In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we see the first in a planned trilogy prequel to the Lord of the Rings franchise. This time we take a journey with a young Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) 60 years before Frodo (Elijah Wood) took that journey with the ring. We meet 13 colorful dwarves, lead by Thorin (Richard Armitage).
The journey takes the 13 dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) to the Lonely Mountain, in a quest to revive Erebor, the last dwarf kingdom. There, a dragon is holed up in the ruins and the men are attempting to enter the ruins through an invisible door and slay the dragon, Smaug, before an evil necromancer can get to it and use it for…evil.
Good stuff, right? It’s the kind of story that made the Lord of the Rings trilogy so popular. There aren’t just dwarves, a hobbit, and a wizard named Gandalf, though. There are Orcs (ugly ones and really ugly ones), commodores, trolls, the Elves make a comeback, as well as Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), pre-evil Saruman, the white (Christopher Lee), even Gollum (Andy Serkis). This is the kind of prequel that really pays homage to its successor.
In the world of 3D, Peter Jackson, the film’s director and helmer of the Rings trilogy, has done for The Hobbit what James Cameron did for Avatar. Filmed in 3D, at 48 frames per second (double the normal amount), The Hobbit has the kind of cinematography one would only find in a 3D film. Basically, if you can’t afford the extra money to watch the film in 3D, it’s okay. The two-dimensional version is still awesome. However, Jackson made certain things a little too real for a PG-13 film. We’ll get to that later.
Adapting J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Jackson and Guillermo del Toro crafted a story that’s loaded with adventure — the kind of adventure that takes the good guys across a land fraught with mystical creatures and puts the dwarves in mortal danger, only to survive by some simple twist of fate, otherwise known as Gandalf. For an adventure movie, it reaches its purposes.
NOT SO PG-13
As a cinematic story, it’s a little redundant. After a while, despite Jackson’s ability to build suspense, the audience doesn’t worry about its heroes, because they always seem to make out okay. This story is also about Thorin, who needs to let go of the past and trust that a simple Hobbit can be useful among their ranks of warrior dwarves.
That said, there is such violence, carnage, and general disgusting-ness, that it’s odd that The Hobbit is only rated PG-13. There were quite a few parents who took their children to see this film and what those children were exposed to were things that most adults can’t stomach to see, in high-definition. It’s a wonder that this film can get such a rating, while a documentary on bullying can be rated R because profanity is used several times.
In the performance area, Freeman’s Bilbo is refreshing. The audience meets a man who is content to sit by the fire, with his doilies and his mother’s dishes, and watch life pass him by. However, Bilbo’s advantage is that he’s really good at thinking on his feet, so he’s smarter than most of the people around him and is shaping up to be a great asset to the warrior dwarves.
Armitage’s Thorin is a brute, so busy puffing his chest as a warrior that he forgets to be a human being. It becomes obvious that Thorin needs to learn to humble himself before he can take his rightful place as the dwarf king of a newly restored Erebor. So, just as with all epic journeys, the story is in the getting there.
GOOD OLD GANDALF
Gandalf never changes. He still looks the same age as he did 60 years later. He still puffs on his pipe. And, he’s pretty good with his staff. Because the screenwriters depend so much on Gandalf saving the day in most instances, it starts to feel like Gandalf is the one driving the story. It’s a good thing the screenwriters transitioned a new hero,
Bilbo, so there’s some variety. Even though Jackson’s creatures are quite disgusting to look at, especially in high definition, and there’s a redundancy in the plot points, The Hobbit is still a decent film. It stays true to the Lord of the Rings trilogy — down to its running time of two hours, 49 minutes. It’s a nostalgic film. Given the tragedies of last week’s massacre in Connecticut, however, it’s better to leave the kids at home. Little eyes don’t need to see this kind of realistic violence.