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12/18/12

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY - REVIEW


Alright, let's get the annoying technical stuff out of the way first.

Unknowingly, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in "high frame rate", which means that my eyes not only had to take in 3 hours of crazy fantasy visuals but in 3D and at 48 frames per second. Forgive me if I sound a bit bitter about that, I'll make sure not to let that taint my review of the movie itself. I will say, however, that if you want to see The Hobbit: check it out in 2D or 3D, don't high frame rate that shit. The CGI stuff just doesn't gel with the real stuff and you just end up watching what feels like dudes with big fake noses and big-ass plastic feet wearing silly costumes. Which, in essence it is, but you're taken out of the movie SO quickly and so much that you're just left squinting your way through what looks like a low-budget 90's BBC fantasy TV series. Anything slightly fake-looking make-up/costume/background-wise is emphasized to the max and that really kicks this well-made movie in the balls. When literally everything on-screen is CGI it's fine but otherwise, yeah that'll just ruin the movie for ya. It did for me!

So with THAT rant out of the way, let's talk about the movie itself.

If you've followed my tweets over the past month (@TheRetroCritic), then you know I've re-watched every Lord Of The Rings flick and I've started to review them individually. I was hyped-up as hell for this one and unlike a lot of people, I thought the trailers looked pretty darn promising. If you don't know the plot, it's basically Gandalf (Ian McKellen, of course) taking a young-ish Bilbo Baggins (a perfect Martin Freeman) on for a mission which involves helping a bunch of dwarves fight off some dragon who burned their mountain to the ground and took it over along with all its gold to use as a duvet cover. They set out to regain their home and their dough but obviously the ring pops up, as do trolls and tons of other stuff. I'll get to that. We get to see some familiar faces in this first installment including Frodo, Gollum, Elrond, Galadriel and even Saruman but everything takes place 60 years prior to Lord Of The Rings so it's all pre-Sauron.

Or post... Sauron, depending on how you look at it.

There's a bunch of stuff I don't get which might have to do with the fact I haven't read the book but also I think with Peter Jackson splicing in a lot of non-The Hobbit bits and pieces into the film to boost the story into a full-on trilogy prequel. This means that you get a weird mix of kid-friendly shit such as spontaneous sing-a-longs, CGI hedgehogs, giant hares, dwarvian shenanigans and then you get darker, more epic grown-up stuff like decapitations, Gollum going full psycho and testicle-faced trolls. Those last three you can actually find in the same sequence, the best part of the film, where Gollum challenges Bilbo to a game of riddles while Gandalf and the rest kick troll ass up top. Before and after that, there's a lot of walking around and loads of flashbacks, whatever action there is usually ends with Gandalf saving the day by either slamming his staff down or summoning eagles, something which, by the way, I'm having more and more trouble getting, by the way. What's the deal with those friggin' eagles?! You'd think they'd finally explain that shit 4 movies in! I mean, otherwise we just have to assume they didn't drop off everyone outside The Lonely Mountain directly because... they're assholes.

If they don't want to get involved then they should just tell Gandalf and those butterflies to stuff it instead of robbing us of cool resolutions and intense scenes then flying off into the distance.

For me, the kid-friendly stuff and the epic stuff doesn't fully gel, I found the first half hour to be more odd than amusing, but it gels well enough that you do get a feel for the whole trilogy as opposed to being presented one weird little movie you're unclear about why it exists. What Jackson does well is bring this story heart: you care about Bilbo, his relationship with the dwarves, his encounter with Gollum and his involvement with the ring. Howard Shore's typically brilliant score also helps add pathos and make this movie tonally appropriate and epic. The dwarves, however, are much less impressive. For one thing they seem to get their asses kicked every single time and even Thorin, the badass of the bunch, provides the film's ultimate fail near the end. They're likable enough but it's hard to see how they could ever pull off this quest. Hence the need for elves to help out, I guess. The film builds-up to an anti-climax which does set up what happens next but fails to provide a kickass ending to this first part.

Overall, this is one I'll have to re-watch in 2D to really figure out whether I like it or not so check back to this review next week as I might alter it somewhat. After this first watch, though, I found The Hobbit to be a flawed, slightly messy flick with a lot going for it but without the magic of the original trilogy. Three movies might have been too much for this adaptation, we shall see. I look forward to the next chapter, I only hope it really pulls me into that world this time instead of throwing random surreal things at me and expecting me to fill in the blanks.

Mostly enjoyable but mostly hit and miss.

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