I loved the film! To hell with what the critics have to say!
Here is my review… there will be some spoilers in the latter part of this seven part review… especially as I examine the Dark Characters in the film!
Please go HERE to our Hobbit: AUJ Review Page for all seven parts of the Mordor Review!
The Movie House commercials ended… the trailers were finally done blasting across the screen… the final lights began to dim… and suddenly the Warner Brothers Logo appeared on screen across a deep blue sky. The Logo began to fall apart, a slow transition into the New Line Cinema logo… the familiar musical notes from Howard Shore danced with the images… I knew at that moment, that I was in for something special!
As many of you may already know, I made the decision to go and see my first viewing of the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 24 FPS without 3D… just a good old fashion viewing of the film… just as I saw each of the Lord of the Rings films when they came out. You can find out my reasons for this HERE in a previous post. I wanted to see the film for it’s story first, without all the 3D 48FPS Technical Hoopla… I wanted to judge the film on the merits of it’s story… not it’s technology. I plan to see the 48FPD 3D version as soon as I can… would not missing seeing it for the world… but not in the first go round!
The Hobbit Logo, looking like it was beaten out of copper appeared on screen… just like the Lord of the Rings logo appeared on screen in each film of the Trilogy… then it faded to black. I love the fact the Peter Jackson has maintained a visual continuity in all of these films.
We are set down in Hobbiton and Bag End as Bilbo lights a candle in the dark.
I was immediately struck by how different the film looked. Even in 24 FPS it looks sharper and more brilliant somehow than other films. The color is gorgeous… almost shockingly so… the LOTR films were both enhanced by and suffered from the new technology of color grading. It was an integral tool in setting mood and location along with helping to blend live action with special effects. However, it tended to also flattened out the look of the films and at times sucking the life out of the characters. The resolution in The Hobbit is sharp… but at the same time certain things seem oddly colored… I don’t know how to describe this exactly… but even at the traditional frame rate you could tell you were seeing something different… and it did have the slight effect of making you think that what you were watching was not real. That said… I quickly got into the story and soon forgot all about these minor oddities in the look of the film.
Getting used to the film vs the book…
I remember having this same odd feeling when watching each of the Lord of the Rings films for the first time in theaters.
A feeling of discomfort seeing characters and beloved scenes from the book coming to life on screen. I was coming to terms with how Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens re-worked the books into a movie script to tell these stories on film…. and also how each actors brings the character to life on film in their own unique way. There are always going to be differences in how one imagined them in your mind when reading the book vs how it will be on film. Even after watching the Lord of the Rings films countless times and loving Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth, it still caught me off guard again, as I slowly released my expectations of the what The Hobbit was in my mind and let the film be what it is… a new adventure, while still holding the spirit of Tolkien’s writing! This also took a few minutes of adjustment… but then I was sucked into the story.
Hobbiton and Bag End.
We are taken immediately into Bag End. It is the night before the big Party. We see Bilbo rifling through an old chest… we see Sting… and some other oddments from his adventure, then he pulls out the Red Book of the Westmarch! Bilbo sits down and begins to write in his book. Soon we are taken to Erebor and Dale and the the vast riches of the Dwarvish Kingdom. We are shown massive halls of gold and jewels that make Moria seem quaint. Then we are shown the discovery of the Arkenstone and the greed that begins to overshadow Erebor. I think that Peter Jackson plans to draw some parallels between the Evil of the Ring and the Greed of the Arkenstone… how evil is drawn to them.
Next is the coming of the dragon!
This is handled well, reserving the full reveal of Smaug for the next film. We get to see just the shadow of the dragon… fire…. wings… and his tail! I can’t wait to see what he will look like on the big screen in all his magnificent glory. I will talk more about this later.
We are also given insight into why there is such animosity between the dwarves and the elves… This felt a bit one sided… I hope they develop this also from the Elves point of view in the next film.
My only complaint about this prologue of sorts is the heavy use of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). It seems to me that Peter Jackson is relying on CGI much more in this film, then he did in the Lord of the Rings films. The LOTR Trilogy was the perfect balance of live action, miniature, make-up, prosthetics and CGI. This is true throughout the three films. However, in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the use of CGI is made more noticeable by the intensified color and frame rate that can be seen even in 24 FPS. I won’t continue to harp on this… but it did pull me out of the story at times. Some things just looked fake to me. One of the things I have always loved about the Lord of the Rings was that it looked REAL and I’m hoping that this will not be a problem in the next two films. The scenes with Gollum were perfect use of CGI, so we know it can be done. I have a feeling that the decision to expand from two to three films forced the CGI and FX departments to rush certain scenes in order to make their deadlines.
UPDATE: In my second viewing of the film, this did not bother me nearly as much. I sat back and simply enjoyed the story!
Was the beginning too long?
Absolutely NOT!!! At least not for me… I indulged in every delicious Hobbit morsel served up on film. Now, if Tolkien is not your cup of tea, then prehaps I can see where the beginning might seem plodding and full of exposition… but in my mind Peter Jackson crafts a perfect beginning that sets the stage not only for this film… but all three films together. One has to judge each film on it’s own merits of course, but in my mind it won’t be until all three films are released, that we can fully appreciate how Jackson, Walsh and Boyens crafted the script to bring The Hobbit to life.
The moments between Bilbo and Frodo are a wonderful way to being the two sets of trilogies together. The introductory scene between Gandalf and Bilbo also work well and the transition from the older to the younger version of Bilbo is handled brilliantly and is also the moment that we are given the title of the film. A beautiful moment. It feels a bit odd at first getting used to Martin Freeman’s characterizations of Bilbo. I want to watch this again with a new eye after seeing the entire film, to get a better read on this scene.
UPDATE: On my second viewing of the film this felt less so, because I have now become used to Martin Freeman’s ‘Bilbo’. However… both Freeman and McKellen seem slightly awkward in this scene… I kept getting the feeling that Martin felt very uncomfortable with the long pipe. This may have been intentional because Gandalf was making him nervious… but to me it felt odd. In addition, Gandalf looked different to me in this scene… not sure why, he just does. I must also say the same for Ian Holmes… at times his hair and makeup look different then they did in The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m not sure if others feel this way or not. It may simply be that they are all ten years older.
The views of The Shire are breathtaking and it’s fun to see parts of it we have not seen before… the same with Bag End!
I believe this was probably the hardest task Peter Jackson had to face in the making of The Hobbit films. Defining and giving background to thirteen main characters would be a hefty problem for any director. The only film I can think of that has this many main actors in a film is the Oceans Eleven trilogy. I believe Peter Jackson and his creative crew did the job successfully with hair, make-up, wardrobe and weapons and I believe Peter Jackson will continue to define each of the dwarves throughout the course of three films.
I believe we are given enough of the Dwarves back story in the beginning to move the plot forward and that is all that is needed in the Bag End scenes. We are given more as the film progresses and I believe the characters will be deepening over the arc of the full story.
UPDATE: In my second viewing of the film I noticed a lot more of the little details about the dwarves that I missed the first time around.
My thoughts on Radagast.
I like his character… though I could have done without the guano on his beard! LOL!
I really like his look and mannerisms… I believe a lot of people might take issue with Radagast, not so much because of his character, but because his introduction into the film also heralds the parts of The Hobbit that do not exist in the Book… but rather are taken from the ROTK Appendices and the imagination of Peter Jackson. To be honest, the journey from The Shire to Rivendell for me took the most getting used to on my first viewing, because most of it was new story and plot used to define the characters and connect The Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings. Thorin’s story… the Battle of Azanulbizar… the introduction of AZOG and the Warg Riders… Radagast and Dol Guldur all are introduced in this section of the film. Except for the Troll scene, most of this does not exist in The Hobbit proper.
UPDATE: I think my biggest problem with Radagast and the sequence with Gandalf and Dwarves is around the issue of Middle-earth. Radagast is seen earlier in Mirkwood, the fact that he could have traveled from Mirkwood to the Trollshaws over the Misty Mountains in a rabbit sled seems very unlikely to me. The trip would have taken many many weeks. I don’t know if Peter Jackson has something else in mind here or if he just figured most people watching the film would not notice it. Any Tolkien fan worth his salt is going to take issue with this.
During the trek from Hobbiton and to Rivendell, the characters of Thorin, Gandalf and Bilbo have a good deal of development. A lot of what we’re seeing in this section is part of developing their characters, but also setting up the dramatic tension that will come later in the remaining two films.
There are two moments in this section of the film that really stick out in my mind.
The first is the scene where Thorin’s history is revealed related to the War with the Orcs. The entire company stands up and looks at him… the older dwarves stand to honor him and the younger ones now see him in a new light after Balin tells his story. They stand in a circle looking at him with a sense of sorrow and a new respect. It deepens the plot idea that Thorin and his people have no home and that so much has been lost. A wonderful heart felt scene. It also introduces Azog, which I will talk more about later.
The second scene that stands out in my mind is with Gandalf and Bilbo outside the trolls lair, when Gandalf gives Bilbo Sting. The moment is reminiscent of the scene with Frodo and Gandalf in Moria and is a lovely connection to the LOTR trilogy. It also sets the stage for the encounter with Gollum.
I thought both were beautifully crafted scenes and were as good as any found in the Lord of the Rings films.
Rivendell was beautiful!
The scenes in Rivendell are incredible… though, I did find the way in which the company gets there a bit implausible… but I will let you be the judge of that one for yourself. It was nice to see Elrond on a horse and ready for battle!
The new views of the last Homely House were quite splendid… and I thought it was a nice nod to the book to hear the elves singing in the sword scene with Elrond! I also loved the night scene with the moon runes… but my favorite sequence in Rivendell was the meeting of the White Council. I thought the play of characters was spot on and it was beautify rendered! I won’t say much more about this part of the film, because it’s a wonderful scene… as is the one that follows with Gandalf and Galadriel.
How the company of dwarves and Bilbo move on to the next phase of the journey was unexpected and I suppose necessary, considering the heightened animosity evident in the film between the dwarves and the elves. I think Peter Jackson felt that the entire Rivendell sequence needed to be viewed through the lens of the Lord of the Rings, rather than the more light-heated and at times silly view of the elves seen in The Hobbit. In order to tie all six film together, this was a necessary and smart departure from the book.
Now… for the remainder of this Review, I will be discussing the Dark Creatures in The Hobbit and so will be going into spoiler territory for those who have yet to see the film. So this is your Spoiler Warning!
Please go HERE to our Hobbit Review Page read the rest of my review!
In Part Two through Seven of my review, I will be looking at the Stone Giants, The Great Goblin, Gollum, the Wargs & Orc Scouts and most importantly Dol Guldur and AZOG!
Ringlord ~ The Dark Lord of Mordor!
Source: Mordor ~ The Land of Shadow.com
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