The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) | Movie Review
Release date: December 14, 2012
Runtime: 2 hr. 49 min.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I cannot tell you how excited I was for this movie to finally come out. I fell in love with Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy back when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, so naturally when I heard he was working on The Hobbit I started counting down to the release date. Then the reviews from advance screenings started coming in with very mixed feedback - something I did not expect. My confusion reached its peak when I found out the movie was actually the first part of a trilogy. At this point I was worried: a book that's only about 300 pages is split into three parts, with the first one being almost three hours long? That seemed a bit extreme since one can read 100 pages out loud faster than that. Nevertheless, I hoped for the best and went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with an open mind.
Before I continue, let me get this out of the way: I really liked the movie! It was exactly what I expected it to be and I cannot wait for the other two to come out. I guess I can see why some people might have been unhappy - the pacing is on the slower side here and there is a lot of setting up and connecting the dots with the events of The Lord of the Rings. I personally had absolutely no problem with this: when the lore that rich and the books that epic why would a film adaptation suddenly make things quick and simple? I'm going to go even further and say that I enjoyed all the details and the elaborate setup very much, but I might be biased since I love fantasy and would probably trade my life in this world for Middle-earth in a heartbeat.
The characters and the actors portraying them are great. There are a lot of familiar faces that the audiences have grown to love, but the new guys definitely hold their own. Regardless of how much I got to find out about the characters, I still knew each one had a backstory and I cared about every single one, whether it's a central figure like Thorin or one of the dwarves who didn't get much screen time. And then there is Gollum - I couldn't probably watch a whole film about Gollum because he's just as good as it gets. The only issue I see here is that the film is clearly targeted at people who are already familiar with Lord of the Rings - there isn't really much set up for the leading characters in the trilogy. This might be a problem for someone trying to see the films for the first time in "chronological" order - while it doesn't really affect the story, the character relationships might seem confusing.
Visually The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is stunning. From the breathtaking scenery, to the smallest design details, to the visual effects - everything looks amazing. I did end up seeing the film in 3D, but not in 48 frames. The 3D was actually better than I expected, I even had to dodge a few things and the experience did not give me a headache (normally my head starts exploding halfway through a 3D movie). I specifically didn't want to see the HFR (High Frame Rate) version. Call me old fashioned, but I do not enjoy that ultra-HD movie look - it takes the "magic" away for me. I will probably get used to it eventually, but I did not want to experiment with this film. The CGI, although very present, does not take over the movie. The only time it comes close is for a few shots in a troll cave, but even that is no Avatar moment.
Before I finish up, I want to quickly mention the music. While I expected a great soundtrack, I did not expect three actual songs (except for the dwarf theme song that was seen and heard in the trailer). I thought the singing added a very nice dimension to the film and I definitely hope for more music in the next two movies. I'm still humming that dwarf theme!
I would recommend this first part of The Hobbit to anyone who enjoyed The Lord of the Rings. There are so many great things about his film! I loved being back to Tolkien's world and Peter Jackson's vision. I'm not going to rate the movie - all I'm going to say is that this definitely wasn't the last time I've watched it.