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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (3D)

2012-12-12 13:10
 
The Hobbit
What's it about?

Set sixty years before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tells the story of Bilbo Baggins' first encounter with Gandalf The Grey as the two join forces with a group of dwarves to reclaim the dwarves' home from the dragon Smaug.

What we thought:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is, in many ways, the quintessential Peter Jackson film. It's self-indulgent, far too long and often tedious, but it's also beautifully assembled, unquestionably cinematic and sporadically brilliant. It also has a number of nice performances and a refreshingly lighter tone than the frequently overly earnest The Lord of the Rings films – though, of course, with no less walking.

The biggest problem at the heart of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is that it is only the first near-three-hour-long installment in a a trilogy that has, as its source, a children's novel that, with large type and double spacing, barely manages to clock in at 360 pages. It's at most a third of the length of The Lord of The Rings trilogy in novel form, but it's being adapted into a series of films that will end up being almost as long as Jackson's already over-stretched Rings adaptations.

Corporate greed may well play a part in this, but if there is one guy who would take a short novel and turn it into three over-extended blockbusters, it would be Peter Jackson.

What results is a film that may bear the Peter Jackson stamps of a striking visual design and a real sense of wonder, but it is also light on plot, surprisingly short on characterisation and far too reliant on a succession of (admittedly well done) set pieces that never quite manages to hide the fact that there just isn't that much going on story-wise. It also may be par for the course for this sort of epic fantasy, but some of the dialogue is pretty wretched too.

The film also commits the cardinal sin of prequels in that, rather than allowing its own story to stand on its own terms, it constantly and clumsily crowbars in references to the later films. The Lord of the Rings never needed any backstory so the decision to reposition The Hobbit as a really long preamble to those films is a frankly baffling mistake.

Fortunately, even with all these flaws and unfathomable misjudgements, there is at least enough good in the film to keep casual audiences satisfied and Tolkien fanboys thrilled. Martin Freeman, who has spent a career playing the likeable everyman is perfect as the self-confessed fuddy-duddy Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen plays Gandalf with such mischievous enthusiasm that it's impossible not to be caught up in the fun.

Best of all though, unsurprisingly, is the return of the incomparable Andy Serkis as Gollum. Gollum was already by far the best thing about The Lord of the Rings and his scenes are easily the best here. I'm not sure if he appeared in the original text, as his scene here ties in quite strongly to The Lord of the Rings, but in this case its hard to quibble with his subplot.

The entire scene comes across a bit like a darker, demonic version of Yoda's introduction in The Empire Strikes Back, mixed with smatterings of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and an evil Donald Duck. It has next to nothing to do with everything else going on in the film, but it's still a terrific diversion.

Would that the rest of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was this much fun. As it is, it is sure to delight the faithful but those of us who have yet to be converted to the Church of Tolkien will probably be left wondering what all the fuss is about – certainly at 48 frames per second.


Sure to delight the faithful, the occasionally brilliant but maddeningly uneven first instalment in an already over-stretched trilogy isn't going to win over any new converts.

NEXT ON CHANNEL24X

Oculus

2014-10-24 10:34

Add Your Review

(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Jackie 12/12/2012 10:22 AM
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Whatever! You still don't get it but hey, your reviews are poor anyway.
Ryan 12/12/2012 11:01 AM
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" I'm not sure if he appeared in the original text" yes he does appear in the original text. It took me about 30 seconds to find that out through Google. You could have just checked rather than make us question your credibility. I do agree with you about another trilogy though. I have a small print version which comes to 156 pages. A Trilogy for the Hobbit is nothing but cashing in by the Producers and Director. Corporate greed at its worst.
Ryan (2) 12/12/2012 11:14 AM
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I appreciate the review. If anything the truth isn't nice sometimes. I like the LOTR and Hobbit books (read them all many times), but I'd rather read a honest review than a fanboy promo. I'm really disappointed to hear the Hobbit will be Trilogy and fully agree its just milking the audience!
ALAN 12/12/2012 12:12 PM
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WAT TO LONG & BORING.
Olive 12/12/2012 12:49 PM
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@ Jackie - totally agree with you - i make sure i go and see the movie if it gets a poor review here.
PatPIon 12/12/2012 1:50 PM
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People shouldn't bash the trilogy idea if they don't know what is planned. It's not just a trilogy of The Hobbit book. There are many other parts of the LOTR universe that will be worked into the movies as well. I think it can be brilliant.
Sean 12/12/2012 2:18 PM
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Is this the same guy who gave the movie Shame 4 or 5 stars? That was one of the worse movies I saw. EVER.
Bob 12/12/2012 3:00 PM
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"rather than allowing its own story to stand on its own terms, it constantly and clumsily crowbars in references to the later films" Thats because The Hobbit set the foundation for the The Lord of the Rings. And yes smeagle appeared in The Hobbit, it is where Bilbo got the ring from in the first place. My my you should have at least gotten someone who had read the books to do the review. Loved this book as a kid.
Stephan 12/12/2012 3:44 PM
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Rookie mistake, Ilan.
Jese 12/12/2012 4:20 PM
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Did you even bother to read the book before writing this ubsurd review? next time do your homework
Ilan Preskovsky 12/12/2012 8:11 PM
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Jese, I'm not reviewing the book, I'm reviewing the film.
Stefan Viljoen-Els 12/12/2012 10:07 PM
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If you haven't seen it in HFR3D you can't comment.
Andy 12/12/2012 10:55 PM
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I think this is quite an accurate review. I also found the references to LOTR a bit heavy-handed - especially the prologue at the beginning with Frodo, which went on a bit long, in an already over-long film. There are some great parts though, as the reviewer acknowledged.
Rachel 12/12/2012 10:59 PM
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Ok you wrote this review without even reading the book well done. Obviously he meets Gollum in the book or how do you think he came into possession of the ring? That's one of the biggest plot points.
Alyson 12/13/2012 7:02 AM
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I really enjoyed it
MJ 12/13/2012 7:50 AM
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I had to laugh at the paragraph on Gollum, whether he was in the original text. That's going to offend many readers of The Hobbit. I have not yet seen the film, but one of my best memories of the book is the riddle scene between Bilbo and Gollum. And to comment on the lengths of books, without checking the speed of the story within, is dangerous.
Evert 12/13/2012 7:53 AM
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I enjoyed it, being a fan of the book, I expected that they would add a few scenes of their own. I assume smaug will be defeated in the second movie, which sets up the the 3rd movie for the battle of the five armies. An yes, Gollum does appear in the Hobbit, chapter six if I recall, it also happens a little differently, but the game of riddles was excellent.
Lola 12/13/2012 8:10 AM
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Oh for Christ's sake, this is a film review. It is a review of the film. FILM. If you'd like a book review you're in the wrong place. FFS.
Peter 12/13/2012 8:32 AM
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You sir are a Cad. Somewhat uncouth and utterly ill read, without substance or meaning. An insult to the journalistic profession with the audacity to sell yourself as qualified. Statements like: "I'm not sure if he appeared in the original text" "those of us who have yet to be converted to the Church of Tolkien" "The Lord of the Rings never needed any backstory" Show you up as the above. It is unfathomable to me that you actually have a job in the print media, not even mentioning a career. For a movie reviewer one would think that at the least you would have read the actual book, understood the literary impact of the book or at least gotten some background on these points from a more reputable source the "the onion" I shrink to think of what your review would be of "Atlas Shrugged: Part II" from Ayn Rand's pen. But being the first in your family to be born without a tail probably set the tone early on in your life. Good day and hope to never hear of you again.
Jackie 12/13/2012 8:39 AM
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The reason they are making it a trilogy is because Peter Jackson and his writing team are also include the books appendices and obviously also want to stay as true to the book as possible. IMDB's score for the movie is 8.9 and thats an average score from over 15000 votes. The movie can't be that bad, or is the reviewer trying to follow in Barry Ronge's footsteps?
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