So the version I saw of this was the IMAX 3D 24 psf. 3D barely works on this bogan so I can’t really quantify or comment on that portion of the flick at all. From a structural point of view the film is very much THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, a prologue on the history of the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor segueing into a catch up with Frodo and Bilbo snr that falls right before Big Bilbs 111th birthday.
People can hark on about exploding THE HOBBIT novel into 3 films (even I was a bit – ‘oh dear this is going to be a laborious outing’) but AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY never felt like a chore to watch. Sure, there’s loads of exposition and I had fun going ‘Well that’s from Fellowship’ yada yada, but all these cues are there to link it directly into the LOTR trilogy.
The film is as handsome an effort as Jackson has ever done and whereas the original 3 used a lot of make up effects for Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and assorted beasties there is a much greater usage of digital VFX on show here. It’s not a bad thing per se as they do look good (except one sequence where the Wizard Radagast is running away from some very obviously animated bats) and I could imagine the delivery deadlines would’ve been incredibly tight too.
The action sequences all work well and follow the same principle in each, they fight, they get caught up and Gandalf saves the day. It’s all lifted by a constantly fluid moving camera and vfx work to make the action in turn hair raising, punchy and comical when needed.
All the performers are solid, McKellen’s Gandalf is a welcome return, as is Gollum, but the strongest and most dynamic character (as all the other reviews have said) is Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield – he’s the best thing in this. Of all the 12 Dwarves his is the most explored, being their pride driven leader and Armitage really gives him an intensity that likens him to Aragorn (a man burdened with a heritage he must honour/avenge). Being there are so many Dwarves, you might think you’re underexposed to all of them and you’d be right but as the trilogy rolls out I’m sure they’ll flesh em out for you.
Freeman’s Bilbo is solid with nice mannerisms he’s mimicking from Ian Holm’s version to marry the two. It’s funny though, even though this is called THE HOBBIT, this first entry didn’t really feel like he was the central character – again we’ve got a ways to go yet so no big deal – but this is really a movie about Thorin.
The film is loaded with LOTRisms – mountains of sweeping shots of the New Zealand countryside, plenty of walking shots of the ‘Fellowship’, deep cavern shots and plenty of visits to familiar locations. Jackson and crew are certainly welcoming the fans home.
If anything the film is bloated, there’s so much exposition (a fair chunk of it is superfluous to me – but for the LOTR fan you’ll lap it up – I didn’t see any point in the Bilbo/Frodo chat at the start nor the Elrond/Galadriel/Saruman/Gandalf table chat both of which could’ve been left to the very end of Part 3 or communicated in a single line of dialogue or v/o) and a few of the myriad of establishing shots could easily be trimmed down just to make it punchier. Having said that I was never bored watching the film, I never checked my watch at all.
I was happily surprised at how entertaining this is and I was ever happier to be back in Middle Earth.
3D THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is in Cinemas Everywhere Now