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Monthly Archives: December 2012

So it’s finally released and I have to say I’m not disappointed in the slightest. Despite the bad reviews and the bad press regarding the frame rate, I can honestly say that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great, fun movie. It’s not without it’s flaws and it doesn’t hit the highs of The Lord of the Rings, but what you do get is an exciting film and a promising start to a new trilogy. To expand on that:

Pros:

  • Riddles in the Dark. The best chapter of the book and by far the best part of the film. Hell probably one of the best moments from the Middle Earth films. Martin Freeman is excellent in this scene, going from humouring Smeagol to being genuinely terrified when he slips into being Gollum. And for good reason. There are moments where Gollum is genuinely unnerving, particularly when his eyes catch the light and go a ghoulish blue. As good as Freeman is in this scene, it’s Andy Serkis who steals the show. It’s a pity we shan’t see any more of him in the second and third Hobbit films.

 

  • The Necromancer. Though seen only fleetingly, the sequence with Radagast exploring Dol Guldur is certainly tense and a good prelude of what’s to come in the second and third movies. Sylvester McCoy is wonderful as the eccentric wizard and it shows in his scene with Gandalf that the two are good friends. This is contrasted wonderfully with Gandalf’s later scene with Saruman in Rivendell where he seems dismayed to hear his sonorous voice booming out behind him to announce his arrival. That whole backstory with the White Council and Dol Guldur has always fascinated me and I look forward to seeing more.

 

  • The development of Thorin is a welcome expansion on his character. Whilst re-reading the book he does seem rather one-dimensional, at least in terms of what’s portrayed in the book. What the film does well is to show you the motivation for his quest and to also make his aloofness more understandable, in particular his hatred of the Elves. As well as that, Bilbo’s actions towards the end of the film allow him to thaw somewhat and to accept Bilbo as one of their company, something that is essential if we’re to care about this character for another two films. The inclusion of Azog as a large albino Orc who is hunting Thorin and his company also provides the film with a running antagonist in lieu of Smaug. The history between those two will add an undercurrent to the remaining films, leading up the climax at the Battle of the Five Armies.

 

  • One concern I did have going into the film was that in having 14 characters on this quest, the film would spread itself thin trying to give each one their own moment. Thankfully this was not the case as the film focuses mainly on a few select members of the company. As well as obvious focus on Bilbo, Gandalf and Thorin, namely Fili, Kili, Bofur, Balin and, to a lesser extent, Dwalin. Hopefully the remaining dwarves will get their time to shine in the second and third films, but for this one it benefits it to focus on only a few.

 

Cons:

  • Though the set-pieces of the film are by and large fantastic, the scenes linking them all together can be a bit weak. Even for a Middle Earth film, there are a lot of shots of people walking up hills and down dales. Yes it’s a staple of these films, but it does make the film rather segmented rather than one that flows, something that The Lord of the Rings films managed.

 

  • The CGI in places is quite ropey. The Great Goblin, whilst not bad enough to make you go: “hang on…” is hardly Academy Award worthy. Similarly, scenes of Radagast in his rabbit powered sleigh take all the powers of suspension of disbelief I can muster. However, it must be said that Gollum looks amazing with updated CGI, so all in all a mixed bag.

 

General points:

  • I can’t be the only one who was slightly disturbed by the load of bird poo down the side of Radagast’s head, right?

 

  • Saw the film at the conventional 24fps 2D and it looked fine. If you really are worried about the higher frame rate then don’t bother risking it.

 

  • Something to mention that I think a lot of critics missed out on is that it’s much lighter in tone and more fantastical than Lord of the Rings. If you’re going into it expecting it to be just like LOTR, you’re in for inevitable disappointment. Yes it’s in the same universe, but it isn’t the same tone or style and nor should it try to be. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens do a great job of incorporating neat little references to the LOTR without copying it.

 

  • I didn’t expect Smaug to be pronounced like that.

 

  • Finally, the film manages funny without being forced, mostly due to Martin Freeman’s excellent delivery of lines. If you take nothing else from this film, take away Freeman’s performance because it really is top notch.
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