Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Year: 2012

Genre: Action/Adventure

Rated: PG-13

Length: 169 min.

IMDB Summary: A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on a "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim a their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.

Packed with action, suspense and laughs, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey proves to be a thrilling adventure story--however, the plot feels discombobulated at best. Although The Hobbit is a fun adventure story (as compared to the serious quest of the trilogy), the film adaption has a plot that branches out in too many directions. For example, viewers hardly know which villain on which to focus their wrath--there is the white orc, the necromancer, the goblin king, Smaug and, of course, Sauron. Add to that the frequent sidetracks from the main plot (the brown wizard, for example) and the lengthy amount of time spent in the Shire before the band of travelers begins their quest, and viewers' confusion may well be complete. Another criticism is that overall I found that video game-esque action sequences overshadowed character development and acting potential. Thorin is--by far--the most developed of the dwarves, but he does not draw viewers into the story as a sympathetic character. As portrayed onscreen, there is nothing that sets Armitage's character apart from the typical fantasy action hero--a tough cookie and a bit aloof, but skilled with the blade. He comes off as rather one-sided in his stereotypical strong, silent character.

On the bright side, Freeman is excellent as Bilbo, though I would've liked Freeman to have more screen time in the traveling scenes instead of the dwarves and goblins. I hope in the future films he will be allowed more opportunities to act. McKellen does a fine job portraying Gandalf and, surprisingly, lightening the mood on many occasions. Serkis is masterful in his portrayal of Gollum. My favorite scene (besides the hungry trolls and the dwarves' arrival at Bag End) was Riddles in the Dark. Bilbo and Gollum's  game of riddles, fraught with tension, is captured skillfully in this scene. I also enjoyed the many allusions to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, though I hope the loose ends created by these hints (especially by the morgul blade and the necromancer) will be addressed in future installments. I am also glad that The Hobbit has its own musical theme, but still I wish not so much of the trilogy music was used (trying to apply the Gondor coronation theme to a dwarf scene threw me for a loop).

Overall, The Hobbit is a thrilling adventure, but do not expect it to have the same cohesion in plot and character development as the trilogy.

For Parents:
Action/adventure violence, but not as intense as the trilogy. Whereas the trilogy features Nazgul, massacres and slaughter of humans, The Hobbit features mostly trolls, goblins and brief glimpses of a dragon. The battle scenes shown do not have the same emotional pull as those in the trilogy because they feature goblins fighting random dwarves, rather than orcs fighting men that the audience cares about. The scariest element for kids is probably the Wargs, the massive wolf-like creatures ridden by the orcs.

My Rating:

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