The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Hobbit 1

 

The first part of the story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins.

We had to wait a long time from first announcement to actual delivery of the movie, due in part to finance problems at MGM Studios which also led to initial director Guillermo del Toro dropping out and Peter Jackson stepping up to direct again.

If you have seen any of the Peter Jackson creations of The Lord Of The Rings, you’ll know precisely what to expect.  If you haven’t, where have you been for the last 10 years ?!!

I have read The Hobbit, though it was many years ago now (maybe I should rectify this) and so I was familiar with the story to come (loosely), certainly more than with the Lord Of The Rings books which I fear I abandoned long before completion (something else to retread at a later date).

As with The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, certain liberties have been taken in order to make the film series work “better”, though I haven’t heard as many complaints as when they overlooked the “Tom Bombadil” character in the Rings trilogy.  It is noticeable though that three movies of nearly 3 hours each from a book that is smaller than any of the 3 Rings trilogy individually is going to need a LOT of padding out !

I don’t propose to go through all the differences between book and film, as to be honest I didn’t really mind.  I can’t quote the book verbatim, so wouldn’t notice extra lines added, or others removed, I’m not that worried.  Maybe it would matter to a true Tolkien aficionado, but to me I was far more interested in the entertainment value of the film.  Probably more important to me are cosmetic changes, such as Bilbo originally envisaged as being 50+ years old with a fat belly – something they clearly haven’t stuck to with Martin Freeman !!

Incidentally, if anyone REALLY wants to see the differences between text and screen, there are plenty of websites out there who can cater to your curiosity, such as http://www.theonering.com/complete-list-of-film-changes/introduction for example.

There is an extremely slow start to the film, just like the first of the Rings films, and I found myself getting restless waiting for some “action”.   Strangely, Tolkien’s son Christopher has been complaining in the press that he doesn’t think the books should be made into “action movies for young people aged 15 to 25”.  I’d say he hasn’t watched too many action movies.

The New Zealand scenery is as breathtaking as ever, and coupled with the fantastic quality of image and the incredible audio it really is an amazing feature.  I can’t comment on the 3D or “High Framerate 3D” versions of the film, as I haven’t had the opportunity to see either, though my previous exposure to 3D movies has not been encouraging – usually headaches and a noticeable drop in the quality of the picture.

Various actors/actresses return from the Rings movies, such as Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Elven Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Andy Serkis as Gollum, plus of course Bilbo Baggins played in a prologue by Ian Holm as the “old” version of the character, alongside Frodo played by Elijah Wood, which is a character that doesn’t actually appear in the book of The Hobbit.

There are other returning characters from the later Rings trilogy that don’t appear in the original Hobbit, but have been brought in to link the two trilogies together and show their overlaps – Cate Blanchett is Galadriel, Christopher Lee is Saruman.  Both are only in for a short reprisal of their later roles, and add a little welcome familiarity.

So, visually stunning, with a mildly bum-numbing duration, but plenty of action and adventure to keep you interested.

I had to “get into” the film, meaning that I persisted past the slow start and found that I became more entertained as it went along.  I also felt it ended in a good place, making me look forward to the next instalment, which I will be reviewing shortly.

8/10.  A bit too long to be perfect, but still a great movie.

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