The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
"The setting up of a story is always the hard part, so perhaps now the formalities are squared away, Jackson can get on with the meat of the matter."

Early in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit, Gandalf says: "All good stories deserve embellishment." Certainly the filmmaker - or those counting the gold up at Warner Brothers - must agree, as the children's favourite is to be split into a trilogy.

I'm not against the idea in principle but in practice it doesn't pay off as well as it might, with much of the charming simplicity of the original story being forced to square up against overbearing set-piece action sequences that have been added to bloat the runtime rather than push the narrative forward. The decision to hit the 12A rating squarely on the head also means that several scenes, particularly those involving Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) feel added more for their cuteness than content.

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The much-debated decision to shoot the film at the double rate of 48 frames per second is a score draw in terms of quality. On the one hand, the clarity is astoundingly good, but on the other, this makes the viewer much more aware of the film's artifice. There's a slightly plastic look to the dwarfs - as though they are actors in make-up, God forbid - and the CGI, while not quite a return to the creaky blue-screen days of yore, doesn't have the same sleight of hand at this speed.

Despite all this, Tolkein's story - here taken from the gathering of a band of dwarfs in Bilbo's humble hole on a dragon quest, to the hobbit's meeting with Gollum and a showdown with the orcs - shines through, thanks in no small part to the weight of acting talent on show.

Martin Freeman is perfect as the bumbling innocent abroad with his ever hungry stomach and a heart of gold and Ian McKellen yet again performs the wizard's trick of seeming to be born to play any role he takes on, bringing both gravitas and just a bit of danger to his portrayal of Gandalf. Andy Serkis returns as the ring-tarnished hobbit Gollum and his cave scene of riddles with Bilbo brings some much needed tension and emotion.

Given the runtime, it's a shame more emphasis isn't placed on character development, with only leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) making any real impact out of the 13 dwarfs on display. But the setting up of a story is always the hard part, so perhaps now the formalities are squared away, Jackson can get on with the meat of the matter. There are certainly hints of deeper considerations in store, if only the Fellowship of the Screenwriters (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Jackson, Guillermo del Toro) will concentrate on telling the story, rather than trying to create good looking show pieces that can be used for tie-in games or amusement rides.

Reviewed on: 12 Dec 2012
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey packshot
An ordinary hobbit is caught up with a group of dwarves en route to recover a legendary treasure from a dragon's lair.
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Max Crawford **

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, based on the book by JRR Tolkein.

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood

Year: 2012

Runtime: 169 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, New Zealand


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