A Surprise Straight Out Of Bag End: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit (poster)
Copyright © 2012 by Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

I have been a fan of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien ever since my dad read the book to me as a bedtime story.  I love Bilbo Baggins and the company of dwarves and their colorful journey through danger and fortune in Middle-earth.

So when I heard that The Hobbit was being adapted to film, I was excited.  When I heard about it being released in 3-D at a rate of 48 frames per second, and divided up into an entire trilogy, I was less optimistic.  Reading a few early reviews only worsened my outlook.

I can now say how glad I am to have been so wrong.

Bilbo Baggins and Company
Bilbo (Martin Freeman) at the start of his journey.  Copyright © 2012 by Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3-D at 48 fps.  While the frame rate is at first unsettling, it wasn’t hard to get into it.  In fact, I felt more involved with the film because of it.  Yes, sometimes it doesn’t integrate well with more elaborate CGI, but I like how fluid the actors and scenery becomes.  I felt far more immersed that way than with the 3-D effects.  They’re still distracting to say the least, and I really wish Hollywood would stop trying to release films in 3-D.  It’s possible to make box office profits without that kind of gimmick.

Martin Freeman is brilliant as Bilbo Baggins; he’s every bit as respectable, flustered, and crafty as the character from the book, and no more need be said.  The thirteen dwarves are all fairly standard, though Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) is reimagined as a warrior like Aragorn, only grimmer and more vengeful.  Ian McKellen is still wonderful as Gandalf, though it’s nice to see him being outdone as an eccentric by Radagast (Sylvester McCoy), even if Radagast’s scenes come a little out of left field with little impact on the plot.  Andy Serkis deserves credit for being a treat as Gollum, particularly since we get to see the famous riddle-game brought to life with Martin Freeman’s help. For me, that scene was the highlight of the entire film.

Going into this movie, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a strict adaptation of The Hobbit as I remember it from my childhood.  It wasn’t, and yet there was a spirit of the original story that showed itself in the film.  Yes, most of the epic action scenes and character interpretations would better fit The Lord of the Rings than The Hobbit, but Bilbo has been brought to life on the silver screen and that’s really what counts.  For every new Orc-battle and cutaway to the Necromancer subplot (referenced in the Lord of the Rings Appendices), it’s still a grand adventure and it’s hard not to cheer for Bilbo and the dwarves as they get through every hardship.  To see a young hobbit on this journey and hear the dwarves sing “Far over the misty mountains cold,” it gives me faith in Peter Jackson’s take on Tolkien’s work, and hope for the next installment.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is available through Warner Bros. Pictures.

Bibliography: The Hobbit (2012 film).  Directed by Peter Jackson.  Produced by Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson.  Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo Del Toro.  Based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Perf. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis.  New Line Cinema; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; WingNut Films.  Warner Bros. Pictures.  US release date: December 14, 2012.

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