The Hobbit Review

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Almost a masterpiece.

Being one of those that never got to read the hobbit at school, I didn’t exactly know what to expect apart from a young Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) setting off for adventure with a group of dwarves to fight a dragon, reclaim some treasure and have a chance encounter with Gollum (Andy Serkis) and his infamous ring of power. I have to admit after enduring the previous Lord of the Rings trilogy I wasn’t sure I would enjoy watching another epically-long fantasy film, but I can honestly say that my experience far exceeded my expectations. However that is not to say the film is without its flaws.

After a somewhat slow and awkward half an hour of flat acting, the film picks up some real pace, jumping from ever increasing tense chase or fight sequences, which emulated the structure of the Fellowship of the Ring. We  welcome back some familiar faces such as an even more abstract Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), a grey looking Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), and revisit some well know locations such as the Shire and Rivendell. The musical score, again brought to you by Howard shore, is as epic, dramatic and as constant as ever. But one of the main things which makes this film stand out is the special effects and the new 48 frames per second high frame rate (HFR), which has been the topic of some debate.

Make no mistake this film looks stunning (especially in 3D); the colours and lighting alone give the film a dreamy enhanced quality and many of the locations seem so vivid you can lose yourself in them. But on the flipside with so much action happening you are left feeling bombarded with sensory overload; an ever-present problem with the franchise. Peter Jackson seems to want to give us everything all at once with little room for reflection and subtlety, but wildly entertaining none the less. In fact the special effects on everything seem to have taken great leaps since LOTR; all of the characters, in particular Gollum and many of the troll characters rival some of the real life actors in both their appearance and acting ability. I couldn’t help but laugh at the Trolls attention to detail, idiosyncrasies and regional accents!

So much of this film emulates more of what we have seen before in the LOTR trilogy but the Hobbit feels much easier to digest with a completely different flavour and theme with a refreshing boost of slapstick comedy to lighten the mood. Perhaps it is because the main theme is not war (yet) unlike the LOTR trilogy. We are not given grand battles on top of battles and rousing tearful speeches on top of rousing tearful speeches. Rather we are offered better choreographed action sequences and more of a focus on eccentricities of the characters (good and bad) in a much lighter tone.  I particularly loved the animal loving Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) and his racing rabbits. Similarly Gollum and Bilbo’s first encounter was the highlight of the entire film; Gollum looked even more real with quirky facial expressions as well as an even more sinister side than we have seen in previous films. Thankfully Freeman is given chance to shine as Bilbo with these scenes, as for large chunks of the film he seems to fade in the background as an afterthought of the main narrative. Unfortunately this lack of attention to some of the central characters (in particular the 13 dwarfs) is one of the film’s downfalls which is a shame as dwarfs are the main focus here. (Hopefully they will feature more in the next instalment).

Overall a film of this magnitude is bound to be a success with so many qualities to behold (for me it is the set design and costumes).  But I wonder, with three epic war films already under the belt and this first instalment over, is there much more for us to see or experience before we get truly exhausted with middle earth? Not to mention a formula that is tried and tested and now becoming repetitive; I do not think I could bring myself  to watch another series of Troll chases and near misses with a gang of characters who never get into any real depth or danger. Flaws aside I would still urge anyone of any age to go and see this with your 3d glasses at the ready. You cannot help but smile and be whisked away in amazement at what the film has to offer, and quality fantasy films that aren’t aimed solely at children are hard to come by.

Brought to you by Cineworld Nottingham at the Cornerhouse.