bit disappointed that the Eagles didn’t speak. But their rescue of the company during the fantastic fight scene between them and the Warg-riding Orcs was a wondrous sight of the beauty of New Zealand and it’s mountainous terrain above the clouds. Jackson’s “Rings” films are nothing if not gorgeous to look at, making anyone wish to travel overseas to the green of New Zealand.
As expected, the casting is superb with returning performances by Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis as the wizard and the creeping Hobbit gone evil from the wear and tear of the ring. Martin Freeman’s comedic timing and performance as a Hobbit is unmatched by any of the preceding Hobbit thespians. Voice acting is remarkable by those whose presence was not seen, but heard thanks to the wonders of recording technology.
No doubt, talks of book to film comparisons will begin this weekend and there will be those who, like me, loved the film and hope to see it again before the weekend is up, and those who will curse the name of Peter Jackson for not sticking straight to the source material, page for page. However, if you’re ready for a wondrous and inventive adventure from the mind of Peter Jackson and his team of writers, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and former Hobbit director Guillermo del Toro, then you shouldn’t waste anymore time. Close your computer, get up out of your seat, and go watch An Unexpected Journey that is truly unexpected.
9 out of 10 stars