Sunday, December 14, 2014
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Bilbo Baggins recalls an adventure he had as a young lad: dragon Smaug showed up in a dwarf kingdom and expulsed its inhabitants, thereby taking the mountain of gold in the capital. The grandson of the former king Thror, Thorin, is thus angry at Elves for just standing by and not helping them. Wizard Gandalf shows up at Bilbo's home in the company of Thorin and 12 more dwarves - Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Dori and others - and persuades him to join them on their quest of reclaiming the capital from dragon Smaug. Along their way, Bilbo encounters Gollum and goblins who want to kill the group, but they manage to arrive at the edge of the mountain.
Almost a decade after "The Return of the King", director Peter Jackson returned to Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth, but despite a solid result, the Jackson who did "Hobbit" coped far less here than the Jackson who did the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Numerous post-"The Lord of the Rings" fantasy films tried to rip-off Jackson's original film series, but what is truly surprising, is that Jackson in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Jounrey" actually tried to rip-off himself. Indeed, "Journey" is not so much an adaptation of Tolkien's eponymous beloved children's book as much as it is a huge reference and nod to "The Lord of the Rings", and too much of it, too, since it overshadowed the main plot. The first third of the film is actually good and has charm, especially the comical sequence where Bilbo is an unlikely host for the unexpected visit of a dozen dwarves and Gandalf who eat up all of his food supplies for diner, whereas the dragon attack sequence is finely made, especially since we do not see the dragon but only his flight above the village, yet as the story progresses, it is getting more and more obvious that the original "Hobbit" book could have been made in two, maybe even only one film, and that the narrative is getting heavily overstretched in order to fit into a movie trilogy - which is further exacerbated by the fact that even this first film last for 169 minutes! Events unfold, but the narrative is on "Stall" phase all of the time, until the end where the heroes finally reach their destination visible above the horizon. The CGI is an overkill, without a sense for adventure or awe, and instead just relies on endless display of CGI creatures, until the viewers become numb to the special effects. "Journey" is a solid film, but eclipsed by the better impression left by the same crew a decade ago.