The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


Adventure / Fantasy


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March 1, 2013 at 2:07 am



Martin Freeman as Bilbo
Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Andy Serkis as Gollum
720p 1080p 3D
1.30 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 49 min
P/S 75 / 203
2.50 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 49 min
P/S 178 / 582
2.60 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 49 min
P/S 28 / 80

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Hurleyfanboy 1 / 10

Critics are right fans wrong

First came the original trilogy, a popular success and critically acclaimed. Then, some years later, a second trilogy began, a prequel to the original, and the first installment of this second trilogy turned out to be awful. We saw this pattern play out once, with "Star Wars," and now, alas, it begins again, with "The Hobbit," a movie that is exactly one Jar Jar Binks away from being as bad as "The Phantom Menace." The problem may be built into the design. The previous "Lord of the Rings" films were each based on a single book. "The Hobbit" - more like a children's novel than the other three, a kind of "Tom Sawyer" to their "Huckleberry Finn" - is just one book, smaller than any of the other J.R.R. Tolkien books, and yet it is being blown out into three enormous films. This first installment runs 169 minutes.

This puts a lot of pressure on a simple story, especially when you consider that director Peter Jackson and his screenwriters really can't take liberties with the tale, not without incurring the wrath of millions. They must work with what they have, and what they have is quite enough for one pleasing and inventive two-hour movie - or a nine-hour disaster stretched over three years.

This pressure, this obligation to stretch everything to the limits of endurance and beyond, is felt from the film's early minutes. Howard Shore's beautiful theme music, from the previous trilogy, filters in. We see the idyllic Middle-earth countryside and are introduced to Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins - Freeman was born to be a hobbit; he is ideal casting - and we settle in for a magical experience. And then, slowly, a fatal distance opens up between what we're hoping and what we're actually seeing.

Bilbo is a happy hobbit, a homebody who enjoys his creature comforts and doesn't have a violent impulse about him. Yet he is recruited by Gandalf the Grey Wizard (Ian McKellen) to join an expedition by dwarfs to retake their homeland from a dragon. See how quickly it takes to say that? Bilbo is recruited. Period. Yet the movie takes this tiny bit of crucial plot movement and dilutes its effectiveness: The dwarfs show up for an impromptu party at Bilbo's house. Bilbo frets about what the dwarfs will do to his house. Then the dwarfs clean up. Then Bilbo says he won't join their fight. But then he does. The film milks every detail of the text, every hint of vacillation in the main character, to turn water flowing downstream into molasses walking uphill.

It must be said that if you plan to enjoy "The Hobbit," it really helps to love dwarfs. Others may prefer hobbits - they're adorably idiosyncratic, small, chubby, eat all day, have big ears, and they're incredibly sincere. Still others may prefer the Olympian elves - beautiful, pristine, sure and eternal. But there is only one hobbit in the entire movie, and only one brief sequence involving elves. Otherwise you're stuck with the dwarfs, who are like Vikings - boorish, slovenly, hearty and heavy-drinking - and not exactly lovable.

The three "Lord of the Rings" were heavy on battle scenes, but "The Hobbit" is almost nothing but battles. Without a stopwatch, it would be hard to know for sure, but probably 50 percent of screen time is taken up with fighting - perhaps up to 80 percent if you count planning for and recovering from battles. Some of these battles have pockets of interest: A conflict with goblins plays out like a trapeze act, in three dimensions, with the combatants falling through space, landing and regrouping. But most of "The Hobbit" is like looking over Peter Jackson's shoulder to watch a computer screen.

Occasionally, when the smoke clears, we get a glimpse of what "The Hobbit" might have been, had Freeman's quirkiness and humanity been given a chance to set the tone. The movie really springs to life only when Freeman dominates, as when Bilbo falls into a cave and discovers Gollum, looking like James Carville but acting like Peter Lorre. It's an encounter worthy of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - so is the all-too-brief scene between Gandalf and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).

If you loved the earlier films, these are moments you will hold on to, but they're very few, and they're not enough.

Reviewed by gorbadoc25 6 / 10

An Unexpected Disappointment

I was convinced the (many) criticisms I read beforehand were exaggerated and wouldn't bother me. To my surprise, quite some criticisms seemed justified in the end ...


ADDITIONS: On paper, the additions looked like a great way to create added value. However, while I understand why they included them, they all feel out of place.

- Opening scene: Ian Holm just looks too dissimilar from his appearance in FOTR (especially his haircut), which is really distracting. The frame story doesn't blend in naturally and the history of Erebor has too much to show in too little time.

- Radagast: He appears as suddenly as he disappears. His scene in Dol Guldur really threw me out of the movie.

- The White Council: I know the screenwriters want to underline the growing dark powers (hence the - preposterous - finding of the Morgul blade), but the empty talk about things of which we all know how they've played out in the LOTR films isn't convincing at all.

- Azog: An appallingly one-dimensional character, who feels most out of place (the fact that he looks like a creature from a cheap horror movie also doesn't help ...). His scenes have a strange "un-Tolkien" vibe, particularly the battle of Azanulbizar (the worst scene of the movie), which doesn't feel like a fierce and thrilling battle at all.

FROM THE BOOK: The episodic structure prevents the film from having a fluid narrative and squeezes the tension out of every new dangerous situation: the events just leave you cold.

In the book, we experience everything through Bilbo's eyes, which creates a strong connection between the reader and the main part. This is missing from the movie: Bilbo even seemed to have more or less disappeared between the troll encounter and the stone giants' battle. His homesickness, his doubts, all of this isn't really developed in the script.

The emphasis on Thorin is a good thing, but also not perfect: during the enclosure by the Wargs, I didn't buy Thorin's charge towards Azog and especially Bilbo's sudden "action hero saves the day in the nick of time" intervention. The latter seemed like a very inappropriate way to illustrate Bilbo's courage.

There were actually only two great scenes: Riddles in the Dark is amazing, but ironically, it also painfully shows how mediocre the rest of the movie actually is, because this is the only moment that comes close to the level of LOTR. Also, Bilbo's speech after they've escaped Goblin Town is a very welcome, for rare touching moment.


It's quite astonishing some people complain about the pacing, because the film was over before I knew it. In fact, I think the pacing is about just right and proved it would have been really difficult to adapt the book in just one fully-fledged movie. But since I didn't like the additions, I'm doubting whether a third film is necessary after all (but I suspend my judgment until 2014).


One of the biggest (unpleasant) surprises is the cinematographic style. I'm not talking about the bright colors or the digital images, but the (lack of physical) camera use. Whereas LOTR has stunning "real" camera movements and an extremely accomplished "handicraft" feel, AUJ often feels like a video game. The camera is flying and whirling so limitlessly that it just doesn't feel like an authentic movie anymore. This is particularly apparent during the Orc chase and above all the absurd Goblin Town escape. The CGI is perfect, but too much is just too much.


After my long list of complaints, I'm truly relieved to say there is at least one thing that unconditionally gets my support, which is the score. The people who unfairly label Howard Shore's work as a "re-hash of LOTR" obviously didn't pay full attention, because when you listen to the score multiple times (and I admit it also took me several spins to really appreciate it), you discover a new rich and diverse musical tapestry once again masterfully woven by Shore. OF COURSE you hear the same themes when EXACTLY THE SAME places are visited as in "The Fellowship of the Ring" ... If someone deserves credit for "The Hobbit", it's Shore: his music is in my view the only aspect of the movie on par with the level of LOTR.

***3D & 48 FPS***

- The 3D was good, no complaints about that. However, although I have no problems with watching movies in 3D, I start questioning its necessity.

- I am bewildered many people claim that 48 fps creates a "TV-look" with "actors with clear make-up on a fake set". I didn't have that feeling at all, but on the other hand - and this was the most surprising - the difference with 24 fps isn't THAT spectacular. After 30 minutes, I even had to remind myself: "Oh, I'm watching 48 fps, right?". Yes, the images look very clear and it does smooth fast movements, but the latter (which is positive) only sticks out a couple of times (and no, the motion never comes across as "sped up", so I was never distracted by the higher frame rate). All in all, I consider 48 fps to be an improvement over 24 fps (without diminishing the "cinematic" look of a film), but I didn't have the feeling I had witnessed a "revolutionary new cinema experience".

***** CONCLUSION *****

I didn't expect (or want) a replica of LOTR, but while "The Hobbit" isn't a bad movie, it isn't good either. I'm still perplexed I don't feel any urge to go see it again, unlike the LOTR films. We can only hope that Jackson recovers in time to save the next two films from unnecessary additions, lack of focus on Bilbo and a video game feeling. Well, at least we have new brilliant music to listen to!

Reviewed by markdroulston 4 / 10

An unexpected disappointment

"All great stories deserve a little embellishment." So says Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) in the most telling line in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson's return to the world of JRR Tolkien. It's a line that clearly outlines Jackson and his co-writers' intentions, yet it comes off as a veiled apology, as if the film-making team knew that what they have created is going to be problematic for die-hard Middle Earth fans. Sadly, Jackson's new film doesn't come close to silencing the skeptics like his Lord of the Rings films did, and is actually more ill-conceived than expected.

Things that do work well for the most part in The Hobbit are sequences that come directly from the source novel. Iconic scenes, such as the arrival of the dwarfs at Bag End or the encounter with the trolls are handled pretty well, despite being padded out to unnecessary lengths with lame gags and pointless alteration of the original events in the book. Juggling such a massive primary cast is obviously a challenge, and as such the film's best moments involve only one or two characters, with Bilbo's (Martin Freeman) meeting of Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the finding of the ring being a particular stand-out sequence, the only one that seemed like it could have used more time.

However, all of the good work that Jackson & Co do with the direct source material is swamped by the content they felt they had to develop themselves. The great achievement of the LOTR films is how they managed to distill the huge source novels to their most important story beats, only hinting at most of the wider story in a way that brought incredible richness to the world in which they take place. With The Hobbit though, Jackson only has a 300 page novel to start with, and the decision to make three lengthy films, I assume to parallel the first trilogy, is precisely why this first film doesn't work.

The Hobbit should be allowed to stand alone as its own film, but it is structured in such a way, almost identically to the first LOTR entry The Fellowship of the Ring, that it's all but impossible not to compare them. As a side-effect, the much lighter tone will be jarring for a lot of established franchise fans, the very people the film seems to be primarily aimed at. The chase sequence in the goblin tunnels for example is little more than an updated version of the Moria scenes from LOTR. It's exciting enough, but much of the action feels in service of the film- making technology on display rather than the story, and as such none of the stakes of the earlier films are built here.

Where the LOTR films had to keep moving at such a pace to fit everything in, The Hobbit dwells on unnecessary moments which had only the briefest of mentions in the novel to reach its 2 hour 49 minute runtime. Most damaging are the call backs linking the previous trilogy, setting up what is likely to be an almost completely new story bridge between the two trilogies in the third film due in 2014. There is absolutely no reason for Frodo (Elijah Wood), Saruman (Christopher Lee), and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) to appear in this story, yet here they are, taking us away from a perfectly good narrative about a quest to fight a dragon. It reeks of cynical franchise care, and arguably disrespectful to the carefully crafted world that Tolkien created.

There's a good movie somewhere in The Hobbit, and had Jackson shown more restraint we might have seen it. The film could easily lose at least 45 minutes, but it feels as if director feels so beholden to his previous work that he needs to deliver an epic on the scale of LOTR. But that's not what this book is, and we're left with an uneasy balance - the lighter tone to distinguish this as a separate story but a strict adherence to the LOTR structure - but ultimately doesn't fulfill either side.

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