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Marcus Reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

18 Dec

Synopsis:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever… Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” …a simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know

What I Liked:

If there’s one thing that Peter Jackson is able to do possibly better than any director before him, it’s capture & navigate the feelings of awe, fear and joy that come from experiencing a fantasy adventure. He showcases the highs & lows of an adventure like a true veteran while still managing to infuse the child-like wonder throughtout every part of the film. No matter how dangerous the journey, he makes you want to embark on that journey with the characters which is something that not many directors have been able to do.

Another thing that Jackson does better than practically every other director is work with scale & cinematography. As expected from by anyone who’s seen a Peter Jackson film at this point, The Hobbit is filled with sprawling landscapes & amazingly detailed structures that seem to be brimming with history and culture. The visuals in this film were downright breathtaking at times and out of everything I’ve seen this year only Skyfall rivals it’s beauty on a cinematic level.

The performances from the ensemble were quite strong all around; especially from Richard Armitage as the prideful & equally vengeful dwarf prince Thorin, Andy Serkis as the tragic & oddly adorable Gollum and the incomparable Ian McKellen as everyone’s favorite grand wizard, Gandalf; but it was Martin Freeman who truly stole the show here. From the moment we see him it becomes obvious that there was no one else that could’ve been Bilbo. He’s a man from small beginnings with a hidden but undeniable thirst for adventure who carries within him the virtues and spirit of The Shire. Though based on appearance alone he’s completely unequipped for an adventure of this magnitude, it’s his humble nature, his big heart & his simple values that make him the perfect man (Hobbit) for the task ahead. He’s one of those rare characters who actually becomes more layered as the story progresses and it’s a real treat to watch him grow.

Howard Shore returns to Middle Earth with long time collaborator Jackson and provides yet another rousing & grandiose score that makes the film feel that much more epic. It’s definitely one of the best film scores of the year.

What I Didn’t Like:

I wasn’t able to see this movie in 48fps format that had people so split but viewing it in 3-D was a bit of a chore in it’s own right. While the 3-D did make the landscapes & other visuals pop, during the action set pieces it became an eyesore as I kept having to adjust my eyes in order to keep up with the fast paced movements. I even had to take the glasses off every now and then because my eyes started hurting.

I wasn’t really a huge fan of the CG orcs. While I understand that it was a cheaper way to go, after using actual actors for the orcs for 3 movies this was kind of an unwelcome change. In fact the only things that I liked about the CG orcs were that they were able to use Wargs and Azog (the orc leader) looked badass.

The fact that Thorin thought that Azog had died after he’d simply cut his arm off baffled me.

There were certain moments in this that simply made no sense, the most glaring of which was the moment where the group was cornered by the orcs as they were dangling off of a toppled tree on a cliff but some how were able to spring into action the moment where Thorin was about to kick the bucket. It’s a nitpick I know but it kind of bothered me.

While this isn’t so much something that bothered me, the movie is quite deliberately paced and spends alot of time setting things up for the sequel which will undoubtedly bother the average moviegoer.

Overall:

In the pantheon of pure fantasy films, I consider the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be the perfect examples of how to get it right. They’re essentially beautifully crafted love letters not only to the source material, but the genre that Jackson so obviously loves. While the first installment of The Hobbit doesn’t quite meet the grand standards of it’s predecessors, it still is able to capture the scale and bewilderment that every great fantasy adventure should making it’s missteps almost seem irrelevant. Some people may fault this movie for being too lighthearted but it’s important to remember that, compared to The Lord of The Rings trilogy that follows it, The Hobbit is a much lighter series. Boasting expected but nonetheless breathtaking cinematography, a truly rousing score, great ensemble acting & a star turn from Martin Freeman, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a gleeful first installment to what I’m hoping to be a truly epic trilogy.

Rating: B/B+

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