I’m going to start off by saying that as much of a fantasy fan as I am, I have not read the Hobbit book since I was a small child. My memories come from random references to The Hobbit cartoon, and whatever other pop-culture references I’ve seen throughout the years. (ie. Lemmywinks on South Park) Other than that, I wasn’t too familiar with what was going to happen to me when I went to see the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX 3D and then again in 48fps HFR 3D. Of course, what I saw was nothing short of amazing.
I’ve read a lot of reviews saying that the movie is “too long” and “adds too many elements from Lord of the Rings” and that “the beginning starts up too slow”; and I ask myself, did you WATCH Lord of the Rings? All those movies have a ton of walking, the beginning of Fellowship takes a long time to get things started; and though they don’t have homages to The Hobbit, those instances where Peter Jackson threw in LOTR references made sense and fit into the film nicely.
The film felt like a return to Middle Earth in the best way possible. It was as if I never left. Even with it’s 2 hours and 45 minute run-time, I never felt like I was bored, or the movie wasn’t well-paced. In fact, I only yearn to see what’s going to happen next! We know that there is a dark looming in Middle Earth and the seeds of that despair are just starting to grow. In the meantime, we get an adventure for a Hobbit, a Wizard, and a group of Dwarves set on an adventure to reclaim the Dwarven Kingdom of Erebor.
Though the Dwarves are many, and some don’t get to shine as much as their leader, Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage; they were all delightful and brought humor and whimsy to each scene. Martin Freeman, replacing the Hobbit-feet worn by Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins, stands out in every frame. His scene with Gollum is brilliant, as is Andy Serkis returning to the role that only he could play. Their “Riddle in the Dark” scene plays out in creepy brilliance.
Sir Ian McKellen did a great job as Gandalf the Grey, never skipping a beat as the humorous Wizard. Returnees, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett, also brought powerful performances as elves Elrond and Galadriel. It was a pleasure to see them have longer scenes in this film. Especially, as they assembled for the White Council with Christopher Lee coming back as Saruman.
By the end of the adventure, I felt excited for what was going to happen next, and thankful that the journey back to Middle Earth felt just as familiar as it did 10 years ago. Now, let me talk about the HFR. FOR NOW, it is not the next step in film’s evolution. It didn’t jar me like many others, though it did take a few minutes to get used to. There were scenes such as the Goblin village and the Rock Mountain fight that had me breathless. Also, the scene with Gollum was even more clear and amazing; but overall, a lot of the CGI was more apparent than when I saw the film in IMAX 3D.
Radagast’s rabbit sled look blatantly fake, as did a lot of other high-paced action scenes. I did enjoy the experience and like I said, there was a lot that looked crisper due to the HFR, but it will take some more time for audiences to embrace it. James Cameron may be the man to finally do it with his Avatar sequels.
In closing, if you haven’t seen The Hobbit I highly suggest you make the trip to the theater to do so. Go in with an open mind that isn’t trying to constantly compare it to LOTR, and just think of it as a great companion piece to what Peter Jackson has already made. If you do that, you’ll find yourself enjoying the best fantasy movie since Return of the King.