The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


Reviewed by: Max Crawford

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
"The pacing is agonisingly ponderous: in the screening I attended two ents got up and left."

The Hobbit is a fun adventure story aimed largely at children, in which a band of larger-than-life characters set out to reclaim a hoard of treasure from a fearsome dragon. In adapting The Hobbit for the big screen, Peter Jackson has chosen to break it down into three films, the first of which is just shy of three hours long.

You are sitting in a darkened cinema, watching Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. There is an entirely unnecessary introduction which serves only to shoehorn in Ian Holm and Elijah Wood. You sneak a look at your phone: the film is ten minutes in and the story has not yet begun. You wait. Time passes.

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After twenty-five minutes dwarfs are hurling crockery around Bilbo's hobbit-hole in an admittedly perfect recreation of a scene from the first chapter of the book. The first chapter. You wait. Time passes. Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.

It's a good three-quarters of an hour before the quest actually begins, and even then it's mostly dwarfs leisurely riding ponies across majestic landscapes. The pacing is agonisingly ponderous: in the screening I attended two ents got up and left. Very slowly.

There are plenty of great moments in The Hobbit, but they're spread out like not enough butter across too much bread. The stone trolls arguing over the best way to cook 13 dwarfs and one hobbit, for instance, or Bilbo's battle of riddles with Gollum. The film shines when its characters are allowed to interact in meaningful ways, a depressingly infrequent occurrence. By contrast, does any film need a three-minute montage sequence in which Sylvester McCoy fails to medicate a hedgehog? I move that it does not. In what was most likely a well-intentioned effort to include at least one female character in the film, Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf and Saruman sit around and discuss absolutely nothing while in the background we watch the sun rise and then set again in real time. Hoom hom.

The 3D effects are exceptionally good, for what it's worth. Middle Earth feels at least tangible, if not exactly real. This seems to be at least partly down to the decision to shoot The Hobbit at 48 frames per second: twice the usual speed. This affords each frame an impressive clarity, reducing motion blur and resulting in some incredible set-piece action sequences. The unfortunate drawback is that everything looks cheap: props and make-up effects no longer stand up to the level of scrutiny they're under. The immersive quality of the 3D is further ruined by odd moments where characters appear to be moving too quickly, or camera moves appear too swift. Opt for the 24fps version if offered the choice.

Martin Freeman does a great job as Bilbo whenever he's given the chance, though the character development from reluctant adventurer to heroic hobbit isn't terribly well handled. Richard Armitage struggles to differentiate Thorin's gruff, capable, dispossessed dwarf-king from Aragorn's gruff, capable, dispossesed man-king who trod these exact same landscapes in The Lord Of The Rings. Ian McKellen continues to convince everyone that he might actually be Gandalf. The only other character who will remain in your head for more than a second after the credits roll is Radagast the Brown, and he's terrible. All in all, not nearly enough to hold the attention for three whole hours, and even the prospect of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug doesn't much lighten the prospect of slogging though the sequels.

The film goes ever on and on Out from the door where it began Now far ahead the film has gone Let others follow it who can

Reviewed on: 11 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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Amber Wilkinson ***

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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