The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Part 1: The Movie)

Review by Jim Smith
After the Lord of the Rings, there was a great deal of
clamoring for the Hobbit to reach the big screen in the same epic fashion.  It took only nine years of patience, and fans
were rewarded … oh were they rewarded.
By now, we all know the story.  A small hobbit of The Shire is drafted into a
company of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their ancestral kingdom from the
dragon Smaug.  Bilbo Baggins becomes a
most unlikely hero, and the fulcrum which would change the direction of the
future of the world … though that part of the story is not in the Hobbit, but
the Lord of the Rings, so let’s stick to the story at hand.
That, oddly enough, is the chief complaint people had of the
movie.  The movie included vast scenes
that do not appear in the book.  After
working very hard to stay true to the books when making the Lord of the Rings,
and making changes for the sake of time only grudgingly, Peter Jackson folds in
external information that, while germane to the story, it is history gleaned
from the appendixes of the Lord of the Rings and other works containing the collected
works and notes or JRR Tolkien.  While it
is germane to the story, it is history, and history … well who wants to read
that?  For that matter who even cares
about it?
Another issue that some viewers had a problem with was that
Peter Jackson chose to film The Hobbit in a higher than normal frame rate,
forty-eight frames per second.  Many
moviegoers saw it in a normal frame rate, twenty-four frames per second as many
of the prints sent out to theaters were downsampled.  However, moviegoers who saw it in digital 3D
were treated to the movie in all of its high-framerate splendor.  Likewise, viewers who saw it in digital 2D
got to see the beauty of the high-framerate as well.
So, on to the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good:  The
cinematography is without equal.  Just as
with The Lord of the Rings, sweeping vistas, epic scenes and wonderful use of
color and texture make this movie visually stunning.  The dialogue, while not exactly according to
Tolkien, is excellent.  Once again, PJ
delivers.
Dwarves singing.  It
is enough to give you chills when the basses and baritones sing of their
longing to cross the Misty Mountains to their homeland.
Sylvester McCoy as Radagast. 
The actor who once played the seventh incarnation of the Doctor in the
venerable series Doctor Who lends his unique comedic style to playing Radagast
the Brown, one of Gandalf’s peers on the council of the wise.  He plays the part to perfection and is one of
the gems of the extended story that Jackson weaves for us.
The Bad: Bilbo is made to seem much more heroic in the movie
than he should be.  Twice he has  the chance to abandon the quest and return
home.  The first time he would have but
for the intervention of the Goblins in the cave.  The second time, after escaping Goblin
Town,  he walks up to Thorin and says he
will not go home until he has helped Thorin reclaim his.
There are times, particularly when dealing with the subplot
of Azog, the White Orc that the story bogs down.  Also in Rivendell when the Dwarves are
portrayed as uncultured, boorish and frankly rude guests.
The hyper-realism created by the faster frame-rate is
especially noticeable in flyover scenes such as in Goblin Town.  It caused some audience members to feel
queasy in the theatrical release, particularly in 3D showings.
The Ugly: Azog.  ‘Nuff
said.
All in all, the movie met the expectations of most fans, and
we all reveled as Biblo ran after the dwarves shouting “I’m going on an
adventure!”  We join him, and we can’t
wait for the next leg of our journey.
This review is written upon me buying the 2D
Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultra Violet combo pack. 
Part 2 of this review will focus on the Blu Rays and special features.

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