An Unexpected Journey… Or was it?

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I am quite certain that my colleague Doctor Belmont will be posting his opinions on this film as well.  In fact I am quite surprised that I actually beat him to it.  Now on to my thoughts.

This film had problems, lots of them.  Where should I even begin?  Ah yes, the Tolkien lore.  I know that many fans of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels will be going to see these films and for those fans who are obsessive about the lore I think that there will be some disappointment.  The most blatant change that lovers of the books will notice is that Azog, a goblin chieftain, is placed as the major villain for this installment.  That’s right folks, a goblin who is dead in the novels is alive and well and is chasing our party of hapless dwarves.  This leads to some dramatic alterations of several scenes that we are familiar with in the novel including the trip to Rivendell and the treetop escape.

Another act which suffers from dramatic license is the trip through the mountains and Goblin Town.  Right from the start the very way they even enter the caverns has been altered and Bilbo and the dwarves get separated early on, this of course leading to the famous riddle scene which many of us were looking forward to.  The escape from Goblin Town has been changed into a major action sequence reminiscent of the escape from Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring film.  Our friends are shown to be capable warriors even though the book tends to point out rather early on that dwarves are not generally the bravest of folk.

Some people may have a problem with the inclusion of scenes that were not included in the novel.  Specifically, the scenes that involve Gandalf when he is away from the party.  These did not upset me and I am not sure why they would upset any true fan simply because they expanded on information given to readers in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings.

The last lore issue I will address is the inclusion of Radagast the Brown in the film.  He was mentioned in the novel but the movie has him playing a much larger role.  He even makes an appearance with the company in order to discuss some dire portents with Gandalf.

An Unexpected Journey had other problems than lore issues.  The main one being the pacing.  The beginning of the film may seem dragged out to those viewers who are not familiar with the novel.  The introduction to the dwarves and the telling of their tale lasts a good long while and includes an expanded introduction to Dwarvish culture that we only had a glimpse of with Gimli in The Lord of the Rings.  I also felt that many of the action sequences were unnecessarily long.  Trimming them down by a few minutes would have made for a much more streamlined experience.  Finally, I wish that the movie had not felt the need to make so many of the enemies CGI.  Normally I do not have a problem with this but after The Lord of the Rings Trilogy where we saw fantastic prosthetic work it was upsetting.  I understand a need for it in wide shots where there are more figures to portray than you have extras and for certain characters like Gollum, but far too many of the goblin villains looked like they stepped off of the reject list from Avatar.

Now, on to things that the movie did right.  Number one being the dwarves.  Many fans may argue that the portrayal of the dwarves goes against lore but the film did an excellent job of making each of them unique.  After seeing this movie a viewer should be able to look at a picture and be able to point out most of the party by name.  They each had their own individual appearance and personality quirks.  The standard portrayal in the novel of a bunch of dwarves with different colored hoods would have made it very difficult for those who see the film to differentiate between them.

I also appreciated the very beginning which includes an older Bilbo beginning the composition of his tale to give which he will eventually give to Frodo.  This scene takes place shortly before the beginning of the Fellowship and is there simply to ease the viewer back into the lands of Middle Earth.  Granted, I thought that whatever they did to try and make Sir Ian Holm look younger made him look a bit plastic, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment that Peter Jackson can claim is the fact that he was able to get all of the actors that would have appeared in The Hobbit who were also in The Lord of the Rings to return.  Sir Ian McKellen shines once again as Gandalf the Grey.  He continues to be the symbol of power tempered with compassion and the wise councilor to all of his friends.  Rivendell would not have been the same without Hugo Weaving as Elrond.  We get to see Elrond during a time when the situation in the world was not so dark and he was more lighthearted.  Cate Blanchett hardly seems to have changed at all and her presence as Galadriel, the beautiful and powerful queen of Lothlorien, is most welcome.  And last, but not least, Christopher Lee as Saruman.  This role could not have been filled by anyone else and it was most enjoyable to see him on screen again as the wizard who called the White Council.

As for actors new to the series, Martin Freeman does an excellent job portraying a younger Bilbo and in some of the right circumstances even resembles a young Ian Holm.

Howard Shore once again makes our journeys a pleasant one.  His arrangements blend themes that we are familiar with and new ones together in a musical blend that is altogether Middle Earth.  The adventure would not have been the same without his touch.

The way several scenes were executed was also fantastic.  The introduction of Gandalf to Bilbo in the beginning is almost word for word what was in the novel and was actually quite amusing to see the scene played out.  Some people may have complained about the singing but I personally was looking forward to some of it.  Especially the dwarves singing about the Lonely Mountain around the fireplace in Bilbo’s hobbit hole.  The melody was dark and brooding and the sound of the dwarves deep voices telling the tale evoked the very images they were singing about.  Then of course there is the riddle game.  Andy Serkis’ voice continues to be the Gollum we remeber and the CGI has even gotten better.  This scene played out very well creating a level of tension and other than a few slight changes to portray Gollum’s split personality better it was very close to the novel.

Lastly, I liked Radagast.  Yes, yes, I know he is not in the novel but so what?  Sylvester McCoy’s performance is quite enjoyable.  He brings to life a wizard who, while being powerful, is quite cracked and out of touch with society.  A benevolent, mad hermit who fights for the side of good but is more comfortable with animals than people.  It is just plain fun to watch the segments with him in them.

Many people may think that I hated this film initially for its flaws but I did not.  I enjoyed myself through the majority of it and had fun.  This film has problems but as far as I can remember I have never seen a film that is completely perfect.  I definitely feel that Jackson and crew were trying to reach out to a younger audience with some of the humor but I am okay with that.  The novel was originally intended for children.  Some parents may want to be cautious about taking their children to see it because, while the humor is not lewd, the violence does have some enemies getting beheaded.

All in all The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey proves to be an enjoyable tale about adventure and friendships that can form when people are placed in dire situations.  On a scale of one to ten I give it a seven.

I have yet to see it at the 48fps but I intend to see it one more time in the theaters so that I can experience this and form my own opinion about it as I have heard mixed reviews.

Go see it and have fun.  Love it or hate it that’s my opinion.

Cheers.

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Posted on December 14, 2012, in Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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