The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey
I am a massive fan of the works of JRR Tolkien. A long time before the Peter Jackson films were released I had read the Lord of the Rings from cover to cover several times. When it was announced that the films were to be made in three parts I was delighted and I now own the extended versions on DVD. However, it was not until a few years ago that I read The Hobbit and the Silmarillion.
The Hobbit is written in a very different style from the Lord of the Rings and I wondered if it would ever be made into a film but am pleased that it has and that it has been done by Peter Jackson, who did such a great job with the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. The Hobbit is set in the period 60 years before the Lord of the Rings when a younger Bilbo Baggins finds the ring of power and encounters Golum/Smeagol.
However, the film begins with Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) in the Shire with the older Bilbo starting to write the account of his adventures. The film then jumps back to the day when Gandalf arranges for a group of dwarves to meet at the younger Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) house to begin their epic adventure. On their journey the dwarves (plus Bilbo) encounter orcs, trolls, elves and wizards.
It was good to see such great actors reprising their roles from the original LOTR films. There are the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand, from rocky plains to snow capped mountains, all of which our band of adventurers have to cross. There are also the beautifully created CGI images of cities above and below ground. One of the best moments for me was the company’s visit to Rivendell where they meet Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel and Saruman (who is not yet turned to the dark side). The CGI vistas of waterfalls and elvish architecture are stunning.
The 3D effects were less noticeable than I had expected. I am not sure if Vue Cinema, Reading were showing it in 24 frames per second or 48. Perhaps I am just becoming more used to 3D but there were some great opportunities for superb 3D effects, such as the flying eagles and the battles in the orc kingdom which did not seem to have a great impact.
I was not completely persuaded by the constant ability of the dwarves to navigate huge armies of orcs and trolls virtually unscathed. Their escape from the clutches of the orcs in their underground kingdom stretched even my credulity beyond its flexible limits. The orcs are so inept and the heroes so continually lucky in their falls and fights that it had more of the feel of a video game than a Tolkien narrative. I will have to re-read The Hobbit but I do not remember much of the content of the film being in the book. There are some very modern sections of dialogue and joking which felt out of place to me. The musical numbers also felt a little out of place on occasion. However, none of this detracted from a superb film which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Overall this is a ‘must see’ for any Tolkien fan or anyone who just enjoyed the LOTR films. The story hung together well throughout and the almost three hours passed all too soon for me. With two more instalments to come it will add up to a marathon session when all the extended DVDs are available to watch at home!
The film is rated as a 12A.