Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit: An Expected Cash-grab.
I’d question whether the absurd runtimes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy taught Peter Jackson anything, but considering how popular the extended versions are, it’d be moot.
So what I’m saying is, I hate when movies are too long.
TL;DR Visually impressive and… oh, that’s about it. Still pretty magical, though. 3 out of 5 stars.
So the plot is nowhere near as fantastically huge and amazing as LOTR. Set 60 years before the existing trilogy, The Hobbit sees some dwarf prince named Thorin assembling a crew (including Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins) to go get back his family’s old treasure pit/city from a dragon. They encounter resistance on their journey. Sub plots include Bilbo running into Gollum and The Ring; Gandalf worrying that the dragon will team with Sauron; and Bilbo trying to win the respect of Thorin (he does).
The story is also told via a framing device of Old Bilbo (a returning Iain Holm) reminiscing on the day of his party (I think?) from the opening of Fellowship. So Elijah Wood gets a few bucks by being hamfistedly shoe-horned into things.
I think I should take this time to note that this is still a LOTR-esque, Peter Jackson epic. So yes, it’s spectacular. But it pales greatly in comparison.
My major complaint (apart from that ghastly runtime of 2 hours 42 minutes. And this is only the fucking 1st movie) would have to be that Bilbo has no reason to be there at all. Gandalf just busts into his house, mentioning a vague encounter they had when Bilbo was younger, and signs the poor Hobbit up for a journey that has a good chance of getting him killed.
Bilbo intially (and rightfully) resists, then chooses to go because… the plot says so? He is promised a 14th of the treasure, which is immense, but I wasn’t convinced. “I want adventure/some cash” is not sufficient to go through the shit he puts up with.
At least Frodo had the fate of the world riding on his shoulders. Bilbo apparently just doesn’t react well to peer pressure.
Why I hate this movie:
Also, it’s too fucking long.
The LOTR movies kind of got away with their own obscene lengths because they were so full of content and character. The Hobbit, alternatively, is overflowing with padding. The “trolls dun stoles our horses, yo” sequence would be a prime example of this. It proves nothing. It’s only there to show off some of the ceaseless CGI porn that Jackson seems to have a boner for (frame rate whine goes here). The only practical purpose of the sequence is to display some of Bilbo’s “smarts,” which are not impressive. Then Gandalf shows up and saves the day, anyway. Something that Gandalf does a lot.
There are way too many characters. There are, what, 14 dwarves in the main cast? Apart from Thorin and the 2 hot ones, they are entirely indistinguishable. Just no to all of that.
The brown wizard’s sub plot better pay off in the next 2 movies, because he was taking up a lot of screentime with no result.
I was a little bothered by how blasé the massacre of the goblins was. The king (voiced by Barry “Dame Edna” Humphries) is shown to be articulate and at least somewhat intelligent. Yet our “heroes” just mow down the goblins, including the king, because they just happened to run into them. Yes, the gang is fighting for their lives on their quest, but I felt bad for the goblins. Probably because Barry was so delightful as the fatass king.
There’s a bit where Gandalf decapitates a goblin, who has a delayed reaction before his head pops off. This is supposed to be funny. It is horrifying.
Ironically, conidering the near genocide I just bitched about, The Hobbit is much more PG than its LOTR cousins. This leads into the stakes feeling much lower (oh noes, some dwarf might not get his treasure. How awful), and the action having less impact. Apart from the goblin thing, the major battle is against, like, one albino orc on a cliff edge. Hardly riveting stuff.
Thorin is a bit of an ungrateful grump. He should be thankful that Bilbo has agreed to risk his life for no real reason, but no, he just constantly doubts him. Rude.
This feels very much like a Part 1 of something, rather than a cohesive, satisfying story in its own right. And you know how much I love those.
Oh, and there are no consequences of Bilbo using The Ring. Dammit, Frodo. You just suck more every movie. Even ones that you’re barely in.
Reasons to watch:
If there’s one thing The Hobbit does well (and, arguably, the reason it was made/is successful) it’s fanservice. It is everywhere.
Firstly, you’ve got your returning cast. I haven’t read The Hobbit book, but apparently quite a few of the returning LOTR actors’ characters weren’t even in it. You’ve got Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Iain Holm, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee. And Orlando Bloom is apparently going to be in the sequels. Fangirls, you may sploosh now.
Then you’ve got the references. Gimli’s dad is one of the dwarf brigade. As is Balin, the dead king of Moria from Fellowship. And they show flashbacks to a battle for Moria. Cute.
As for new stuff, Martin Freeman does a pretty convincing Young Iain Holm. Though he doesn’t get to flex his comedy skills too much, he still manages to be the down-to-earth everyman (everyHobbit?) that makes him a decent lead character (are you listening, Thorin?). James Nesbitt isn’t too shabby as one of the more sympathetic dwarves.
I love that in this universe, dragons are rabidly obsessed with gold. It’s hilarious. The closing shots are of the dragon waking from its sleep, buried in a sea of gold treasures. Adorable.
I liked those 2 hot dwarves whose names rhymed.
While a lot of the world building feels like filler, there are a few cool tidbits. Gandalf talks about the 5 wizards he knows to exist: himself, Saruman, the brown guy, and 2 blue wizards. Intrigue.
Saruman also scoffs at the idea of a necromancer, but we’re pretty sure it’s legit. More intrigue.
Gandalf actually uses the eagles when he needs them. They rescue the gang from the cliff battle with Albino Orc. Now, why did Gandalf forget about their usefulness until the closing of LOTR 3?
Best line goes to Gandalf, who voices my sentiments about the over-large gang of heroes: “I’ve had enough of dwarves for one day.” Me too, G.
The CGI, as porn and overblown as it is, is top quality. As you’d expect.
The music hasn’t grown on me like the LOTR score did, but it is also great quality. And there’s a few bars of that one song I really liked when Bilbo first spots the ring. You know the one.
Gollum steals the show. Duh.
Oh, and at one point the gang accidentally climbs up a mountain giant thing (because they thought it was, like, a mountain. Natch). The giant fights other giants. It’s incredible. Very Xenoblade Chronicles.
If you liked Lord of the Rings (and if you didn’t, like, what’s wrong with you? For reals?), then you’ll like this. But it is an overlong, CGI-wanking snooze. With cool effects. 3 out of 5 stars.