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Hobbit, The: An Unexpected Journey (3D Blu-ray)
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The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
©2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and THE HOBBIT, names of the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises under license to New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Adding to the burden of the brunt is the controversial decision to extend THE HOBBIT into a trilogy. That approach worked ideally well for Jackson's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but because THE HOBBIT is a considerably shorter book (more like one third of the trilogy), it doesn't really merit the decision for three two-and-a-half hour movies. A more ideal approach would have been to film the book as a two-part series, not a trilogy. On a technical level there's nothing majorly wrong with Jackson's direction; the casting and performances are both excellent, the cinematography breathtaking as always, and the visual effects, for the most part, are as impressive as ever. The problem is that the movies are just too unnecessarily long.
In fact, it takes a whopping 45 minutes to get Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) out of his cozy home in Hobbiton to go out on his fateful quest with the eponymous wizard Gandalf (Ian MacKellen), as well as a pack of dwarves led by a brooding fellow named Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). En route, we first see a lengthy, ten-minute prologue in which the old Bilbo (played with a wavering sincerity by Ian Holm) begins writing his book about his adventures, starting with the downfall of the Dwarven city of Erebor. The subsequent half hour is basically the first chapter, in which Bilbo's quiet humble life is turned upside down when the dwarves intrude into his household and take over his pantry in no time. The nature of this scene is also noticeably more lighthearted than even the prologue of the first RINGS film, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. In all fairness, the tone of Tolkien's HOBBIT is more of a children's story and what's on the screen is more or less true to the original, but it also requires a subjective approach. Fans familiar with the book will get the gist of it and more or less be fine, but for more antsy audience members, it does require patience to sit through this scene.
Extending scenes like this aren't the only aesthetic choices that Jackson chooses to approach when tackling the story to screen. Sometimes he ends up culling information from the footnotes of Tolkien's fantasy, even borrowing bits of THE SIMILARION for good measure. For instance, we meet the wizard Radagast, an eccentric fellow who cares for animals and goes around riding on a massive "rabbit" sleigh. There is also a shady backstory involving a conflict between Thorin against a nasty-looking orc named Azgog (a mostly computer-animated villain with a vicious grin and a prosthetic arm). Finally we get a surprisingly long scene at the Elven city of Rivendell in which Gandalf converses with his colleague, the ill-fated sorcerer Saruman (Christopher Lee) about the potential return of Sauron. This is obviously meant to tie THE HOBBIT into THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, which is understandable because this is, after all, a prequel, but again, whether one is willing to sit through such slow scenes depends on the nature.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY really comes to life during the bits when it actually sticks to the story. The sequence where Bilbo and company are captured by giant trolls does justice to the book. In the second half, we get a scarifying roller-coaster style confrontation with two stone giants (a scene which nailed me to my seat) to a visit to the infamous Goblin City, ruled by a bloated fellow called the Goblin King. But the film's real highlight is the "Riddles in the Dark" sequence, a cunningly choreographed, thrilling confrontation in which Bilbo must outsmart the twisted Gollum (again brought to life by the remarkable motion capture and hoarse voice of Andy Serkis).
Despite the occasional lull in the story, though, I honestly wasn't necessarily bored at all by any of this; I have quite enjoyed Tolkien's stories and I could spend hour after hour in the fantasy world that Jackson still manages to fully realize on the screen, thanks to the luscious sets and aforementioned cinematography. And unlike George Lucas, who obviously was no great "actor's director" when it came to his weaker STAR WARS prequel trilogy, Jackson hasn't lost his ability to extol performances from his cast. Freeman was practically born to play Bilbo, embuing the character's neurotic reluctance with a charm that easily makes even the slowest parts of the film tolerable to sit through. Armitage mostly portrays Thorin as a grumpy, dour fellow who doubts his new charge, but he does so with hints of a tortured personality. Sylvestor McCoy is also quite good as the eccentric Radagast, and the dwarves are all well cast and fitting for their roles. And of course, it's gratifying to see McKellan, Lee, Serkis, and even Cate Blanchett (as Galadriel) reprise their roles.
On a more controversial move, Jackson chose to shoot this HOBBIT trilogy in High Frame Rate mode, in which the speed of the frames is increased from 24fps to 48fps. It's a bold, daring move, and in many ways it works quite well for this movie; Middle Earth looks spectacular and rich in its depth with the 3D format, but other times it gives the feel of a super-polished real-life documentary on TV rather than a film. Having said that, though, the film plays well either way so aside from the frame rate length.
Is this HOBBIT trilogy on par with the original LORD OF THE RINGS? No. But it's still well-made and executed with a style that only Jackson can do. In short, whether you decide that THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is for you depends on how much you are willing to overlook the eccentric decision to extend what is essentially a shorter story and embark on another adventure. Having said that, though, I still quite enjoyed the movie and if nothing else, it left me eager for the next chapter.
1. More of DALE, including the BLACK ARROWS. Director Peter Jackson mentions a previously unseen character: "Girion, who is defending [the city of] Dale using black arrows against Smaug. And the black arrows play a part in an ongoing story, for they are the one thing that can pierce the dragon's hide."
2. More king of the wood elves; THRANDUIL. Peter Jackson: "There are also issues with Thranduil. We get some of the reason why he and the dwarves had a falling out - to do with these white gems..."
3. More of HOBBITON. Producer Phillipa Boyens: "You are going to get more of Hobbiton. We always wanted to wend our way through Hobbiton, but in the end Bilbo has to run out of the door."
4. The OLD TOOK'S PARTY: In which we see a younger Gandalf meet Bilbo Baggins as a young child, convincing the wizard of the young hobbit's bravery and courage. I won't spoil it for you, but it involves a dragon and a bit of magic.
5. Dwarf antics at RIVENDELL. Peter Jackson: "You are going to get some serious Dwarvish disrespect of the elves at Rivendell." Bofur leads the troupe in a rowdy chorus of "The Man in the Moon", a classic Tolkien pub-song.
6. The SONG of the GOBLIN KING. Producer Fran Walsh: "You are going to get more Goblin Town, and the Great Goblin singing his song. It is a great song, but it was just another delay in terms of moving the story along." Peter Jackson: "A number one hit from the Goblin King. Barry Humphries is going to rise up the charts!"
Well, all looking good on these fronts! The roads lead ever on and on...
I've tried more than once to watch this through appreciative eyes, but since sitting through it in the theater, I cannot make it all the way through. At home, when I have the power to choose, I get bored with it and change to something else. Sorry, to me it feels like an appropriation of a classic story by an iconic author simply to make money.
For me, the only way to visit Middle Earth is through the books themselves. Tolkien's stories told with Tolkien's prose and poetry. Any interpretation by another is a view once removed, and the experience suffers by comparison.
I am not a fan of fantasy fiction, and it was warchung The Desolation Of Smaug, when I was looking for something to watch one day, that made me go back and watch The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey.
And I loved!!!!! This Trilogy. It is up there with the original Star Wars Trilogy in terms of awesome story telling.
The Goblins, trolls, Gollum and the special effects were beyond amazing.
But the story itself that makes the whole movie worthwhile.
After seeing the Hobbit, I decided to watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I had only seen parts of the Fellowship. The Hobbit movies definitely make the series of movies so good.
I highly recommend The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey. They are long, but worth watching over and over.
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