This is the first of three films Peter Jackson has made to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to Lord of the Rings. An elderly Bilbo Baggins writes to Frodo about the land of Erebor, where the Dwarf King Thror lost his land and prosperity to the dragon Smaug. Bilbo then recalls the earlier years of his life (played by Martin Freeman), where he's timid and lost his sense of adventure. Bilbo's complacency is questioned by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who secretly arranges for a meeting to be held in the hobbit's house. One evening Bilbo is interrupted by thirteen dwarves who invite themselves inside. He's told these dwarves are in search of a home but need a burglar who can accompany them to the mountain where Smaug is and take back their land and treasure. Initially reluctant, Bilbo trails after the unit but this does little to impress Thorin (Richard Armitage), the dwarf leader and grandson of Thror, who doubts the hobbit's commitment.
Even without reading the novel The Hobbit, nothing erases the feeling while watching An Unexpected Journey that this is a deliberately inflated work of fanfare, with eyes drawn acutely towards the box office. Good cinema is defined by economics and how efficiently a story can be told with images. Peter Jackson demonstrated this skill with his Rings trilogy, gracefully balancing multiple narrative threads and characters, and ensuring each one possessed an appropriate amount of emotional weight.
Why then has he chosen to make a soulless, linear action movie, extravagantly scaled, but so insubstantial that it never justifies itself as the start of a trilogy? Penned by no less than four writers, including Jackson, this would have been more satisfying as one film with richer themes and selective action. Instead, a novel of barely 300 pages long is extended to nearly three hours, if only to showcase boring battle scenes and superfluous new technology, falsely touted as innovative.
The excess of Jackson's passion stems from his fascination with geek culture. Since the inception of his career in the 1980s, making low budget horror films, he has been concerned with subjects like the undead and the uncanny. His recent films have been criticised for being overly dependent on special effects. The trajectory of his career, from horror to global blockbusters, is not unlike James Cameron, who is coincidentally using Jackson's special effects studio Weta Digital to work on Avatar 2.
Both men have become transfixed by spectacle, with each of their films more elaborate and technically sophisticated than the last. They seem intent on blurring the lines between video games and cinema, which means more investment into technology and effects, rather than the scripts. Someone distanced from the source material and video game culture might have made The Hobbit less self-indulgent and plodding. A legal battle between Jackson and New Line Cinema meant Guillermo Del Toro was originally meant to direct the film but was eventually replaced.
As it stands, Jackson's love for video games is all too visible here. The script is short on themes, characterisation and subplots. It's overly rigid structure means the film becomes too absorbed in its sets and its environments, instead of the story. Each scene is like a level from a game, designed to showcase a gallery of monsters, which are cogs in the film's tired formula for suspense. Exposition is followed by danger and then an escape route. Press start to begin.
If the desire for a home offers some resemblance of a motive, it's regularly lost in the flurry of the action, most of which is extremely unengaging and lacking in tension. The film's one good scene admittedly adds some suspense and intrigue. It involves the reappearance of the monster Gollum and begins tying threads back to the Rings trilogy. The detail in Gollum's expressions, beautifully captured again by Andy Serkis, is even more incredible than before.
How do scenes like this, as overlong as they are, fare through the introduction of 48 frames per second? The standard frame rate for films has been to use 24 frames per second. The additional number of frames on the screen adds more detail and colour to the images. The trade-off is that it gives the illusion the images are moving much faster, which is very distracting. It's an unnecessary addition so if you must see the film, watch it in 2D.
Will fans enjoy the movie? Undoubtedly, but for most hardcore fans, more is always more. Consider the families who will now be paying for three movies instead of one, as well as the 3D surcharge, and must then wait another two years to finish the story. They're shown a footnote of a narrative here and that's not right.
I am torn about this film. I do think that the idea of splitting it into three films reeks of a cash-in and wouls have preferred a single epic but despite myself I really enjoyed it. Being back in that world felt strangely comfortable and seeing Gollum is always a heart-breaking treat. I think that what you said about the structure of the film set like different levels in a game is spot on. That escape from the goblin cave was like the QTE sections in God Of War! As I recall this is true of the book itself and I saw a stage version of The Hobbit a few years ago that felt like a series of set pieces rather than a cohesive whole.
While I certainly agree that The Hobbit's running time was unjustifiable, I strongly dislike the notion that Jackson's love of gaming culture caused him to lose sight of what a good film should be. Claiming that The Hobbit is "short on themes, characterization and subplots," is fine in and of itself, but saying that this is somehow due to a gaming influence is rather absurd as it needlessly devalues an entire medium in order to point out the flaws in one movie. Video games provide complex narrative elements in spades, and many of this years flagship titles prove that most effectively.
It is quite sad that supposed critiques didn't really get the point of the book, think that the movie is talking about one book, claim the movie to be too wordy and fail to understand the type of character development that is supposed to happen over the adventure. ah, the ignorant with a pen and paper.
Good review, I didn't hate it, but its definatly more childish so to speak then the previous ones. More action, not as much character stuff. I liked the CGI but felt it was a bit overused at times.
Has me wondering how would this have turned out if Del Toro stayed on to direct? He has a more darker style and to me atleast is the better director of the two (I loved The Devils Backbone and Panz Labyrinth).
In the end it does seem like a bit of a cash grab (3 movies, more for kids/teens,3d charge,etc..), but what will be interesting to me is how the next two turn out. I would not be surprised if the next two are the better ones of the trilogy. Atleast lets hope?
Keep the reviews coming bud, don't always agree with ya but I enjoy reading ya writing!
@kozzy1234 The Hobbit is a children's book, after all.
What's really strange is that all the childish things in the movie aren't exactly from the book. The spirit of the book is childish, but how it gets there is very intelligent.
There's no stupid rabbit-sleigh, no stretched out fight scenes, very little buffoonery etc, and yet he decided to add that all in, with a huge dose of LOTR foreshadowing.
No, Peter Jackson is making LOTR trilogy fan service in the guise of the book's childish spirit. Very strange stuff.
@FrozenLiquid I just felt like there could have been less hollywood style stuff in this. The Hobbit was my favorite book of all these by a large margin and I just feel like SO FAR this has not been as good as it could have been.
Hell I like the Hobbit book more then the LOTR books and I loved the LOTR movies, but this movie was just underwhelming to me. As you said the Hobbit is a childrens book but it felt so much less forced and natural/real in the book then in the movie. Much more authentic and intelligent. I donno, I didn't hate this movie at all, I enjoyed parts of it but I couldn't help but feel it could have been a bit better.
@FrozenLiquid well, the real issue with this book is that you really know nothing, for example: gandalf tells you about the necromancer yet you don´t know anything about him. this feels nice in the book because you´re actually stepping on the shoes of bilbo and how he gets carried away by a mage and a trope of gnomes. the movie does well in introducing some characters and situations by drifting away from the books, if course, even though some scenes seem too long "for someone that doesn't like bella tarr" OR that the gobling king looks almost nothing like the wicked, fearsome monster you get from the books doesn't really negate the fact that the movie is, beautifully done, mildly executed and a treat for your inner child that reads the hobbit on a yearly basis.
I'd be tempted to say that "the series MUST be a money-grabbing scheme since they're trying to cut ONE book into THREE movies" but I actually agree with that decision. the book can PERFECTLY be divided in three parts: from the shire to the grey mountains, from the exit of the grey mountains's passage to the "barrel escape" (although it's likely they'll leave that one as a cliff hanger) AND from the city of dale to the lonely mountain, we get that, we know the stuff that happened in the end and finally we get our ending. I can, with all honesty, say that the whole book wouldn't have fit in one movie and that making several is a rather good idea. of course, the hate-wagon will say this is a rip off but if you really read the book and liked it, I know you know the book has many "one sided adventures" with a specific plot and setting and that it is every single one of this minor adventures, all wrapped up in a big adventure, that gives the book its special magic.
side comments: character progression, there can't be much character progression as much of the characters stay the same. the main character, bilbo, is the only one who changes drastically across the story. this means that each movie will add a quality to bilbo, as he discovers his own worth and that this change is going to be of value to the group.
Ha, nice call on the Hollywood stuff. If you got a copy of the book at hand, look at the chapter with the trolls, the goblins, and the wargs.
You will find Peter Jackson had to do a lot of revisioning to get it up to Hollywood super CGI battle standards =P
First off, 48fps. During the initial Smaug scene it appeared as if things were in fast-forward, but quickly I adjusted and the rest of the movie looked more "real" to me. It's as if I was watching a live-action stage play, just with insanely detailed sets and effects. The wide sweeping shots were more fluid, but where the 48fps really pays off is in the tighter shots. Characters talking while traversing a crevace as small streams waterfall off the rocks. It looked amazing. Rivendell, the stone golem battle, and the Gollum scene looked amazing in 48fps. That's just me.
As for the actual movie, it was a mixed bag for me. There were moments, flickers of what made LOTR so great, both regarding action and character development/interaction. Then there were moments where I was asking myself, "when is this going to end?" I completely agree with your video game analogy. I never felt that way with LOTR, even the extended cuts. Everything seemed to have a place. Maybe not to progress the main story(ies), but to flesh out the world and all the varied events going on around the main threads. In The Hobbit, parts of the story seemed to drag, even action scenes. This is a personal story, not the world-altering, multi-threaded epic that LOTR was and I want to see a personal story. It felt like Peter Jackson was doing everything in his power to make it feel larger than what it is.
Overall I enjoyed the movie (I wasn't questioning asking for my money back or anything) but what it ended up doing was to make me enter the theater for the second movie with caution. As it is, this was a rocky start. Why they "need" 3 movies to tell the story of The Hobbit perplexes me. I hope they bring the story and characters up to the level they hold all the CGI of the first movie. And I hope they don't add a bunch of needless filler to justify a trilogy.
@SlowMotionKarma actually, having read the book since I was seven, I can tell you that the book NEEDS more than one movie to be told. you could do a completely chopped up version in one movie but you would miss many of the tales and adventures that bilbo has. the point of the movie, unlike the LOTR, is not a fight against evil, it's bilbo himself. if you remember what gandalf said then I guess it should be pretty self explanatory. the thing is that the book focuses on fantasy WHILE showing you how bilbo changes and stays the same throughout the adventure.
I disagree with the whole good economics = good cinema. Good, even great, movies are made that get ignored, etc. Great review overall though. I'll get there eventually with my own :)
Good stuff, I covered many of the same points in my review. The 3D and 48FPS are both certainly unneeded, and the over abundance of CGI was disgustingly mundane. I still enjoyed the film, and still think it was one of the best of the year, but it's not the original trilogy, not by a long shot
@foxrock66 yes, the story, sadly, is less epic. this, though, leads me to believe that the story is way, WAY better than the LOTR
I wholeheartedly agree with the article above, but apart from not enough character development of the dwarves and the frankly absurd length of the film it was pretty good. Definitely it was better than LotR 2 and 3 where there was too much jumping around between characters and settings. The focus on Bilbo meant that this was a more structured film.
One thing though... What the hell does a dragon need with gold??
@jas_skywalker Have you read any of the books? Sorry, but you come across as someone who has just seen the movies. And they explain why Dragons desire gold. It is in their nature, and they are exceedingly greedy and love the idea of gold and the feel of it on their skin.
@jas_skywalker Also, I love longer movies. Anymore, I actually just disregard movies unless they are over 2 hours long. The longer, the better. Especially if I am really enjoying the movie. Gives more time for development, nothing feels rushed, it becomes more epic, and most importantly of all, I get more bang for my buck
There just wasn't enough substance in this movie.
I want the siege of helms deep
I want the siege of minas tirith
I want any of the dozens of awesome action scenes from the original trilogy
There's nothing like that in this movie, it was quite boring.
@Swedish_Chef Fellowship of the Ring didn't have any big war scenes either, and I thought it was the best of the original trilogy. This trilogy will be similar in structure. This first movie is akin to Fellowship of the Ring, where the company of heroes is introduced, and their struggles are more personal. Then the next two movies will show a broader struggle, with expansive wars and battles.
@Poodger and yet the fellowship of the ring was more entertaining. It had a story that you knew was going to be epic, it was laid out early and the same enemy was pervasive throughout.
The Hobbit, to me, is a series of side stories (The White Orc, Smaug, the 'necromancer', gollum, the dwarves themselves) and none have enough screen time to make their story very interesting.
@Swedish_Chef All those "side stories" are still going, and will intertwine to create a cohesive and epic story. This complaint in particular is not valid until all 3 movies are seen.
I thought it was ok. It's nothing compared to the LOTR but it did follow the same kind of formula. The orcs are the bad guys, Gollum is still crazy. I'm not sure if I'm gonna watch the next one though.
all you fanboys need to stop sucking off peter jackson and call him out when he makes BLUNDERS like making a 300 page micro novel into a trilogy and im sorry but 48 fps looks like im watching a day time soap opera.
@nameaprice I can't imagine the book being crammed into a single movie, and this movie is a testament to that fact. Had they tried to rush the entire book into 3 hours of screen time, it would have just been a shallow adventure with absolutely no character development and extremely cheap and fast scenes that do the book no justice.
@Poodger I agree that two movies would be needed to tell the story with any real justice, but three?! naw man thats just plain greed. and dont give me that crap about execs needing a return on their investment, a director could have some self control and pride/dignity to not sell out
you have to agree though, it is a book with more or less "three main parts" AND they are adding some stuff from outside the book, so that you get an idea of what the hell is going on.
@nameaprice I for one am very happy with the fact that they're going to show the White Council's attack on Dol Guldur, which is what Gandalf was up to when he left the Companions at the border of Mirkwood. Call wanting to show more of the lore "greed" if you want. I call it good storytelling.
@nameaprice Yes, the book on its own could be told in two stories if it was told word for word. But you can be sure that they will give more screen time to the wars to make them epic. Add in the extra back lore they are adding from other books, and you have a 3rd movie. Whether or not "greed" was the determining factor does not matter. The end result is the same: movie goers get 3 more hours of blissful time in middle earth.
Nice job, I still didn't watch it but The Hobbit looks more English style and more family type movie compare with the Lord of the Rings series, and It won't caries that Dark Tone and Mature but I'm Interested to watch it mostly for sake of Lord of the Rings!
@syler4815162342 hmmm it doesn't has the "desperate times" vibe but... wait til the last movie, you get a glimpse of how really broken and greedy everyone is and why the war on sauron is sort of necessary for the world to be united.
yes,it doesnt have the dark tone and maturity of the lord of the rings,but if you are a fan of the series i assure you you wont be dissapointed
The pacing was a bit messed up due to it being 1/3rd of a small book, and the characterisation of the dwarves could and should have been better. It was a fun movie, and it is a fun book, but it's no Lord of the Rings.
I see some of your points, but I loved the movie and have some points of my own:
For one thing, (I'm a Kiwi so I'm a bit biased but anyway,) Jackson turn a 300 page CHILDREN'S novel into a serious trilogy. He had to make changes because otherwise the movie would have come off as cheesy and weak. Plus, he had to update it to fit in with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The Hobbit was written on a whim years before Lord of the Rings, and so there wasn't as many connections as you would think (Besides the Ring, Gollum, Sting and Bilbo). Without spoilers, there are some smart cameos that not make the story more rich, they help Middle-Earth feel more real because it has history that doesn't have to be distinctly relevant to the Lord of the Rings.
Point numbero dos: I don't judge a film by the directors purpose (most of the time), because at the end of the day, all movies are made to make money.
Thirdly, if you've read into the lore abit (Not a knock against you, it's just me showing off), you'd see what it being set up in the next film. There are hints throughout the first film, but without spoilers, the next Hobbit film looks like it will deal with a side of the story mentioned in passing in the book, but which has massive ramifications in the series.
I *might* be a fanboy (I hate that word by the way), but the length didn't bother me, and I liked the battle-scenes. And a point about the fact it's a trilogy- I don't know what's going to happen, but Peter Jackson might have good cause. Or not. We will see. But I bet you didn't complain about people paying for more movies (Which might be worth it) when there was originally one for Harry Potter, and others did not care that there was Part 2 for the last Twilight movie (Breaking dawn, I think?).
On the other hand, some scenes (like the one with your last scene shot) story-wise were weak, especially since it's related to the film's antagonist closer than it seems (Look it up). Some portrayals seemed weak yes, but other were just subtle, which makes abit of sense especially since too much characterization would just likely confuse the audience, due to the Dwarves being similar (Physically and genetically, in some cases.)
But I do appreciate that you don't hesitate to call BS, and that's an admirable trait.
Note: Most 3D version of the movie are not 48 frames, and the 3D is done remarkably well, so keep that in mind people!
@Sta1k4r I'm a kiwi too, so let me make some counter-arguments:
"He had to make changes because otherwise the movie would have come off as cheesy and weak. Plus, he had to update it to fit in with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "
That implies that the Hobbit is a cheesy and weak book, when it fact it isn't. It's one of the best fantasy novels ever written.
Furthermore, your assertions that the Hobbit doesn't feel connected to Middle Earth is jarring. No one who's read the books doesn't see a strong connection between the two. One of the best things about the Hobbit/LotR is that they're both distinctly different in spirit, yet they definitely feel like part of the same over-arching story.
At this point in the film trilogy, Peter Jackson has done enough for lore purists to be pissed off, which, while not bad in and of itself, doesn't really give cause for any excitement from Tolkien fan standpoint: Radagast is prancing around like an idiot, Azog is still around, Gandalf still talks to moths, and Wargs and Eagles just look like oversized unintelligent creatures. It could make a Harry Potter purist blush.
Honestly, Peter Jackson just needed to make one or two movies at most, and be done with it. The entire first movie goes by in an hour if you read the book.
As a Kiwi, he's becoming a heck of an embarrassment. A shame that we promote him rather than someone that's actually superbly talented, such as Roger Donaldson.
@FrozenLiquid @Sta1k4r haha, frozenliquid, EVERYONE who has read the book KNOWS that its aim is differnt but that the stories are really, REALLY close to each other. one could not have happened without the other one. eagles don't speak yet "story wise" and you might think wargs are stupid but nothing leads you to think they are the chest opponents of ents in the book.
I must say I'm rather sorry that you think it is/they should:
1. a trilogy about ONE book, it is not
2. make only one movie, maybe two. no, otherwise they would just "waltz through" the trolls, the grey mountains, the wargs, mirkwood and the mountain.
3. you can't, JUST CAN'T, make the book exactly like the novel. you wouldn't have ANY idea on some of gandalf's comment AND you would skip and important part of the story which is not mentioned in the books.
You bring up some good points, and I realize that I made some mistakes in what I wrote, so thank you, I can now fix those mistakes.
The Hobbit was written out of the blue (at the start) and Tolkien had no idea that he would write an epic trilogy based on the ring, which was a simple trinket in the Hobbit, but a weapon of great power in the Lord of the Rings. There are some connections, obviously, but I believe that Peter Jackson is trying to update it (for better or worse) so that they fit together better. They do feel connected, but some elements such as the elf king (being Legolas' dad) would have gone in a different direction if it had been written as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings.
That's another thing- This version of the Hobbit is a prequel to LotR, while in the books, LoTR was a sequel to the Hobbit. This is an important distinction.
I also was not trying to imply that the Hobbit is a weak book, since I quite like it; but it is a kids book (in tone, but that's not a knock- it's still great), and because the movie is a prequel to a trilogy that is darker in tone, a direct adaptation would tank, as the movie is regarded as a prequel to the LotR trilogy.
But I'll agree that there are some bizarre creative decisions- Radagast, Azog and the troll-king-guy (Whom I hated). The moth I'm indifferent about, because I believe that the moth was supposed to have been under Radagast's control in the LotR trilogy (Which meant that he sent the eagles, and that's what he did instead of fighting in the books). But I'm also an optimist. I hope that the other movies are more faithful, or make better additions.
All in all, I think that you have to agree that the Hobbit trilogy is going to be a less definitive adaptation that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was. However, I'm also hoping that Peter Jackson has better reasons than money to make it a trilogy ( and if by the end I'm proven wrong, I'll find out where you live and apologize in person.
Furthermore, I want to thank you for responding to my comment and ppint out it's flaws.
While I thought the movie was excellent, I did feel that there were some scenes missing or cut out. Can't wait for the extended edition!!
@dahaoleboy69 ....what? Scenes were added in and dragged out lol.
Just because the movie was near 3 hours long (2:50) doesn't mean that there wene't some things taken out. Try watch Two Towers then it's extended edition. Same thing happens in the Hobbit. Great movie regardless. 8.5/10 for me
The Hobbit part 1 have currently made $600 million and could very well surpass well over $1 billion by the time it finishes its theater run. None of the studio executives are going to care about the negative side to all these critics. We will end up seeing even more movies being made in the same kind of style.
I did see The Hobbit in the theaters twice and loved it. Cant wait for part two.
@Jd1680a Exactly. And of course, like anything that is wildly successful and good, there will be more people who feel the need to whine and complain. But those enlightened in the majority know better ;)
@Poodger @Jd1680a The 3 Lord Of The Rings movies where popular to though and most people did not have an issue with them.
I loved the Lord Of The Rings movies and I liked aspects of The Hobbit, but its just not up to the quality of the Lord Of The Rings imo. Nothing to do with it being popular as the reason I disliked certain aspects of it, or I would have had a bunch of issues with The LOTR movies to. Hobbit felt to much like a videogame to me when compared to LOTR, which is funny because I liked The Hobbit book more then the movies. Usually I don tmind overused CGI in movies at all, but in this there was times where I said "are you serious? More?" Never once said that or got bored during LOTR trilogy.