Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Hobbit: An Ultimate Indulgence and an Expected Journey

No, you certainly do not. 

Full disclosure: I am a Kiwi, loud and proud and along with the All Blacks and Fish and Chips, you have to like the Lord of the Rings, Sir Peter and everything he did for our country.

I'm not a LOTR maniac, I do enjoy the films and I was looking forward to The Hobbit. Was being the key word here, until I heard Sir Peter was turning it into three movies. I know this topic has been dragged over multiple times in the blogisphere and I know that this is now the fashionable thing to do, (See also, Twilight & the Neverending Dawn / The Hunger Games and The Unnecessary Split & Harry Potter & The Protracted Ending Part 1 & 2) with extra box office $$$ and probably another 5 houses for Sir Peter in the process. I can justify Harry Potter having two movies to give the fans the ending they want, but look at it as if Sir Peter hadn't made LOTR 1, 2 & 3 yet - how many films would he have turned them into? Nine films? LOTR Return of the King, The King Returns Again & The King's Last Shout. I shudder at the thought of the extended versions of those. GLUTTONY! We should all be grateful they were made when they were and can rest as a separate entity and yes, a cinematic masterpiece unrelated to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


An Unexpected Journey, despite my expectations, is completely expected. All the trademark touches are there, there is an unnecessarily long introduction sequence, there are cameos from the LOTR cast including Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, there is Gandalf being too tall for the Hobbit's house, there are eagles that conveniently appear and having watched Fellowship of the Ring last night, there are some lovely touches that real fanatics would appreciate.

The basic plot involves the hobbit Bilbo being asked to set out on a quest with 13 dwarves by Gandalf and help reclaim the dwarves' home & treasure which has been usurped by an evil dragon, named Smaug, who barely features in THIS film. Therefore the first film is largely the first part of this journey and a faithful one it is too. The large reason that this film didn't work for me, is due to the episodic nature of the book - Bilbo and the dwarves hit trouble, all looks grim, then they're saved and they continue to the next part of the journey. Jackson films it just like this and I am of the opinion that some scenes are just ripe for cutting. The capture by the trolls borders on time-wasting, the extended opening is largely superfluous and by the end you have simply had enough of orcs, goblins, wargs, trolls, elves, necromancers, wizards, eagles and you just want to curl up and sleep.

The movie bordered on atrocious in the Stone Giant scene, where the mountains suddenly come to life and "THE LEGENDS ARE TRUE" one dwarf shouts. I simply rolled my eyes as the mountains transform into giants that throw rocks at one another while the dwarves cling on for dear life. At this point, I felt my inner cynic boil, I had gone from watching what was a fan's overindulgent love letter, to watching a Michael Bay version of the Iron Giant. I was not happy and this soured the rest of the movie for me, which may I add, never seemed to end.

However, don't let that dissuade you, there are redeeming factors. First and foremost, the acting: Martin Freeman as Bilbo is everything I wanted, and more. He's not a hero, he doesn't try to be, he's just Bilbo and his return towards the end, coupled with a speech to the dwarf leader Thorin, about how he loves his home, did bring a tear to my cynical eye. Ian McKellen as Gandalf is as full of humour, gravitas and wisdom as ever and plays the part to perfection. I actually enjoyed Radagast the Brown played by Sylvester McCoy and his sequence in the film promises more intrigue and plot in the future. The dwarves largely blend into one another with special mention to Fili & Kili, (Dean O'Gorman & Aidan Turner) clearly filling the Merry and Pippin roles here and Ken Stott who is the senior dwarf, exuding calm fatherly kindness. However, the show is stolen, again, by Andy Serkis who's performance of Gollum has only improved to virtuoso standards and his moment is the highlight of the film that lingers long on the memory and sweetened the bitter taste left in my mouth.

The film looks as amazing as ever. I did see it in the controversial 48FPS and I don't know if I'd do it again as some of the time it felt like a video game and other times it was like watching a cheap TV series, while overall the whole effect was very exhausting. In parts however, particularly the Shire and The Goblin's Kingdom, it certainly looked beautiful. Every cent spent was evident on the screen in these moments and while I don't think it justified the 3D price tag, it was certainly more worthy than the Harry Potter films ever were. The score is fantastic, witty in moments and bombastic when the need calls for it.

New Zealand of course, shone as brightly as ever and Peter Jackson has created yet another film for the die-hard fans to adore for the ages. No doubt there will be an extended edition with additional footage coming soon, but I doubt I will be in the queue. He has been hampered by his successes with LOTR and the following cinematic downfalls, the bloated King Kong and the indulgent Lovely Bones that totally missed the charm and quirk and dread of the source material. If he had done this before LOTR 1, 2 & 3, I would be raving from here till Middle-Earth, but no, this is after the greatness and simply put Sir Peter, we expected better. 


 As it stands, it was as I expected, beautiful, indulgent and bordering on the nonsensical. Jackson's "lets flesh it out as much as possible" attitude, left me exhausted, rather like I'd eaten roast pork, one of my favourite meals, with far too much fat, salt and crackling, enjoyable in small doses but dangerous in excess, without enough real meat to chew on.

2.5 Morganisms, with an extra half for the performances and casting, lead to a total of
Three Morganisms for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

No comments:

Post a Comment