The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

"From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends."

Hey everyone! As promised, today I will review The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Based on the Tolkien book, The Hobbit, Unexpected Journey is the first part of a three movie arc adapting said book into epic movie form. This particular film follows Bilbo (Martin Freeman, most notably he plays Watson on the BBC Sherlock) as he sets out with the party of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, who you might know if you watched the BBC Robin Hood show, he was Guy of Gisbourne) and his dwarven companions. Also Gandalf is there (Sir Ian McKellen, of course). The group sets out with their eyes set on a grand prize, the lost dwarven kingdom of Erebor, to which Thorin is heir. Erebor resides inside a massive mountain (The Lonely Mountain to be specific) and is the lair of the massive and vicious fire drake Smaug. Bilbo is roped into this enterprise, despite his initial reluctance, by Gandalf, as a potential infiltrator, because hobbits are just that easy to ignore and overlook. Their journey carries them through a countryside that is gradually growing darker in aspect, as sinister forces long dormant begin to stir across Middle Earth.

That's a lot of dwarves. Don't want them raiding my pantry. 
For starters, this film looks gorgeous. It is truly breathtaking to see what the artful application of good camerawork, special effects, costuming and set work can accomplish in modern film. It is also notably very startling and super neat to me that they can make it appear as if actors who appeared in the original Lord of the Rings movies (Fellowship was 11 years ago remember) look as if they haven't aged at all. That is pretty impressive in my estimation. I saw the film in the high frame rate 3D, and that was... interesting. The very smooth fashion in which the camera pans is jarring at first (it looks more like a modern video game cutscene at times than a live action movie). Ultimately the effects blend with the actors so well that you seldom ever even stop to think that what you're looking at is actually a special effect.

You also see a very different class of dwarf on display here. Some of the dwarves featured are the sorts that you are familiar with: the rotund bearded boors of old. You also see (relatively) tall, handsome and heroically poised dwarves, such as Thorin, who is by all measures a total badass. As hobbits go, Bilbo is very different than the sorts we saw in LotR. He is, well...a total sissy. Apparently the hobbits who were featured in the LotR movies were the shire equivalent of terminators, because if Bilbo is any indication as to the average hobbit, well its a wonder that orcs didn't burn that place to cinders sooner.

Gollum is super creepy, despite an otherwise light tone.
A lot of critics were pretty underwhelmed by this movie, and after watching it I think I understand one of the big reasons why. For starters, plenty of people didn't like how slow the movie is to start. That is a very valid criticism, the movie takes its sweet ass time out of the gate. At the same time, the sort of meandering pace is the sort of thing that fans of Middle Earth will love, because it just takes time being... Middle Earth. The long setup also establishes both premise, and maybe more importantly, the tone of the movie. I think that this was probably what critics had the toughest time accepting: the tone of the movie. I imagine that a lot of critics and moviegoers went into this movie expecting it to be Lord of the Rings ZERO, and it just isn't that. This is a movie of similar scope, but it is very much a lighter story. For one it is a story being written by Bilbo (framing device and all). For two, this is a less bleak Middle Earth. The movie starts 60 years before LotR begins, and the sun hasn't set on the kingdoms of that world quite yet. Evil is still lurking, and only beginning to gather in strength, and it really shows. There's markedly less in the way of brutal fights to the death, the goblins are less scary, even the mountain trolls talk about food (admittedly they eat people, but they aren't the snarling insensate beasts they will be) and the shining daylight holds many of the dark things of the world at bay. I can understand if that's jarring, but its no reason to pass up this great movie.

That's it for today! I'll see you all over the weekend for HOLIDAY MOVIES THAT CREEP ME THE HELL OUT!

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