Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Early Thoughts

Well I’ve been out to see another film, and a rather popular and well-received one at that.  Full spoilers as always you’ve been warned. 

Now originally I was a bit hesitant to see this film, and that I think was because of the title.  I really don’t like the title.  I’m not sure exactly why, but I think I just find it off putting that it has a subtitle; even though it makes perfect sense to have one.  It would have to have a subtitle because the book is being split up into more than one movie, and it is an unexpected journey for Bilbo so it’s not like the title is misleading, but I still don’t like it, maybe it’s because it’s too on the nose.  

Despite having a title I didn’t like the movie itself is wonderful.  With the opening narration they did a great job of giving the audience a lot of backstory for anyone who hasn’t read the book, or if it’s been a while since they have, and I love that they tied this in with Bilbo writing the story for Frodo.  Frodo of course being the hero of the last trilogy of films and I think it’s great that such tight continuity is being kept within the franchise I guess you would call it.  They also managed to get a lot of other exposition done without feeling forced, like Gandalf being asked about other wizards and him talking about them and then we get to see Radagast and Saruman, and have them do things necessary for the plot to boot.  And all the while we’re keeping up a great pace for the film.  It certainly didn’t feel like an almost three hour film to me.  In fact when the credits came up when the group sees the lonely mountain in the distance I was ready for the next part of the journey.  

Despite only being about the first leg of the journey there is still a lot of nice self-contained character growth here.  I especially the character stuff with Bilbo as the reluctant hero.  He doesn’t want to go initially.  He isn’t suit to go in terms of being a warrior, or an experienced traveller, or a good diplomat, or anything like that.   But we do get to see that he is smart with him beating Gollum at riddles, and proving that he will be a good burglar when he steals the ring from Gollum.  He also shows that he is brave when he runs out of the tree in the final battle to help Thorin.  What I liked about that too was that he didn’t start being good at everything just because he’s developing as a character.  He gets a few lucky hits with his sword, but he still swings it wildly and can’t get it out body of the Warg easily.  With the other characters I love the fun humour with Gandalf when he walks off in exasperation at Thorin’s desire not to seek help from the elves.  I like the respect Thorin gets from his men and I like that everyone is really engaged in the journey and taking in everything they see.  Even with the danger there is still a sense of wonder about the journey, like Bilbo’s wonder at seeing Rivendell or the group seeing the giant stone creatures fighting in the mountains.

Love the musical theme that runs through the film and that during the credits we got to hear the words to the theme.  There was also a very nice use of special effects with different characters, settings, and very nice lighting.  Even the falling debris when the gang is escaping the goblins and the falling gold in the lonely mountain, there for the 3D format that I didn’t see this in, was only a slight distraction.  And Gollum looks as great as he did in The Lord of the Ring films. 

In light of all the good things here I do have some complaints, besides the title.  I did have a little bit of difficultly keeping a lot of the names straight while watching this, but that’s comes from the book where reading the names is far easier to tell apart then hearing them for me at least so I’m willing to cut the movie some slack for that.  The only other thing I have to complain about is the snot humour with the trolls.  Seriously guys you’re adapting a literary classic, with memorable characters, and a strong hero’s journey why did you add that junk?

Oh well, even though I don’t like the title, or the bits of crude humour, and that the names can a bit confusing the film was still very well done in all the areas that count I think.  The music is fitting and evocative.  The characters are engaging and grow along the journey.  The pacing is good there’s a nice balance of action, humour, and genuine wonder.  The effects are great, and those made with 3D in mind were minimally distracting.  It’s definitely a movie worth going to see in my opinion.

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