‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Review

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
– The Hobbit

I must start with a confession: I only saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this week, and for a Tolkien fan that is shocking, given that it came out almost a month ago. But I have seen it now (in 3D, and at the higher frame rate of 48 fps, no less), and that’s the main thing.

Ever since I went to the world premiere of The Hobbit in Wellington (the capital of New Zealand), I have been looking forward to seeing the film. I quite like Tolkiens work, and I have 4 of his books (if you count The Lord of the Rings as one book).

What’s good about this film?

One thing I quite liked about the film was that there is a prologue at the start of the film that explains how Smaug the dragon destroyed Dale and took Erebor from the dwarves, forcing Thorin, the leader of the company of dwarves we see later on, to flee. The prologue also shows the viewers why Thorin and company want to reclaim Erebor. These two things might not be known to those who haven’t read The Hobbit, which is probably one reason why the prologue is there, but even for me, having read the book a while ago, it is still very entertaining and interesting.

The music is amazing. The score for the three Lord of the Rings films was absolutely stunning, so it will come as no surprise that the score for The Hobbit is of a similar calibre. Some of the music in The Hobbit was even very similar to the music that was used for The Lord of the Rings, as were some of the shots used. For example, when Gandalf sends the moth to get the eagles to come and help the company at the end of the film, the shot used when he talks to the moth is very similar to the one used in The Fellowship of the Ring when he sends a moth to get the eagles to help him escape from Isengard, which is Saruman’s tower. The are some striking similarities between these scenes.

Another standout was the singing, in particular the dwarves singing the misty mountain song, which appeared in part in one of the trailers for the film. Singing is a prominent part of the book, as there are many songs that appear throughout it, so it’s good to see at least some of the songs appear in the film.

The performances from all the cast are very good, and very believable. The standout performance for me was the performance by Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin, the leader of the company of dwarves. That’s because it’s just so easy to believe his performance, and that Thorin genuinely doesn’t like Bilbo, or the fact that he’s a part of the company. The believability of a performance, for me, is a very important part of what makes it great. It’s so important for me that I even mentioned it in my last film review as well.

What’s bad about this film?

In this film there are a fair few dwarf jokes. There’s nothing wrong with that (they are quite funny), but I’d hate to see what the extended edition of this film is like. There are only so many dwarf jokes you can have in one film, after all.

Also, in the scene where the company enters the trolls caves, it is quite hard to see where the dwarves are when the trolls are smothering them. That may very well be the point of that part of the scene, but I found it very annoying not being able to tell what exactly was going on.

Aside from that, there aren’t really any significant bad things about this film.

It could be argued that the hype surrounding this film is bad, but I believe that’s just part of how Hollywood does business.

Summary

The first instalment of The Hobbit film trilogy is a superb film overall, with a couple of small annoyances. They don’t detract too much from the film overall, though.

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2 thoughts on “‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Review

  1. chadadada

    I agree that the explanation of the backstory told in the prologue was appropriate and necessary, but I’m not entirely sure I liked how it was integrated into the film. I think I would have preferred that it was placed in the middle of the dinner party, as was the initial explanation in the book when Thorin explained it to Bilbo. It seems to me that targeting an onscreen character for explanation is better than targeting the audience for explanation; either way, the audience gets an explanation, but the better way is to integrate it into the story so that it’s not out of place.

    Regarding the music, I completely agree. Howard Shore’s scores to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy are first-class. He’s a master with what are called leitmotifs – brief musical melodies used to represent a character, a place, an event, etc. – which is what you heard in this film. My two favorite examples of returning leitmotifs in The Hobbit are: 1) when we see Saruman for the first time in Rivendell for the White Council scene, we hear the theme that was first introduced in Fellowship of the Ring, the theme that represented Saruman’s Uruk-Hai orcs; 2) right after we meet Gollum in this film, the leitmotif for The One Ring (which was being teased throughout the whole movie up to that point) plays for the first time…it sent a chill up my spine! I also loved the incorporation of the dwarves’ songs. While the Misty Mountains song was definitely cool, I was particularly impressed to hear the “Blunt the Knives” song, which made me literally laugh out loud when I first read it in the book.

    As for your dislikes, I’m not sure if I can remember any of the “dwarf jokes” you mention, and I’m not entirely sure I know what you mean about the scene with the trolls, but oh well. Since you said you saw it in 48fps…did you not have any problems with the higher frame rate? Everything was fine with me until CGI started popping up; the HFR made it all look cartoony, which was a real problem since all of the orcs were computer generated in this film, and so was Gollum. I talk about all of that in my own review, if you’re interested: http://chadlikesmovies.com/2012/12/14/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-2012/

    Anyway, I enjoyed your review, and I hope you can find the time to read mine. I’ll certainly be back to read more!

    Happy writing,

    Chad

    Reply
    1. markmcbaker Post author

      Thanks for the comment Chad!

      With regards to the higher frame rate, you’re right, I didn’t have any issue with it. For me, it made the film seem more realistic than films that use 24 fps. I didn’t have any issue with the visual effects like you did, though. I personally thought they were fantastic, but that’s just my take on it.

      I’ll go read you’re review of The Hobbit now. I’m glad to hear you’ll be back for more. 🙂

      Mark

      Reply

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