Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

To say I enjoyed The Hobbit would be an understatement, and perhaps my opinion is biased as I don't think there is much that could have made me dislike this film, what with being a huge fan of Tolkien's works, and Peter Jackson's ever faithful movie adaptations. Arguably the best book to film adaptations ever made, The Lord of the Rings films were hugely successful - but how does Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's beloved prequel to the epic trilogy measure up?

Its been a long time coming, with snippets of news and rumours constantly being released on the way, its a testament to the success of Rings that fans, bloggers and cinephiles alike cared so much about the news of the higher frame rate, and the decision to turn one film into two, no wait, three. It certainly took me aback, as I tried to understand how The Hobbit (not even half the size of the Rings trilogy put together) could be stretched across three films successfully. I suppose only having seen one third of The Hobbit trilogy I still have yet to find out. However, judging from the first film, it looks like its going to be good.
One of my only criticisms, however, would be towards the higher frame rate. Having pre-booked the tickets weeks ago, I'd forgotten whether or not the receipt had specified whether we would be watching 24fps or 48, though it wasn't long before I noticed. Not all, but parts of the film had an all around less cinematic look about them. I didn't want to notice it, but at times when I wanted to be fully immersed, I couldn't help but be distracted by the uncanny realism brought about by the higher frame rate. Its hard to describe, but sometimes it felt like I was watching HD tv, and it made some things look real to the point where they looked fake...because they're effects and not meant to be real, if that makes any sense at all?

But anyway, not everything thing looks strange in 48fps, in fact many shots benefited from it, for example the landscape and aerial shots. There was one particular scene where Gandalf, Bilbo and all the Dwarves are being carried away by giant eagles, and that was just beautiful against the backdrop of the New Zealand landscape, along with the music it was quite breathtaking. I think just being aware that it was 48fps detracted from the movie a little for me, because I was constantly aware of what was an effect and what wasn't, which didn't make some the effects look out of place so much as it just highlighted their presence. Of course as the movie progressed I became more accustomed to it though, and I still enjoyed the film as a whole.
Martin Freeman was perfect as Bilbo, he fit in so naturally, and the original members reprising their roles were great, in particular Cate Blanchett, Ian Mckellan and Andy Serkis. I say Cate Blanchett because I always found the character of Galadriel so mesmerizing and ethereal in the previous films, and she doesn't even appear to have aged since the last film, which is incredible. As expected, Mckellan was great as Gandalf of course. For me though, Andy Serkis really nailed Gollum. It was the part I had most been looking forward to because its the one I remember the most from the book, wherein Bilbo and Gollum play a game of riddles in the dark caves. Gollum is another character I find fascinating as, much like the characters within the films you don't know whether to pity him; find him funny or frightening. It doesn't last very long, but I still think its the best part of the film.

I think the film benefitted from Jackson's decision to not only expand on pre-existing parts of the book, but include additional information from the appendices, as there is enough substance to keep the film going along at a good pace despite the length of the film itself. An Unexpected Journey had an entirely different feel to it compared to the Rings trilogy, obviously because it was based off of a book primarily targeted towards children. It was more light hearted, and you get less of a sense of 'impending doom' than you do in Rings, and I found the humour really refreshing and fun.
Of course, the hints and nods to the Rings trilogy are also good fun, making this a treat for any fan of the previous films. For example, at the beginning, Frodo is seen leaving to go and greet Gandalf as he arrives in the Shire, just as he does when we first see him in The Fellowship of the Ring. There were also moments where I glimpsed parts of sets, particularly in Rivendell that I was familiar with from the previous films.

So despite being less serious, and perhaps having a less cinematic feel than Rings, I think The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey was incredibly entertaining. It was also particularly special for me, as it was my first time seeing a film like this on the big screen, as unfortunately I was too young to see The Lord of The Rings films when then were originally released. I'd love to see them on the big screen one day, but not as a marathon...I've heard they do those and just don't think I'd be able to stick it out. If I'm gonna' marathon the Lord of the Rings films, I'd rather be cosy in bed, or on a sofa in the comfort of my home with easy access to food. Might even try it over the Winter holidays...
Anyway, thumbs up for The Hobbit, I just hope the next two are as good. Its still annoying that we have to wait so long for them though. Hmph.