The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchette
Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) loves the simple life he’s leading in the Shire. With his comfortable hobbit hole he lives in peace and harmony with those around him. When the wizard Gandalf (McKellen) appears on his doorstep, Bilbo is offered the chance to go on an adventure. His quick refusal is met with a unique company of Dwarves looking for one more member for their group. Soon they’re on their way into the unknown lands of Middle Earth. Their quest, to return to The Lonely Mountain and reclaim the home of the ancient Dwarves that had been taken by the dragon Smaug.
When The Lord of the Rings films were announced I was a bit surprised that The Hobbit was not included in the titles named. The first three films Jackson made from the works of Tolkien were amazing movies. The end of the third film left me even more hopeful that The Hobbit would be made. Now, nine years after the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, we have the next installment from Peter Jackson. One of the biggest aspects of the new movie is the return of many of the cast members. Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchette, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee, and even Elijah Wood returned to help make this great film. The new stars include Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz), Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger), and a whole bunch of other great actors. (With a film like this I’m not going to attempt to name all the people who play important parts.)
I came into this movie with incredibly high expectations. The first three films are among my favorites, and they collected a total of 17 Oscars. Peter Jackson didn’t disappoint with this new movie. One of the things I love about the first three films Jackson did was his deep understanding of the emotional needs of his characters. The relationships between the characters made The Lord of the Rings series far more powerful than it could have been. The Hobbit continues in that tradition, with characters that you can immediately gain feeling for. This made this new film wonderful. Jackson was able to take the time and lay down the foundation for the next two films early on. Thankfully, Jackson also had the ability to turn this book into three films, allowing for a much more in-depth look at the relationships of each of the characters.
The acting in this movie is wonderful. There are some great performances from McKellen, Freeman, and Armitage that bring out a lot of the emotion needed to start this saga. There are also some great comic moments that come from this unlikely band of Dwarves. The actors who took on the roles of these many Dwarves do a wonderful job creating their own unique characters.
Visually, this is right where it needs to be. The special effects and CGI all work together nicely and help to bring the world of Middle Earth to life. From the Shire to the cave where Gollum lives, the filmmakers were able to create a whole world that feels right for the story being told. The costumes and makeup also come together wonderfully, ensuring that the characters all have their own unique traits. Like most of Peter Jackson’s films, this is a visual spectacular that can really keep your attention throughout.
If you can’t tell, this is a movie that I’m totally in love with. Since I was a child, I read these stories over and over. I remember the animated version of The Hobbit being watched constantly in my home. Now Peter Jackson has started this new saga with a wonderful movie. The action is amazing and the emotional moments of the film seem to set the table for the long journey still to come. I hope that you all get a chance to see this new and wonderful movie. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.
I LOVED it! I also grew up watching the animated movie and the book is one of my all time faves. Some of the plot changes threw me off a little but I didn’t mind it. The actors who played Bilbo and Thorin were fantastic. Can’t wait for the next two films. Great review!
If you’re interested, look into the other stories that Tolkien wrote. Some of the plot changes aren’t really changes, they’re just other aspects of the story that came from other works. Jackson was smart enough to bring some of those elements into the movie to add some depth to a couple of the story lines. When it gets further into the second film I think you’ll really appreciate these additions. Thanks for the compliment!!!!
Nice to read you enjoyed it so much. Having read several reviews it’s clear that if people love the books, they will also love the movie and want to spend more time in its world. If this is not the case you get mixed reviews. I quite enjoyed it although I didn’t think it was as good as Fellowship. I also really liked the high frame rate, which really added to the experience.
I have some friends who loved it who had not read the book. I think that for fans of the book there is just more to look forward to since they already know what’s coming.
Yeah, I guess that’s true. I am now interested in reading the book…
Great review, Jeff. I actually saw it again last night after our Saturday viewing, but this time to check out the 3D High Frame Rate version. Here are my thoughts on the tech:
For 85 years, ever since the first synchronized sound films started to gain traction, we have been watching films at 24 frames per second. We’ve learned through experience that 24fps is “cinematic” as an aesthetic, mostly subconsciously.
Television, on the other hand has always been a little different, especially in the US. At 30fps it has a different “feel”, a little closer to sitting across from the person and places on the screen as it “feels” in real life. We’ve learned to interpret this aesthetic as being less “cinematic” and related to broader types of programming – news, talk shows, sports, sitcoms, etc.
Unlearning this reaction is not an easy task. Most people with an eye for image presentation expect certain touches and rhythm that 24fps provides that isn’t *quite* there at 30fps. In the last handful of years HDTVs have had the 120hz mode which essentially doubles the frame rate of TV images, and this only enhances that gap.
The 48fps HFR of The Hobbit isn’t quite as jarring as the 120hz for TV, primarily because instead of doubling frames artificially there are ACTUAL frames present in the image. Therefore the clarity and detail is impeccable without the mild “shake” that can be noticed by the keen eyed viewer of 120hz.
That being said, it tweaks the reaction to the presentation. The best way I can describe it is like this: I had the impression that I was sitting on a stage with the actors performing, and therefore felt the artificiality of live theater, which is an odd feeling when you are not really in that setting. Again, this is a learned reaction over time, so it’s not necessarily wrong, but just a mismatch for the event of a theatrical film based on experience. If you’ve ever seen classic BBC Miniseries such as Elizabeth R or any of the Jane Austin adaptations shot on standard def video you may also get what I’m describing. Many call it the so-called “soap opera” look, which is apt because daytime soaps for decades were shot on 30fps video.
Then, at moments of vistas and wide shots of cities, it reminded me eerily of travel TV programs. Rick Steves’ Middle Earth, if you will. Which is to say, the scope of perception was again changed. My inherent reaction to that is to not think of narrative storytelling, but of sight seeing if I ever visited France. Once again… just odd.
So, in short, in HFR it’s the best looking travelogue miniseries chapter I’ve ever seen, but it just doesn’t have that nuance of 24fps that my mind thinks of when I think of “cinema”.
I’m reminded of the old adage about Technicolor vs. Black & White for films in the 30s-40s. Technicolor was used for hyper-realism, to accentuate the non-reality of the vibrancy of the colors, while black & white, because it was so associated with film Newsreels of the time, felt more “real” to the audiences of their day. This tendency was eventually unlearned and we all now accept the more natural color photography to be quite pleasing aesthetically and for what we consider realism, while BOTH classic Technicolor and Black & White films seem distant and artificial in their own ways. Will HFR 48fps eventually be accepted for theatrical feature films the way we’ve come to accept modern color photography? Perhaps. But it will be a long way to break 85 years of learned subconscious expectations.
As for the 3D – exceptionally well done. As for the Atmos sound – it was nice, but it wasn’t mind blowing. If I didn’t have knowledge that it was there I’d have a hard time noting the difference to regular well presented theater sound.
And I still love the film upon the second viewing. I honestly could watch it again right then if it wasn’t 2:30am.
Thanks Brandon, it took me a long time to put down in words why I loved it. It’s a great depiction of a world that people have been imagining through the novels for decades.
As far as the increased FPS, it sounds like I didn’t miss out on some mind-blowing improvement in the overall experience. Like you, I would see it again right now if I didn’t have other obligations.
Now we just have to wait for a year to see what Jackson brings to the second film.