Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (film review)

I thoroughly enjoyed this, despite my misgivings about turning a very short book into three films. I knew there was background stuff that could be developed - e.g. Gandalf's battles with the Necromancer, which is hardly referenced in the book - but I wasn't sure there was enough for three films, particularly as Peter Jackson likes to make very long movies!

However, this zipped by. The story is more fast-paced than the Lord of the Rings, anyway, and I felt introducing more background information, particularly about Erebor, the lost Dwarvish Kingdom, helped the story along.

As in the book, the dwarves seem annoyingly incapable of avoiding scrapes, but Richard Armitage is knock-down brilliant as the exiled Dwarf Prince, Thorin Oakenshield. Sir Ian Mckellan is excellent as Gandalf again, but I'm not sure whether Martin Freeman will forever be regarded as a hobbit, the way Elijah Wood will (and he's back for a cameo). He was good, but he does too many of his trademark double-takes and being polite when offended. Sylvester McCoy was very effective bringing Radagast the Brown to life, as well.

People have already been noting the stand out bits of dialogue. I predict Gandalf's comments about evil being kept at bay through the actions of little people will be much-quoted in the future. I particularly liked the line that real courage is not taking a life but knowing when to spare one. It's the moment when he chooses to let Gollum live that defines Bilbo, and of course spares him from becoming another Gollum under the malign influence of the ring.

There's a lot more to get through for the dwarves and their hobbit burglar. Mirkwood will presumably occupy most of the next film, with a natural ending as Bilbo sneaks into the mountain and meets Smaug for the first time. Then the third film will be mainly the Battle of the Five Armies and Bilbo going home to the Shire, which if the third LOTR film is anything to go by, will involve lots of goodbyes. There are 13 dwarves for him to bid farewell to!

For me the most unexpected thing about this film is how eagerly I now want to see the next two. So, I guess from that point of view, it works well.

Jongudmund's rating: 8/10

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