I hope you are doing well on this fine morning…I know that I am because last night I returned to Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey! For those not in the know (or who live under a rock,) The Hobbit is the pre-quel to the ever-popular Lord of the Rings trilogy that the world has come to know and love for the past decade. After LOTR made over $3 Billion at the box office it was hardly unexpected that the The Hobbit would be created but it was a film property that seemed to take forever to come together due to issues and controversy on the part of studios, directors, an actors strike, frame-rate, and even the possibility of leaving their production in New Zealand. Despite the trials and tribulations of the production, Peter Jackson has once again given service to Tolkien fans and has created an instant classic with this 1st part of The Hobbit trilogy.
The pacing of the film has what I would consider a similarity to that of The Fellowship of the Ring, which some may feel slow but in all honesty in necessary to build the plot and characterization to start our unforeseen hero onto his quest. Middle Earth feels very familiar, but at the same time different in that you can almost see a purity that exists even outside of the Shire contrasting the somewhat harsh setting on Middle Earth in the LOTR trilogy. With that said, you can see the seeds of an evil brewing in the shadows and its fun because any fan of the series can see where the mythology is connecting. As far as locales go, we see some familiar ones in the Shire and Rivendale, but also get to see some new places too and the same can be said with characters as well. Returning characters include Gandalf, Elrond, Sauroman, and of course Bilbo Baggins (though played by Martin Freeman as a younger hobbit.) As for new characters, we get to meet many new dwarves that play off one another very well in a dysfunctional yet brotherly sort of way, as well as their leader; Thorin. The main antagonists of the film, though similar, are both characters that were not in the previous films; Azog, The Orc King and The Goblin King. Ultimately I would say that Jackson and his team have done a good job to make you feel comfortable as a viewer with certain familiar elements of the film, whilst at the same time throwing in new pieces to the puzzle. With that said, I really enjoyed the opening sequence myself as it really pushed into the lore that is Middle Earth and spoke to the reasons for the divide of the races that we see in the LOTR trilogy.
Visually the film is nice on the eyes; Middle Earth lives threw its scenery, characters, and use of technology to make the impossible possible. There was a ton of controversy at Peter Jacksons choice to shoot the film in the non-traditional 48 frames per second frame-rate, but it’s really a joy to see. Some think that when the action is fast paced that the higher frame-rate is effective but falls flat on slower scenes, but I couldn’t disagree with that more. The increased frame-rate brings a visual contrast to the film that when combined with the 3D experience makes for stunning visuals in both the action sequences and the character-driven plot scenes.
One fan favorite that returns to this movie is Gollum, and again Andy Serkis does a great job with the little guy! The scene between him and Bilbo, though short, is an extremely important part to Tolkiens’ mythology and Serkis and Martin Freeman simply nail it!
As a life-long Tolkien fan, I loved LOTR but The Hobbit was always my wheelhouse. I cannot recall the amount of times that I’ve read the book, but I still felt pleasantly surprised of the way that Jackson interpreted the different beats of the story. Originally there were going to be two Hobbit films and then that was changed to three and I was unsure of that decision and almost looked at it as a way for the studios to make the fans pull out their wallets again. But after seeing this movie, I feel confident in saying that I trust Mr. Jacksons reasoning behind the decision and the ending of this movie did not feel like a half-way point in the story, but that there is really a lot more to tell. In fact the thing that got me irked the most is that it couldn’t keep going and the realization that I will have to wait another year to watch the story progress and especially see more of a certain scaly character that I have thought about and imagined for the past 25 years! All in all, I completely endorse this movie and hope that you take time this weekend to take your own visit to Middle Earth…You wont be disappointed!