You know, it's funny about how artists either grow or don't in their craft. Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind and that was that. I've read where she is quoted as saying she hoped she never wrote another thing as long as she lived. Then there's Paul Simon who got only more and more creative after he had his very popular Garfunkel removed. Michaelangelo was only twenty-four when he sculpted the Pieta, but then went on to do stuff like the statue of David, and was even appointed as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica and design the dome. Mungo Jerry, however, whose hit In the Summertime was followed by ... well I'm sure they may have had them, but you get my point.
That brings me to my other point -- Peter Jackson. Besides The Hobbit, tell me what else he's done, other than of course the LOTR (The Lord of the Rings). Now, those of you who have read my reviews know that I consider LOTR to be perhaps the best movie ever made, and yes I see it as one movie, not three. One of the reasons I see it as the best movie ever made is that Jackson brought to it an uncanny fanaticism for detail. He marshaled the resources of a wide array of artists and had them frothing at the mouth to produce a movie that, as far as was humanly possible, recreated the experience of Middle Earth given to us by Tolkien. The result was nothing less than spectacular, a movie that will viewed for generations to come. But on the other hand, have you seen or even heard of Bad Taste, where aliens hunt down humans in order to supply their intergactic fast-food chain, or his next movie Meet the Feebles that carries the tagline "from the creator of Bad Taste comes a movie with no taste at all!"?
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of three films that are based on Tolkien's first book about the Baggins family hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo. It is a lighter tale than LOTR, written as bedtime stories for Tolkien's own children. It is more fanciful and less political, yet nonetheless presents good and bad and the burden of doing what's right. In this tale Bilbo, a quiet and content homebody gets caught up in the adventure of a band of dwarves who are out to reclaim their homeland and their wealth that had been taken from them by a dragon named Smaug. The troupe is headed by Thorin Oakenshield, the exiled king of the dwarves, and shepherded by the wise wizard Gandalf.
I am willing to bet that The Hobbit is a far better film than Meet the Feebles.
I say this because if you are going to go see The Hobbit, I want you to be subconsciously comparing it to a story of lust, infidelity, betrayal in the world of Heidi the Hippo, her unfaithful lover Beltch the Walrus and the unscrupulous Trevor the Rat. If you can do that, than you will be pleasantly surprised with a movie that is a well-produced, rollicking adventure in a fantasy world inspired by the creative genius of J.R.R. Tolkien. If you can do that, you will have a good time.
If, however, you make the mistake of going in expecting to see a movie of the caliber of LOTR, arguably the best movie ever made, a movie that lovingly and faithfully renders the vision of Tolkien in the photoplay of the cinema, then you may be disappointed. In this first installment, Jackson seems intent on trying to recreate the feeling of his previous work. In both Jackson's movie and Tolkien's books, the LOTR is a story in which there is always grim sadness that comes from knowing that there exists an evil that must be confronted, that the confrontation will irrevocably change those involved, and the confrontation will require personal sacrifice and courage. This theme was spectacularly presented in LOTR. The Hobbit, on the other hand is an adventure, a tale of discovery and growth, of meeting challenges with strengths that one never knew one had. And while Jackson definitely lightens up the story telling in this film to include silly slapstick humor with the orcs and goblins, for me, too much of the melancholy of LOTR bled over into The Hobbit, not ruining the film but muddling it.
That said, it is a Peter Jackson film, it is good, and it is worth the price of admission.
Please, before you go, watch this trailer, several times if necessary. It will enhance your appreciation of how far Peter Jackson has come.
No matter what I may have to say about this movie, I will be avidly awaiting the second and third installments to this story. I will. And if anyone has read Tolkien's The Hobbit, or The Lord of the Rings, or seen Peter Jackson's film rendition of The Lord of the Rings, seeing The Hobbit is a must.
Martin Freeman is absolutely adorable as the young and maybe-just-a-little-bit-adventuresome-on-his-mother's-side Bilbo Baggins. Loved him, found not one whit to gripe about his performance.
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield was really fine to look at, for all that he was playing the role of a dwarf.
In all, the casting was wonderful, and I loved the back-story that began the movie.
Eleven minutes shy of three hours was just too long, especially when some of the "tale" was contrived not only to hint at the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but also was constructed to ... and here's where my enthusiasm fades, because I have no idea whatsoever why some scenes were included, when they added nothing to the plot at all, and in all fairness, were so stupid that I found myself wishing I had a cell phone so that I could text someone "WTF?"
In addition, and this is solely opinion, I do not believe that any studio that cannot produce real-looking animals in CGI should be paid to participate in a film. The Hobbit's CGI animals might impress a four-year-old, but the film is rated PG-13, so they ought at least play up to a seventh-grader's perception.
There. I'm done.
Go see it for the good bits.
Yes, I will own this on DVD when I can, for the good bits.