Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - 2012

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" - 2012
Dir. by Peter Jackson - 2 hrs. 49 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Ordinarily, movies of this ilk aren't really my cup of tea.  I didn't see any of the "Lord of the Rings" films, none of the Harry Potters, and I particularly dislike films instinctively when the approach a three hour run time.  But for some reason, I decided to sit down and read J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" this year, and was blown away by the book.  Like, it was one of those books that you find yourself staying up two hours past when you should have went to sleep in order to finish reading the book.  The next morning suuuuuucked, but it was worth it.  I managed to put off seeing the first of the three films based on that book until now, figuring I could then piggyback into seeing the second installment while it was still in theatres (so look for a review of that sometime this week).

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a hobbit (which is to say short, with huge hairy feet, a timid sort that lives in a hole in the ground), and an elderly one at the point when we meet him.  He figures it's time to tell his tale, that he wasn't always a respectable, timid sort, so it's autobio time.  Gandalf (Ian McKellan) shows up on Bilbo's doorstep, offering an invitation to adventure, which sounds terrible.  Nonetheless, thirteen dwarves show up, eat up all of Bilbo's food, and is (very) reluctantly sold on a very risky proposition; this band intends to go reclaim the dwarves' ancestral land, which was taken from them, and this also involves confronting and killing a giant dragon named Smaug.  So they journey.

Most importantly to me, "The Hobbit" doesn't feel like a movie of it's length.  It might seem excessive to make roughly nine hours of film out of one (fairly slim) novel, but the material doesn't lag, and neither does the movie.  The scenery is spectacular and fantastic and varied, exactly the kind of setting that you can just kick back and let your mind wander around in.  Once you get past the idea that you're watching a movie about D&D stuff, the story itself is very solid.  It varies from the personal story of Bilbo, who spends the movie trying to prove himself to everyone, including himself, to amazing action scenes (like the underground segments, or the fiery battle with the Orcs), and along the way sets some things in motion that will have to resolve themselves in the next two installments (I mean, I read the book, I know what's going to happen).

I'm probably late to the party on this one, but probably the most striking scene in the movie is the riddle-off between Bilbo and Gollum.  That's largely due to the spectacular animation of Gollum; it rivals the top Looney Tunes work in terms of facial expressions and elasticity of Gollum's features.  The character work is so distinct and specific, and a delight to watch.  There are a great number of fantastic scenes, but this is my favorite.

There's not a big point in getting much more specific about the first "The Hobbit" movie.  After the Lord of the Rings' success, this was as close to a sure thing as a huge budget movie could be.  It totally delivers, on top of that.  This movie did it's job; it was entertaining on it's own, and made me want to see the next one immediately.  I kind of wish I'd waited another year, so that I could have taken in all three in a row,  but I guess I can wait a year to finish off the trilogy.  If nothing else, I can always read the book again before then.

4 / 5 - TV (HD - Theatrical Version)

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