Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

10:24 AM

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Well, this review has been a long-time coming, not because I was disinterested in writing it, but because around the time I first saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) a few days before Christmas, I developed a severe knitting addiction which consumed my life and left little time for writing. If its any reassurance, I now have in my possession, two lovely crocheted headbands and a soon-to-be-completed circle scarf. In any case, I'm finally sitting down and taking the time to write about the film that was adapted from one of my favourite books from quite possibly my favourite author of all time. Over a year ago, I started a countdown for The Hobbit. Each day, I watched the numbers drop, and with each mention of the film I heard, I couldn't help but proudly boasting that I knew the exact number of days remaining until its release. I got a little less crazy after that initial month when not much was known about the production, save the major details. However, whenever a new behind the scenes video was released, my inner hobbit-clock started to go crazy again and I'd read the book all over again to get some kind of satisfaction. As the release date drew closer and closer, I became increasingly nervous. In my mind, Peter Jackson could do no wrong and The Hobbit would be perfect because The Lord of the Rings was perfect. Unfortunately, all the critical acclaim I was expecting was replaced with reviews of mediocrity, in which the film struggled to get over that fateful line that divides 'fresh' from 'rotten'. 

From left to right: Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Christopher Lee as Saruman and Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Before I go into any further detail though, I want to acknowledge that there are a few different groups of people who saw The Hobbit - I'm mentioning the two most relevant to me. There are the mild fans who probaby didn't read The Lord of the Rings but saw all the movies, and probably read The Hobbit once in Grade 6. Then, there are the die-hard fans who have read all of The Lord of the Rings books, seen all the films, and read The Hobbit most likely more than once. These people are the ones who understand that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are two separate enterprises, where The Hobbit, while containing many of the same characters, is in no way a prequel to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in The Lord of the Rings series. Depending on what group people are in, their ideas of what The Hobbit should be/should've been are completely different. From what I've gathered from friends' interpretations and from reviews is that the former group of people were expecting something much grander, more epic and less comedic. In short, they were expecting a Lord of the Rings prequel. These people I found, were less impressed with the film than the latter group, who were more equipped to understand the film. Belonging to the latter group, I can honestly say that The Hobbit was entertaining, wonderfully surprising and is one of my favourite films of 2012.

The Dwarf Cast

I'll admit that the film starts off incredibly slowly and even for a Middle Earth enthusiast, it becomes a little unbearable. However, once the epic journey begins with Thorin Oakenshield, the fearless Dwarf leader, Gandalf (once again the Grey), Eleven dwarves all wonderfully unique, and the reluctant Bilbo Baggins of Bag End in tow, the movie really takes off! The duller moments are soon easily forgiven with every incredible action sequence as we see the group escape hordes of Goblins and dodge colossal rock creatures that detach themselves from the sides of mountains. While Peter Jackson remains true to the first six chapters of the book which An Unexpected Journey is based on, he also borrows storylines and backstories that weren't used for The Lord of the Rings films to bring a new life to The Hobbit's simpler plot. I for one loved some of the new features like the Pale Orc which added an extra dimension to both the film and specifically, to Thorin's character. As for casting, Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo Baggins, a bit timid but with a hidden spirit of adventure. I could go on and on, praising this film but to be honest, it's hard for me to provide an unbiased view of the film since a part of me is just so thrilled to be back in Middle Earth that I'm slightly blinded to its flaws. The only major problem I really had with the film was that it was shot in 48fps. Yes, it made the film incredibly crisp and clear and on a level was perfect for the kind of majestic, sweeping cinematography that Peter Jackson favours in his Tolkien projects, but for the most part, even just in close or medium shots, the sharpness of the image takes on an almost soap opera-like realness. Some of the magic of seeing a film like The Hobbit is to escape into a strange, new world and disconnect from reality, however the 48fps felt too real, too close. Some of the magic was lost in its effort to appear more present. 

That being said, I'm still a huge fan of the film and no doubt will watch it many, many more times, probably alongside its Lord of the Rings counterparts. 

Now there's only 319 days left until The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)!

My Rating: A


8.5 cats out of 10

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