Film: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Regular visitors already know that I've been looking forward to this movie for quite a long time. I've been a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth since my own childhood and have spent the past year and change getting my daughter up to speed in preparation for Peter Jackson's film. Our visit to the cinema this weekend felt almost like a pilgrimage.
The film is truly amazing. Giving it a 5 was tempting but I'm still chewing over a few things. To be fair, there are going to be
in this reflection if you're planning to see the movie but haven't yet. We have much to discuss. Best to get cracking...
Let's start with the positives. The film is visually stunning. New Zealand is as breathtaking as ever and Jackson's CGI world building is just as impressive. (Side note: too many bridges without guardrails in Middle Earth - don't think I could handle it myself) Early reviewers have criticized the technical aspects of filming - something about the film frame rate - but it certainly didn't bother me. Overall, the storytelling is highly engaging.
The music is surprisingly good. I really enjoyed the song the Dwarves sang around the fire at Bag End: "Misty Mountains."
I was also pleasantly surprised that Neil Finn (of Crowded House fame) performed the song for the end credits: "Song of the Lonely Mountain."
Gollum is far and away my favorite Tolkien character and the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter is handled masterfully. Gollum is tragic, terrifying and comical all at once. Andy Serkis's performance is, as ever, the highlight of the entire film. I was slightly bothered, however, that the resolution of the "Time" riddle differs slightly from the book. It still works but Tolkien's way was better.
I felt the story as told in the film is surprisingly dark - not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. I think of The Hobbit as being a relatively light-hearted romp compared to The Lord of the Rings but this new movie definitely had a heavy feel. For the record, My Wife didn't agree with my assessment. She agreed it was dark but no more so than the later story.
Where the film troubles me is the extra material. Jackson's film goes far beyond Tolkien's original text. The story of Radagast the Brown is greatly expanded and we are offered more glimpses of Gandalf's doings when he is away from the Dwarves and Bilbo. The film provides a fairly thorough back story for Thorin as well. I simply haven't worked out how I feel about the changes. Part of me is excited for the expansion. Another part of me, though, is reflexively nervous when filmmakers take liberties with well-beloved source material. Nothing the screenwriters have added contradicts Tolkien. Indeed, the author might have approved whole-heartedly. But one can never know for sure.
On the positive side, this is just the sort of pondering that will lead me to watch the film again and again - probably accompanied by further study of the book, too. I have no doubt that Peter Jackson loves the original story as much as anyone. He is a worthy vessel to carry the story forward.
Our Girl was very disappointed when the final credits rolled. "That's not how it ends!" she yelled, indignant. I thought we'd adequately explained about the three-installment plan but evidently not. She did enjoy the film, though. Now, we'll all look forward to December 2013.