It has been nine years since the final instalment of one of cinema’s finest movie trilogies. Nine years of DVD and Blu-Ray releases, box sets, director’s cuts, and extended editions. In that time, The Lord of the Rings has become one of the most-loved, most appreciated series of films for men and women of all ages, and, along with the Harry Potter series, has helped to rekindle a love of literature that, at one point, seemed to dissipate for an entire generation. So now, after nearly a decade of pre-production hell, which included director changes, production company bankruptcy, schedule changes to incorporate the right actor, and an array of other nightmares to deal with, Peter Jackson’s latest journey into Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has got a lot to live up to.
Before there is any delving into the plotline, whether the 3D version is better than standard 2D, or whether the choice of filming in 48fps (frames per second) was beneficial or not, there must be a look at the original masterpiece in its original form. A fantastic children’s book, exploring one (half)man’s journey from mundanity to adventure, proving that any man, no matter their size, can make all the difference in the world. Inspirational, innovative, and incredibly entertaining, regardless of what your age is when you choose to read it. But at just under three hundred pages, or just over, depending on the edition, it is hard to understand how it is going to be made into three (yes, three) three-hour films.
Originally, or so legend says, Peter Jackson wanted to make two films, working very closely to the formula of the original book. However there was one point, which most likely happened during the aforementioned pre-production misery, where the trilogy was decided upon, filling all filmgoers, those who have read and fell in love with the book, with trepidation about how one-hundred pages of book are going to remain entertaining over three hours, and not stray too far from the original plot. For most, it did not seem possible.
But now, almost a month after The Hobbit’s release into the UK, it can be said that it has, in fact, been done incredibly well. For any naysayers that are still out there, do not doubt any longer. The start of this trilogy is not one to be frowned upon anymore.
The film starts, quite nicely, with an elderly Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), the same Bilbo Baggins we meet in The Fellowship of the Ring, beginning his detailed account of when he ventured on a battle to fight the deadly dragon Smaug in his younger years. Is this different from the book? Yes. A letdown? Not in the slightest.
Without giving too much away – for those who are still not in-tune with author J.R.R. Tolkien’s original plotting – what the film then supplies is a younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) journeying with dwarves, battling with goblins, being subject to a battle between stone giants, and meeting a very menacing Gollum, all whilst on his journey to help his new friends claim back their stolen home from a dragon.
Unsurprisingly, this film is going to be forever compared to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, and there is not much that can be done to change that. However, the most finite piece of advice that can be given to anybody about to view this film is: forget everything that you know about the original epics. This is nowhere near the same level of intensity that they incorporated. Much like the book, this is a film, primarily, for children. It is whimsical, there is a lot more buffoonery, the fight scenes have a jovial nature, and there are not the intense elements of fear and danger that consistently appeared through its predecessors. It is a fun film, and there is not a lot more than can be said about that.
There are elements of the film that could, potentially, be improved. Whereas in the book, the band of dwarves had clear personalities and moments, which made them all stand out from the others, here they all mesh into one, with only one or two having unique moments. Furthermore, including characters such as Saruman The White (Christopher Lee), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Radagast The Brown (Sylvester McCoy) could have been culled. Albeit they are good to make subtle nods to The Hobbit’s predecessors, their overall purpose seemed only to be to convince die-hard fans that the film is not a perfect representation of the book they adore.
Overall, this film should get a lot more praise than it has had. For three-hours, it does well as a very entertaining piece of cinema. There are, as with a lot of modern films, times when the pace could be picked up, and areas where the CGI could be improved. Nonetheless, this does stand as a very enjoyable film. Will its two sequels be as entertaining? In two years time, we are sure to find out.
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