The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [3D] (2012)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Release Date: December 14, 2012 (Wide)
Rating: 8.50 out of 10
Review by: George Beremov
Arriving almost a decade after The Return of the King, Peter Jackson’s long-awaited prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey celebrates the start of a whole new trilogy, and what a magical start it is! Having said that, do not expect another Lord of the Rings movie, so loyal fans of the trilogy, consider yourselves warned.
Taking place sixty years before The Lord of the Rings, the story unfolds around the much younger hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who sets out on an “unexpected” journey to the Lonely Mountain with a group of thirteen dwarves to reclaim their home from terrifying Smaug, the dragon.
Unlike the Lord of the Rings films, the first installment in the three-part sequel of The Hobbit is way more light-weighted, brighter in tone, and definitely not as action-packed as its three predecessors, as it focuses more on explaining everything we don’t know and need to know in a humorous, and kind of relaxed way, rather than providing us with non-stop spectacle.
The first half is reasonably slow-moving and lacking in action and vigor, spending all of its time on setting up the following “unexpected journey,” and introducing familiar as well as new characters, and giving them the depth and development they deserve. As soon as the journey starts, however, the pacing picks up rather quickly, and continues to flow smoothly throughout, injecting a dose of needed energy into the storytelling. It has everything from elves and orcs to trolls and goblins, and that diversity adds flavor to the adventure. The final act kind of makes up for the slow start, allowing the viewers to witness the incredible finale of the first entry, one filled with thrills, action, excitement, intensity, and eye-catching visuals.
Speaking of visuals, director Peter Jackson once again has chosen the most breathtaking filming locations in beautiful New Zealand, and that combined with the first-class CGI work leads to a spectacular visual result, the majesty of which will leave you in awe. The use of 3D is spot on, if not the best, but on certain scenes it’s incredibly effective, and makes you feel part of what’s happening on screen. The rock giants battle is a short, but very memorable part of the story, the final action scene is startlingly entertaining, and the scenes in the elves’ kingdom are a true state-of-the-art and gorgeous to look at. Aside from some pacing issues here and there, Peter Jackson’s direction is hard to fault really. His skills as a filmmaker have improved even more, especially in the technical department. As expected, he shows off his recognizable shooting style, and displays a tasteful visual flair, and remarkable attention to detail, complementing all of that with polished camera work and editing.
Apart from Bilbo Baggins, played wonderfully by Martin Freeman, the dwarves are also at the center of attention in this one, and oh boy, are they fun to watch! The actors playing them seem to have the time of their lives, delivering lively, amusing, and candid performances. Ian McKellen returns as the great wizard, Gandalf, and he appears to be fully dedicated to his character. However, it’s Andy Serkis as the schizophrenic Gollum that shines the brightest.
Bottom line: It lacks the grim feel and refined complexity that turned The Lord of the Rings trilogy into such a timeless fantasy classic, but The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still an entertaining, visually-sumptuous and passionately-crafted prequel, and a more-than-solid start to the upcoming trilogy that will please fans and non-fans alike.
A movie reviewer since 2004, George Beremov has a soft spot for horror, fantasy and martial arts films in particular, but as a true cinema connoisseur, he adores all the other genres as well. Eight years ago, he started writing reviews on a movie journal over at Rotten Tomatoes, but then left it behind, in order to run his own blog –CineMarvellous! – which became very successful since its debut back in mid-2009. You can follow George on Twitter @CineMarvellous and/or become a member of his blog (http://cinemarvellous.blogspot.com.) He is a regular contributor to White Cat.