Friday, December 28, 2012
Since the movie adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings were my favorite movies of the decade it should not be surprising that I would want to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the adaptation of the prequel book, The Hobbit.
Although the identical creative team lead by writer-producer-director Peter Jackson that made the near-perfect, very faithful adaptations of the first three books are involved in the adaptation of The Hobbit to the screen, there have been some misgiving expressed by other fans by the decision to turn a much shorter, less ambitious book into a new trilogy of films. It seems doubtful that there's enough source material in what is essentially a children's book to make more than 8 hours of filmed entertainment for adults to enjoy.
However, Jackson has made clear that they are not just adapting the book The Hobbit but are really trying to create another series of films which attempts to more fully explore the incredibly rich world of Middle-Earth as originally envisioned and created by Tolkien. Tolkien was a English language and literature professor at Oxford for years who was basically the very first author in what is known known as the genre of speculative fiction to create a fully realized fictional world with a complete history and geography and back story connecting all the characters in the books.
When deciding to see An Unexpected Journey you have multiple options to choose from: IMAX, 3-D, 48 Frames per second (often referred to as HFR or "high frame rate"), or just regular 2-D. There are also various combinations of these formats (like 3-D HFR, or IMAX 3-D, etc).
The Other Half and I saw An Unexpected Journey in regular 2D at the Edwards Alhambra Renaissance-14, our regular go-to theater, on Christmas Day. The movie theater we saw the film in was close to completely full even for a mid-afternoon screening. When we emerged about three hours later, the hallways were completely thronged with people lined up to see movies.
An Unexpected Journey is not getting as universally positive acclaim as the movies from the first trilogy (it has a 65% rating from critics at rottentomatoes.com, 81% from the audience) but like the other films it is a booming success at the box-office, having already brought in a half-billion dollars globally in the first two weeks.
Anyway, let's talk about the actual movie. Basically, I loved it! I am completely baffled by other critics who have said that the pace of the film was slow, and complained about the 10 minute prologue putting the story into perspective. I would agree that the scene where Bilbo Baggins meets the entire group of dwarves was a bit over-extended, but it is there to demonstrate how tentative and unassertive the hobbit is. Other critics had mentioned that the movie doesn't really get going until Bilbo shouts "I'm going on an adventure!" (as shown in the trailer) which happens about 35 minutes into the film, but to me that seemed to happen at the very beginning of the movie.
Someone else pointed out that the structure of An Unexpected Journey is almost identical to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first movie in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The fellowship is formed (after some reluctance by the hero), they run into some dangerous trouble early on and go see the elves. Then they go inside the mountain, where a lot of stuff happens and parts of the group gets separated from the others, then they leave the mountain and run into another even more serious danger, escape that and then the movie is done! This summary is pretty reductive, but it is roughly accurate, without giving away too many plot points.
Overall, if you liked any of the original Lord of the Rings movies and especially if you have read any of the books by J.R.R. Tolkien I am very confident that you will enjoy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Director: Peter Jackson.
Running Time: 2 hours, 49 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
Release Date: December 16, 2012.
Viewing Date: December 25, 2012.
Overall Grade: A (3.83/4.0).