Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a movie unfortunately crippled right out of the starting block. It’s like an Orc was waiting for Bilbo and smacked him with a morning star just as he tried to leave Bag End. Possibly even sooner, as he picked up his pen to write the words ‘There and back again…’
The Hobbit is the story of a young Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) going on an adventure with the wizard Galdalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and more dwarves then you can sneeze at (see what I did there?). The general aim is to go and kill a dragon. I can’t tell you how the movie ends, because it doesn’t, and my memory of the book is a bit sketchy because a fair few years have passed since I was twelve.
Martin Freeman plays the role of Bilbo with the perfect mix of nervous bravery and terror as you’d hope for at this stage of the adventure. Ian McKellen reprising the role of Gandalf is like the return of an old friend. Together they do the heavy lifting of the movie, as it meanders from exciting generic battle to heavy exposition. Gollum appears in a scene, and in the process, steals it. As for the dwarves, while excessive in number, they’re rather interchangeable. Sure, there’s a fat dwarf, an old dwarf, an angry dwarf… but at least there’s no stunt casting amongst their number.
Finally the movie itself looks beautiful. The vibrant colour and sweeping majestic landscapes are enough to make Tourism New Zealand weep with joy. The extra 24 frames a second it was filmed in didn’t make the slightest difference from where I was sitting, but hey, I appreciated the gesture.
Beyond that it’s a bit of a mess.
With its runtime already nudging three hours, it suddenly becomes all the more easier to notice that you’re forty-five minutes in and Bilbo hasn’t left his Hobbit hole. An hour later and with the dwarves getting rescued for the fifth time, you’re a lot more aware of your bladder than you have ever been. With a 300-ish page book stretched into a 600 minute trilogy, pacing problems need to be expected. Tedium sets in.
Suddenly you’ve got a Goblin King who breaks out into a musical number (and no, it isn’t ‘Dance magic’). Gollum’s appearance drags on for so long that Jackson was probably tempted to break it off into a separate trilogy. Characters from The Lord of the Rings are shoe-horned in when they weren’t needed, and hold up the plot in the process. The movie is carrying more baggage then can comfortably fit in Bag End.
But look past that… which, trust me, is easy to do… and enjoy what I can only describe as ‘an effing beautiful movie’. It’s a classic film in the same way that The Lord of the Rings was before it… it’s just a shame it will take another six hours to complete.