Alternatively Titled: Remind me why this film is three hours long
Warning: This review contains very mild spoilers.
I was ecstatic when Peter Jackson decided to direct The Hobbit. After the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I decided there was no one else that could be trusted to portray my beloved Middle Earth.
I was a bit apprehensive when it was revealed that he was adding new characters. Sure, while there are many unnamed characters within The Hobbit, they’re unnamed because they don’t play a particularly big role.
When it was announced that it was going to be a trilogy, I groaned. Nine hours of film made from a book that is approximately a quarter of the length of Lord of the Rings? It sounded absurd.As it turns out, it was just a bit absurd.
Why is this scene so long?
The beauty of the Lord of the Rings films is that the scenes varied between slow, calm takes and quick, snappy action sequences. There was variety. While An Unexpected Journey has more action than Fellowship did, it doesn’t have that variety. Every scene is long and some are completely unnecessary.
The opening sequence was clever; I liked how it connected the Hobbit back to Fellowship of the Ring. However at several points I found myself wondering when the actual story was going to begin.
The sequence with Radagast suffered from the same feeling of being dragged out. Don’t get me wrong, the character of Radagast was great. Kudos to Sylvester McCoy for a job well done. My problem here is that for a scene that doesn’t appear in The Hobbit or any of Tolkien’s writings at all and therefore can’t be all that important to the plot, it was dragged on for far too long. I’m beginning to wonder if it was all a grand ploy to feature hedgehogs as a wink to Sherlock fans.
One addition I particularly enjoyed was the meeting of the White Council. Any opportunity to see Cate Blanchett as Galadriel is okay with me. She owns that role. Plus her dress was killer.
All the sweeping pan shots
The cinematography of the film has been the center of much discussion lately. Shot in 48 frames per second instead of the standard 24, the fluid look of the film takes some getting used to.
Of course most of us have heard by now that people have actually been getting sick while watching the film, particularly at 3D showings. Even though I saw the film in 2D, I can definitely see how that’s possible. The entire opening is comprised of long, sweeping, twirling, swirling pan shots. While they were cool, they also left me with a bit of a headache as my eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the look of the film.
So if you’re particularly susceptible to motion sickness like I am, forgo the 3D. There are some beautiful shots that you simply won’t be able to appreciate properly because you’re still queasy from the overly-long panning shot in the previous scene.
There were high expectations for Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo and he certainly didn’t disappoint. His depiction of the fussy, bumbling hobbit is spot-on. There really isn’t another actor out there that I believe could have pulled off a young Bilbo in the same way.
Freeman’s facial expressions completely made the film. As he has proven in the past, he has an amazing capacity for both dramatic acting and comedy and he certainly brought his abilities to his hobbit character. If he doesn’t get a nomination for this role, it’ll be a travesty.
All of the returning cast members were spot on, of course. I did feel that Elron was a bit off at one point–perhaps there wasn’t enough brooding. However, a job well done to the White Council.
The dwarves: Yes. Yes times thirteen.
Gollum: Great as always, but we already knew that Andy Serkis was a genius.
Basically, the casting gets a giant YES from me. No complaints here.
I liked it, I didn’t love it
Overall the film was good. Was it great? Perhaps not. It felt as if it could have done with another month in the editing room. I often found myself wondering if Peter Jackson felt compelled to make the film three hours long only because that was the length of each Lord of the Rings film. Too much based off of too little.
There was a good balance of humor and seriousness in the film thanks to some brilliant Martin Freeman facial expressions and the antics of thirteen dwarves. Even Saruman is (unintentionally) funny at one point. It was a good way to lighten a movie that was heavy on the battle scenes.
In spite of its flaws (and a very cheesy end scene with Bilbo and Thorin), most people will enjoy the film. While there are some scenes that will leave diehard Tolkienists feeling lukewarm, PJ (mostly) makes up for them with the rest of the film.
It just doesn’t quite live up to the magic of Lord of the Rings. Not yet.