Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 98 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Running time: 169 minutes (2 hours, 49 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
WRITERS: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro (from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)
PRODUCERS: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Carolynne Cunningham, and Zane Weiner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jabez Olssen
COMPOSER: Howard Shore

FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Manu Bennett, and Andy Serkis

The subject of this movie review is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a 2012 fantasy film from director Peter Jackson. The film is the first of three movies which are based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (better known by its abbreviated title, The Hobbit). Set sixty years before The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is the story of a curious Hobbit who joins a band of Dwarves on a mission to reclaim their homeland from a powerful dragon.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens on the 111th birthday of the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). He has decided to write down the full story of an adventure he took 60 years earlier as a memoir for his cousin and heir, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). Sixty years earlier, the younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) was a homebody Hobbit. He gets an unexpected visit from the wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), who promptly tricks the Hobbit into hosting a party for a band of dwarves.

Still, Bilbo is shocked when the dwarves show up and eat every scrap of food in his home, and almost tear down the place. When Gandalf returns, he informs Bilbo that these dwarves are on a quest to return to their ancestral home, Lonely Mountain, and to reclaim it and the treasure there from the great dragon, Smaug. The Company of Dwarves numbers 13, including the leader, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Gandalf’s biggest surprise is that Bilbo has been recruited as the dwarves’ “burglar,” who will help them steal back their treasure. Now, this curious Hobbit is on an unexpected journey that will find him facing killer Orcs, a legion of mountain trolls, and a little fellow named Gollum (Andy Serkis), who is in possession of a mysterious ring.

I am giving The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a “9” out of 10 on my rating scale, which may be surprising because of my complaints about this movie, especially the big one. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is too long; in fact, the first hour meanders like a drunk narrative looking for a bottle of plot. I dosed off three times, and, at one point, thought about leaving and just waiting to see the rest of the movie on DVD.

However, the movie eventually came alive, but I’m still not sure when it turned for me. I think it may be the moment when the Orcs attack Bilbo and the Company of Dwarves on a rocky plain. At a point, the movie just explodes with surprise appearances, breathtaking vistas, blood-chilling confrontations, and heart-pounding action. Things were happening so fast, yet my mind couldn’t wait for the next thing to happen.

In many ways, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is like the return of an old friend, specifically The Lord of the Rings movies, although LOTR is a sequel to The Hobbit. I didn’t know what to expect before I saw the movie. I had waited so long for The Hobbit to reach the silver screen as a live-action film, yet, in a way, my expectations were so high because of I loved LOTR so much. When Gollum shows up in this movie, my expectations were satisfied. Andy Serkis and the CGI artists behind the character actually improve on their great work from the Ring trilogy films.

There are things about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that I did not expect, some of them disappointing. But by the end of this movie, I so did not want the adventure end. I wanted that enough to give an imperfect movie a near-perfect score.

9 of 10
A+

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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