Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

For every generation of movie-goers, there is a certain cinematic experience/event that defines their era on the silver screen. For some it was Citizen Kane, others it was Star Wars, more recently it was The Matrix, for people my age it was The Lord of the Rings, and now you could say Avatar for the current gen. These movies tie directly into our lives and will always have a special place in our hearts.

For me, The Lord of the Rings trilogy defined a large chunk of my life. I lived and breathed Middle-Earth and I will always cherish the films beyond all others. And now of course The Hobbit is coming out, which has rekindled the embers of my beloved experience. So please, keep in mind that this review is highly biased and full of love and passion.

I was fortunate enough to see an advanced screening of The Hobbit last night. I saw it in 3D and at the HFR (high frame rate) that everyone is making a fuss over. I went in expecting much and hoping for lightning to strike twice. I went in wanting to love it but fearful that I'd set the bar too high. I went in with unrealistic expectations that could never possibly be met by any film or cinematic experience. I went in as an pure and utter fanboy.

And I came out, ecstatic. Or is it humbled? Possibly relieved? Or maybe just happy.

All I know is that I positively loved it for everything that it was and I was completely satisfied. And I can genuinely say I've never seen a movie like it.

I mean that in the fact that I've never actually looked at a movie that looked like The Hobbit. Everyone has been up in arms over the HFR saying that it makes you nauseous or dizzy and that you can tell when people are wearing prosthetics. That's all bullshit. The fact that the movie looks so good is due to the extremely high level of detail that the filmmakers went through to bring this world to life. They would be bad at their jobs if we could see that stuff. And all the HFR does is make EVERYTHING look crystal clear.  And with everything from the foreground and the background in focus and crystal clear quality, it is truly a feast for the eyes. Yes, it does take a bit to get used to but once your eyes adjust, it is seamless and takes nothing away from the movie.

And there is much to take away from this film for not only do they expand upon The Hobbit proper, but they infuse other material into the main story, as well as show other aspects of the story that we would have never seen before. This revolves around Gandalf and Thorin mostly, and both Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage bring a weight to their character and story that truly makes the film feel important. The book itself was mostly intended for kids and comes off very light. The way Tolkien wrote The Hobbit had you never truly worrying that anyone will die or anything really bad was going to happen. It is swashbuckling, adventurous fun. But in contrast the film is grim and dark which helps lead directly to the Lord of the Rings.

But unlike Lord of the Rings, the "fellowship" is never truly fleshed out in An Unexpected Journey. Obviously we have two more films where certain undeveloped dwarves could be given a bigger role, but I remember never feeling this way after The Fellowship of the Ring. Now, Jackson and company had a hard task of making a throng of dwarves who all resemble one another be distinct. The good thing is that the dwarves that do have a bigger role truly shine in their brief lines and screen time. It just makes one feel that if they spent less time doing action sequences (which there are a plethora of) and more time between the company, they could have really brought out some genuine characters that people would grow to love. For instance, I don't think Bombur said a single word the entire movie, which is a shame.

Speaking of action sequences, once this movie gets going, its a none stop thrill ride. What Peter Jackson has done with the source material, though at times is completely unnecessary, is truly fun to watch. The battle sequences are breath taking and the CGI and practical effects are completely seamless. I literally could not tell what was makeup and what was CGI. And that is exhilarating. The goblin kingdom is especially fantastic, though the ending is like a ride at an amusement park. 

Yes this blog is very fanboyish and I won't keep you much longer because yes, I did have one gripe with the film. The music. I know that sounds preposterous but Howard Shore's score feels as though he is trying to put too much of Lord of the Rings into the Hobbit when it isn't necessary. In the end, there are times where the music sounds like a montage of 3 or 4 different themes which took me out of certain scenes. It's small but important.

All in all, The Hobbit is a fantastic adventure back into Middle-Earth that will surely recruit new fans to the series. And though Hollywood loves prequels, perhaps with the completion of the Hobbit trilogy, Hollywood will have it's first perfect film franchise. I mean perfect in the fact that all the same cast and crew were involved and a level of quality was maintained.

Please let me know what you thought of the film, even if you disagree with me. I'd love to hear your comments and, if you didn't like it, how wrong you are.

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