Monday, 13 May 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Lowdown: The Hobbit gets the Lord of the Rings treatment.
There aren’t many books out there that had as much influence on me as The Hobbit does. I still remember it staring at me from the window of this bookshop I would pass by as a child. Up until, that is, I went in and bought it – still a child. It turned out to be something truly special: in retrospect I can say I do not think it as good a book as The Lord of the Rings turned out to be a couple of years later, but it was damn good! The type of book I found myself reading again and again with no pause. What I am trying to say is, children books – or, as the current terminology goes, YA books – do not come any better than The Hobbit.
I can thus determine that Peter Jackson did have a huge load upon his shoulder, at least in the expectations department, when it came to him doing Hobbit films. More so than he had when he did The Lord of the Rings, because back then he did not have that stupidly high benchmark to be automatically compared to, did he? It is therefore almost natural for Peter Jackson to treat The Hobbit the way he treated The Lord of the Rings. And that, my friends, is The Hobbit’s downfall. Instead of delivering to us The Hobbit, the relatively innocent tale that ended up serving Tolkien as the prelude to The Lord of the Rings, we have been served with The Hobbit, a trio of movies delivered after The Lord of the Rings and clearly aimed at complimenting their predecessors on the big screen.
Usually this is the point I provide a short account of what the movie is about. Other than say the film takes us through the early steps of a group of dwarves’ quest to resurrect their ancient kingdom, aided by an unlikely hobbit chosen at the whim of wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen back to his most recognizable attire), I will not do it this time. If you haven’t read The Hobbit then, my friend, you have severely wronged yourself (but lucky for you, matters can be mended truly easily and relatively quickly). That said, one of my bigger gripes with The Hobbit is that the movie adds too much to the book – the opposite crime of what most book to movie adaptations do – but in doing so, and very much by doing so, provides us with a film that is lesser than it could have been.
I would say The Hobbit’s biggest problem is its length. At close to three hours we could live with The Fellowship of the Ring being as long as it was, because it did come out of quite a thick book; the same, however, cannot be said about The Hobbit. It comes from a normal if not thin book (by today’s sci-fi standards), and yet Jackson & Studio, in their infinite wisdom, chose to depict it as three separate films out of which at least the first is close to three hours long. Remember the problems people had with the seemingly everlasting finale of The Return of the King (I didn’t; I thought these were necessary and well made)? Well, The Hobbit feels like a three hour long ending to The Return of the King. There is nothing memorable about it.
Combine the timing with The Hobbit wearing Lord of the Rings attire and this movie’s ultimate crime becomes obvious: backstabbing its origins: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Voyage is far from being a piece of work aimed at children. Unless, of course, you aspire to possess your children with nightmares.
Best scene: The drama that takes place when our hero, Bilbo the unlikely hobbit, and Gollum upon their first meeting down a dark cave is undeniably good. Martin Freeman is clearly one of my favorite actors and one of this world’s best comedy talents.
Worst scene: Magic users convene in a scene that brings back characters portrayed by Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett. Alas, this blatant attempt to put some of the big Lord of the Rings names on the same frame is not only blatant but also boring. Totally redundant.
Technical note: Given the film earned attention at the cinemas by virtue of its higher rate of frames per second, I will note the Blu-ray we had watched sported the usual 24 frames per second.
Overall: What a disappointment! 2.5 out of 5 stars. I certainly hope the sequels do better, but I doubt it.

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