Setting Up The Review:
Here we are in the holiday season and many people may be considering going to the movies and plunking down $10-20 (each) for some entertainment with the family. It’s a pretty good excuse to get out of the house despite the cold, after all. Plus, by now, it may be worth any amount of money just to get out of the house and let yourself be entertained.
In preparation for the movie, I’ve been re-reading J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit yet again. I’ve probably read it 3-4 times previously through the years (The Hobbit was actually the first or second book I ever purchased and read). It is definitely one of my favorite books. In this case, however, it has been over 10 years since I read it. This stuff needs to be mentioned because a LOT of people have previously read The Hobbit, and as you know, that raises the criticism level on any movie by a tremendous factor.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of an overall larger story that comprises not only Tolkein’s book, The Hobbit, but also takes from other Tolkein books and manuscripts which take place prior to the events of The Lord of The Rings (both the books and the movies).
The story centers around a hobbit, Bilbo, who starts off being ambushed in his hobbit hole by an unexpected party of 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandalf (his first appearance in these stories, Chronologically). The group lays out a rough plan of action for the overall goal: to return to their home kingdom and take it back from the clutches of the dragon Smaug. Bilbo, being the soft and comfort-oriented hobbit that he is, wants no part of it.
In the end, though, he can’t resist the lure of adventure and thus it begins. Traveling through the shire, the downs and Ettenmoors. They, of course, encounter struggles along the way. They make it to Rivendell, then set off again to the Misty Mountains. More struggles ensue and Bilbo is split off from the rest of the party. Without giving too much detail, they get reunited just outside the mountain, only to be cornered yet again… then the movie ends.
One of the things about the movie that I love in comparison to the book is how Peter Jackson has taken information from Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle Earth books to fill in some other events that are occurring at roughly the same time as The Hobbit. These aren’t really fleshed out in any of the main books (Hobbit + LOTR) but there are references. Specifically, you get to meet Radagast and see some side story about the Necromancer. Hopefully this will get even more attention in the upcoming release(s).
I loved the way they show interactions between Gandalf, Saruman, and Galadriel while in Rivendell. It’s extremely well done.
Also, the way the movie is set up at the very beginning makes it clear that the intention is to tie these new installments into the overall story of the Lord of the Rings movies.
Just to be complete, this movie makes it approximately 1/3 of the way through The Hobbit. I’m not sure if that means there are 2 more movies coming. In a way, I hope so, because it is really well done and I 100$ expect those that follow to be equally so.
The special effects and cinematography in this film are absolutely stunning. Awesome. Seamless. The role of these things is to provide a good visual realization of the people, places, and things in the book in order to allow you to become immersed in the story (and suspend your disbelief). To that end, they get a 95% out of 100. It just doesn’t get much better than this, folks.
In regards to 3D – I can’t honestly say the 3D did much to enhance the experience for me. It was well done and certainly not distracting. It was pretty subtle most of the time, though, and honestly I didn’t think there was much about it to overcome the annoyance of having to wear 3D spectacles. There are probably those out there who will think it’s the best thing ever (feel free to flame me in the comments section ;).
This movie is right at 3 hours long. That’s a lot of time to watch a movie. But while you’re watching the movie, it feels more like 2 hours.
(I’m only taking off because it’s a really long movie that is just part one).
I think that the negative reviews you’ll probably read are from people for whom NO movie will EVER meet the high expectation created. That’s one problem with fantastic books. Especially ones that are childhood or life-long favorites. People develop very discrete visualizations and expectations that are just not reasonable. Others may not like the “extra material.” They may not even be aware that it is entirely canonical to the Tolkein story. I admit that it seems funny to do three 3-hour movies to cover a 245-page book. Especially when three 3+ hour movies covered a much much larger story in The Lord of the Rings.
If you, like me, love these stories and the Peter Jackson visualization, then maybe you will also, like me, find that you don’t want it to end. That the immersion in that incredibly beautiful world is so compelling and satisfying that it easily is worth the time.