THE Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (USA 2012)
Taking place 60 years before THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, young Bilbo Baggins, a less adventurous Hobbit, sets out on a reluctant quest with a heroic group of Dwarves, to reclaim their stolen mountain home from the dragon Smaug.
Although J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT is the shortest of his works, Part One of Peter Jackson’s planned trilogy runs a full 167 minutes. Hitting screens as a limited release at double the usual format of 48 frames per second and 3D, the look of the movie alone takes some getting used to – everything is in your face – almost like watching reality TV. The duration, too, is a trial, with every detail stretched beyond all endurance. The first 45 min, for example, keep audiences captive in the home of young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in Middle Earth, as he entertains some unexpected guests for dinner: 13 hungry, singing dwarves. Once we get past this sequence, however, things gather momentum.
Bilbo and the trusty band of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and accompanied by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) set forth on their mission to retake the dwarves’ mountain home from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Along the way confronting orcs, trolls, wolves, and other assorted monsters, made frighteningly real courtesy of the make-up and prosthetics department. In fact, a good half or maybe even three-quarters of the movie is spent battling these creatures and some of the conflicts are even interesting. A battle against goblins, for instance, is three dimensional and acrobatic, the combatants tumbling through the air, to land and regroup – but most of these sequences are more reminiscent of a computer game.
The picture is livened up (and padded out) by some cool cameo performances: the Elven city of Rivendell makes a brief appearance, for example, as do Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee). But it is the slithery, manic Gollum, (once again brilliantly portrayed by Andy Serkis) who saves the day, transforming THE HOBBIT into everything you were hoping it would be – a powerful, haunting fantasy. Unfortunately, it takes a helluva long time to get there.
One of the most eagerly-awaited motion pictures of the year, THE HOBBIT has been on release for just over a week and already grossed over $245 million worldwide. Fans of the first trilogy will find some wonderful moments, but unfortunately they are few and far between – and there are not nearly enough of them. My advice: take a packed lunch.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (USA 2012); Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Running time: 169 min; Peter Jackson – Director / Writer (screenplay) / Producer, Fran Walsh – Writer (screenplay) / Producer, Philippa Boyens – Writer (screenplay), Guillermo del Toro – Writer (screenplay), J.R.R. Tolkien – Writer (novel “The Hobbit”), Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood; Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie; Composer: Howard Shore; PG-13; Release dates: 14 Dec (USA) / 13 Dec.(Germany)