Movie Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

TheHobbit_1920x1080_desktop-wallpaperHaving finally gone to see The Hobbit this past weekend, I’m probably the next-to-last person to do so. I’ve been so busy lately that I kept putting it off until I finally realized that if I didn’t see it soon, it would be gone from the big screen, and this is one of those epic movies that gives you a much different experience on the big screen than on a TV. Although I enjoy 3-D movies, I wasn’t sure I wanted to wear the glasses for 3 hours, and I had no desire to see the 48 fps – it just looks wrong. So my buddy Kelly & I chose a standard 24 fps, non 3-D showing in a small living room theater at Cinetopia. I found a nice, over-stuffed chair, ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a wild berry slushy, and settled in. Since we were there early, we watched the “making of” documentary for a good 30 minutes or so, which I love (as if you couldn’t tell by my fascination with Face Off’s makeup effects).

Finally the movie started. There was a brief bit of flak during the early moments of the movie when somebody behind us started taking flash pictures of the screen with their phone. After some threatening looks from the rest of us, and someone making a trip to the usher to complain, people settled down and we were able to enjoy the movie. Nearly 3 hours later, we left to head home and talked about the movie for pretty much the entire 30 minute drive. Kelly & I both approached it differently; I was the one who had read Tolkien’s books many years ago as a teenager and had enjoyed the LotR movies (with a few minor complaints), while Kelly had never read the books and didn’t really care for the LotR movies (he said there was too much walking and fighting). I was also bringing in some preconceptions based on a number of bad reviews I had read online, centered around the movie not following the book, and that the new story lines were out of place.

The verdict from both of us was that it was an excellent movie. Not flawless, mind you, but thoroughly enjoyable. For Kelly, it was easy for him to say it was better than LotR, because that trilogy was very serious, apocalyptic, and boring to him. What he liked in The Hobbit was magic, light-heartedness, and a sense of wonder at seeing another world. I’m not inclined to disagree. Nothing will top Fellowship for me, which I felt was pretty much perfect except for the omission of the barrow wights. I will always remember the thrill of Fellowship unfolding visually just as I had imagined it. The Hobbit, however, comes pretty darn close. Based on reviews I had read, I thought I would hate the new inclusions – Radagast, the pale orc, the rock giants…but as it turns out, I loved nearly every minute of it. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the Goblin King’s voice, which sounded a little too cultured for me, and the “council” of Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel, and Saruman. I would have preferred to have seen a prologue involving the Witch-King of Angmar’s defeat by the Dunedain, in order to set up the story of the Necromancer…instead this is explained by the council. Otherwise I very much enjoyed the movie. It’s everything LotR is not – as it should be. I can see how some people would be upset that the movie is not a literal translation of the book through film – but I’m not one of them.

In my youth I played  MERPS – the Middle Earth Role Playing System, or the LotR equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons. It gave players the means to see an expanded vision of Tolkien’s world – to create a character that never existed in the books but could have, to explore ruins like Weathertop, and to face enemies such as the Witch King of Angmar, the Necromancer, or even Shelob. Each adventure booklet contained a wealth of material that, like some of new story lines in The Hobbit, were hinted at by Tolkien but never realized. That makes me one of the least critical people when it comes to introducing new material into The Hobbit. What Peter Jackson has done with this movie is establish a consistent look and feel, and though not totally true to the book, it captures the book’s spirit of adventure. If you can choose to believe there is a wonderful story to be told here, that doesn’t have to follow the book and can look into more of Tolkien’s universe, and even introduce new story lines, I highly recommend this movie.