The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey  (2012)    71/100

Rating :   71/100                                                                     169 Min        12A

The long awaited prequel to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy from director Peter Jackson finally hits the big-screen and delivers a faithful adventure back into the lush meadows and goblin invested caverns of Middle-earth. The story follows the youthful adventures of Bilbo Baggins, as he embarks upon the titular unexpected journey with Gandalf the Grey and an entourage of dwarven companions. The scope of the film is wonderful, and fans of both Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkien will be glad to see that there are quite a few extras in the film taken from outwith the relatively small confines of ‘The Hobbit’ the novel, but still from the pages of Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth from other sources.

It has been said that spinning a much smaller story out over three films again (‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’, and ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ will be released in 2013 and 2014 respectively) is simply a cynical attempt to make as much money as possible from a venture which is guaranteed to do just that, given ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was one of the most successful film franchises of all time, and the third film ‘The Return of the King’ one of the most successful at the Oscars in their history too. However, the new trilogy is also an opportunity for the fans and filmmakers alike to once again invest in a world they love, and to bring as much of it to life as possible, and with that in mind using material other than just ‘The Hobbit’ is not only valid but to be actively encouraged.

A major let down and problem with the film is, unfortunately, Peter Jackson’s style of shooting action sequences. Here there are many, many, confrontations of sword and magic, and though the details differ, they are all essentially one and the same thing. Believability and tension are the casualties of bad guys that are too easy to kill, and good guys that should by rights all be dead a thousand times over. In fact, one sequence seems to be an exact replica of one the director has already used in his version of ‘King Kong’ (05), a film that was good visually but was all but destroyed by nonsensical action set pieces.

It would have been much better to keep the action gritty and tense, even at the expense of the grandeur that has been put into the final version. In a sense, the action does fit with what is supposed to be the translation of fiction aimed at younger readers (‘The Lord of the Rings’ was aimed at a more adult readership compared to ‘The Hobbit’), but adult audiences will almost certainly find it dull and a little disappointing. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see Sir Ian McKellen back on the big-screen as Gandalf, though they seemed to have used prosthetics to make him look older than in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, and yet they’ve sensibly used computers to make a lot of the other characters look younger.

The young Bilbo is played by Martin Freeman, who was head hunted for the role, and the dwarves feature a range of accents and talents from across the British Isles – no doubt we will come to know, and probably love, them much better over the next few years. Female readers might want to debate this list trending on Facebook at the moment – the-13-dwarves-in-the-hobbit-ranked-by-hotness.

An enjoyable sorte back into Middle-earth. Hopefully the action will have a little more bite to it next time round. Also, note the somewhat frugal use of transportation at the end…

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