If I told you about a movie involving a funny little British man’s house being raided by even smaller hairy men who eat and sing, which then results in all of them taking a hike in the forest to partake in a mission and in the process find themselves on this existential journey – would you believe me that it’s not a sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel but a prequel to the epic Lord Of The Rings series? Better yet, would you see it? My review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after the jump.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a strict fellow who spends his time smoking his pipe and eating alone. Living in ‘The Shire’ (no, not that one) which is a quiet and quaint little town set in a time way before when. His little world is thrown off guard when he’s approached by a gang of dwarves and their leader, a wizard, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to join them on a journey to take back the dwarves homeland which has been taken by a dragon, Smaug. They’re desperate but Bilbo wants nothing more than to be happy and comfortable in his home. However, against all odds, Bilbo joins them on their quest where they come across goblins, rock giants and a whole menagerie of weird and fantastical creatures who either aid or delay their journey in some way.
For most, no plot synopsis could sell The Hobbit as it’s been sold long before anyone reading this review was born. Based on the fantasy novel by J.R.R Tolkien which then led to one of the most beloved series of all time, The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit is the story before the story. Unlike millions around the world, I am not a fan of Lord Of The Rings – so how did I go with The Hobbit? And how will others non-fans of the series go if curiosity gets the better of them and they see the film regardless? Well, (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I loved it. BUT, let me explain.
The performances are of course stellar, especially from Freeman whose reactions to the strangest and most terrifying of situations are funny, yet human. Unlike Frodo who merely looked bug-eyed whilst looking at a ring and walking, Bilbo breathes, laughs, cries for help and shows real character and diversity. You’re stuck with him and these dwarves for 166 minutes, and thankfully there’s a bit of life and excitement to each of them. The dwarves all have their own personalities, most of them being playful, yet loyal – with the one exception being Thorin (Richard Armitage). Thorin’s father was killed in the failed battle to save their land, and he is hell-bent on avenging his death and claiming what’s rightfully theirs. He’s a guarded, strict and cold character, who we understand yet struggle to like; but of course this changes as the journey progresses.
The battles and epic set pieces are extraordinary. They don’t go on for ten years, but instead are delicately placed in between the story progression and character interactions. Having spent so much time with this band of merry yet determined people, we really do care when things get rough and hairy (no pun intended). Adapted and directed by Peter Jackson, I honestly believe he’s improved as a film-maker and as a storyteller with The Hobbit, as he injects more humour and humanity into the piece. It’s all well and good to show off how one can kill an elephant with a bow and arrow, but it’s the trick of making us care about a group of hairy dwarves that resemble furies, that really highlights a great film-maker and storyteller. I was right there with them the whole way
With more humour and heart than previous Lord of the Rings films, I surrendered myself to The Hobbit and had an amazing time. Although the film does run for 166 minutes, (although feeling labored in extended moments in time), you’re still invested, and the film welcomes you at each twist and turn to have fun and embrace all that goes on. Lastly, I have to mention the return of Gollum (Andy Serkis), who although not given much screen time, steals every moment he’s in.
Now this is a blockbuster! There’s nothing wrong with a group of men walking and running for 3 hours, as long we’re invested in walking with them.
By Chris Elena
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer(s): Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, J.R.R Tolkien (Novel)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian Mckellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Elijah Wood
Runtime: 116 minutes
Release Date(s): Australia: December 26, 2012; New Zealand: December 12, 2012; USA: December 14, 2012