Film Pop: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Year: 2012
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
IMDb

One word: Epic

Of course this film deserves more than a single word in summary, but if I had to give one word, it would be Epic.  Epic, however, should not necessarily be taken as positively as it suggests.

I should start by saying that although the book is one I read a number of times as a child and certainly enjoyed, it’s been a number of years since my eyes graced its pages (or should that be the other way round?).  I slip therefore between analysing the film on its faithfulness to the book, about which I may well be mistaken, the inevitable comparisons with the LOTR film trilogy, and on its own merit.  It’s hard as such to come at this film objectively, but I’ll try.

To begin with, I’m not sure I’ll ever be convinced of the necessity of three films (beginning with 2 ½ hours in the cinematic edition alone!) when the original trilogy (I feel like I’m talking about Star Wars now) was far longer in the books and gets essentially the same treatment movie-wise.  I feel like at least half an hour could have been portioned over to the extended edition without losing much in the way of plot (did I really have to see a mountain have a boxing match with itself for five minutes?).  And yet Bilbo’s stalling of the trolls, one of the more intelligent and funny scenes in the book is chopped down to almost nothing to squeeze in an unnecessarily long troll/dwarf skirmish.  Some of the homages to the first three films are at best overt and at worst ludicrous.  A scene in which Thorin and the Dwarves engage the Goblin army under Azog on the verges of Moria is basically the Last Alliance scene from Fellowship recast, right down to the pivotal Isildur/Sauron confrontation.

Some of the casting and characterisation of the film made me feel uneasy in a way that I can’t explain.  When Martin Freeman was cast as Bilbo I thought he sounded perfect.  And yet he, along with a number of the Dwarves, don’t make the transition from British sitcom actor to Hollywood blockbuster star all too smoothly.  Not that they don’t play their roles well.  It just seems a little amateurish at times.  A number of the original cast (Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Christopher (freaking) Lee) weren’t young ten years ago, and I can’t put my finger on it but there’s definitely something wrong with Gandalf.  And nobody likes Frodo.

But don’t let this criticism disguise my enjoyment of the film.  I was smiling much of the way through the film, laughing often, and in awe most of the time.  However, I got the overwhelming impression that the filmmakers made the film into more of an action-packed blockbuster to reel in those caught by the hook of the LOTR trilogy, where the book (at least in my memory) is far more subtle and intelligent.  So although it wasn’t entirely what I wanted (but should have expected) from the film, I stand by my one word summary:

Epic.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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