Review Of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ : The Good And The Bad

By Sheryl Eleazar | Last Updated March 1, 2013

The 2012 film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was much awaited by the LOTR fans. Some were dismayed and disappointed, but many are also pleased to once again see majestic views of the Middle Earth. Every film has its good and bad points that are linked with one another and makes the whole film packed with entertainment. How entertained one can be will depend on his/her personal perspective.

Sheryl Eleazar

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A Gollum statue on the exhibit floor at the 2012 Comic-Con in San Diego

The Hobbit is definitely worth reading, but if you find its 305 pages a little daunting then Peter Jackson’s new release will do just as well. 1  

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is an epic adventure movie shown in 2012 as the first installment of the three-film adaptation of the 1937 children’s book and novel, The Hobbit (written by JRR Tolkien). The other two remaining films, ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ and ‘There And Back Again’ will be due for their respective theatrical release in 2013 and in 2014.  The three films together serve as the prequel to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ (LOTR) trilogy directed by the same director, Peter Jackson. Being a prequel makes it impossible for this film not to be compared with the previous three excellent films.

Film Direction

Peter Jackson, a film director who hailed from New Zealand, has directed various movies of different genres. The most well-known of his masterpieces is the LOTR trilogy that has earned 11 Oscars.  If you have seen these three films, you were probably too excited to watch The Hobbit. Many critics say that Peter Jackson was too ambitious with this latest film as it seemed like he was trying to beat his own self for his past creations. Nonetheless, Jackson has indeed created another grand book adaptation.

Characters And Star Performances

Martin Freeman is excellent as Bilbo as he bravely embarks on this journey. He is funny with his irritable twitches, adorable as he tries his best to be brave and when he rises to the occasion. 2  

The lead character in this film is Bilbo Baggins, uncle of Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Since the plot is 60 years prior to LOTR, Bilbo here is a much younger character portrayed by Martin Freeman.  At first, you would think that Bilbo is a worthless main character is he was mostly passive in the screenplay. Yet, he gave justice to his character when he chose to do something different in his life by taking on a journey with a group of dwarves and a wizard.  He showed what value he has as a character through his bravery during the latter part of the film. All in all, compared to the Frodo, Bilbo is perhaps a better character.

Gandalf the Grey, played by Ian McKellen, is a towering wizard whose whereabouts you will always wonder about whenever the other characters are going through a number of battles. Many are wondering why Gandalf doesn’t always use his powers to make life easier for the other characters. Well, if he did that, there’ll hardly be any suspense, action and thrill in the story, right? The film might as well be titled  The Wizard.

Another major character in the movie is Thorin, played by Richard Armitage who both acted and looked dashingly.

Of course, the film about the Middle earth will not be complete without Gollum whose character was portrayed by Andy Serkis. Gollum is the perfect mix of pity and horror, but it is his ‘Precious’ line that is most likely the most popular of all.

Script, Editing, Cinematography

LOTR is a trilogy based on three book volumes; one film per volume. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is a three-film adaptation based only on a single book.  Thus, the screen play writers (Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Fran Walsh) have actually done a lot of work to spread out the entire story into three parts.  There are actually some parts in this movie that will make the trilogy attempt too obvious.

This first film, shamefully bloated and lacking in any justification for its padding.. 3  

I agree with other reviewers when they say that Peter Jackson and his crew seemingly cheated the viewers by using our emotional attachment to and memories of LOTR. The pace of the screenplay is obviously unhurried, probably due to commercial reasons. Materials from LOTR were culled as fillers or padding for The Hobbit.

Ian McKellen, who reprises his role as wizard Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings, said there was no commercial motive behind the approach… 4  

Ian McKellen, came to the aid of Peter Jackson when critics said that he extended the film into three, instead of the original two parts. McKellen said that those who say Jackson is driven or influenced by market forces simply do not know the art and work of the director.  According to Philippa Boyens, a so-producer and one of the screen writers said that great actors came to them to star in the film; and giving them minor materials will simply not get them into the project.

Even though detractors negatively comment on the film, I have to give credence to this movie’s cinematography by Andrew Lesnie. Although the film is said to be filled with material from LOTR, these materials are simply helpful in refreshing the previous scenes in one’s mind and serves to give viewers a better perspective of where this movie stands with the LOTR trilogy. The new scenes are likewise very interesting to watch what with all the intricate attention to detail, the CGI effects and score. The production set is indeed a masterpiece from Dan Hennah and the rest of the crew of hundreds.  The film may be lengthy, but there certainly are parts that simply glue your eyes to the screen.

Some Hobbit Funny Bits

Q: How was the boxing match ruined by the hobbit?

A: By trying to break the ring!

Q: How was Gandalf secretly called by the hobbits when he drank too many ale?

A: White Whizzer-d!

Q: What does Pippen do when he’s drunk?

A: He feels Merry!

Shot on digital, with a healthy quota of Red Epics, all set to capture at 48 frames a second… 5  

Another factor that drew attention to the film was its offering of 48 frames per second. Evaluators simply did not approve of this change, claiming that the viewers’ eyes were used to 24 frames per second only.  However, I think that this is a change that is worth checking out and embracing whether or not other films are shot in the same format. Thomas Edison did say that 46 frames per second is the minimum as “anything less will strain the eye”.

Musical Scoring

…the best film score of 2012 so far and by some distance… 6  

This first installment’s music by Howard Shore  is described by reviewers as the best score of all time.  The film’s soundtrack is available in a set of two discs.  Disc one’s first track entitled My Dear Frodo makes you look back to those fond memories of the last LOTR’s film, The Return Of The King. This first disc contains twelve more tracks. Disc two has 14 tracks with four bonus tracks in the special edition.

Final Words

In each film, there are good and bad points. Having watched this film myself, despite some flaws, I can personally say that it is a good one. There are two more films to come in the near future, so perhaps they saved the very best and more for last. All in all, the tone has been set by ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. It has definitely whetted our appetite for the coming sequels.




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