The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

December 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

I know I am already parsing out my ratings enough (one friend does not even like the 1/2 ratings) but I would put this on the lower side of 3 1/2 lozenges; I definitely enjoyed it more than my threes this year but not as much as many of my three and a halves.  But I refuse to do 3 1/4, so do with that info what you will.  I had a thoroughly good time from start to finish with this film, with one action scene quickly leading into another.  It was also hard not to get caught up in audience enthusiasm and we had that in our theater in droves.  However, this is no “Lord Of The Rings” by any stretch of the imagination.  “The Hobbit” was written for kids and is much more innocent and silly and lacks the classic tropes that make LOTR the best film trilogy yet made, in my opinion (argue, if you dare).  Not that Jackson didn’t try to beef up the darkness by drawing heavily upon the appendixes to the LOTR book series, introducing scenes, plot lines and whole characters that were nowhere to be found in “The Hobbit.”  This also, rather conveniently  serves the purpose of providing enough material for a third movie.  So now, instead of two films (“An Unexpected Journey” and “There and Back Again” — both titles coming from the names of the two halves of Tolkien’s book), there will be a third film (“The Desolation of Smaug”) stuck in the middle.  Unlike the book, that focuses on trolls and goblins, the film adds orcs and introduces an orc villain clearly meant to take the Nazgûl king’s role in LOTR.  It also has a mysterious necromancer, who will likely be a Sauron substitute (or else Sauron, himself).  These deviations upset the poor gentleman behind me but I only care if they fit within the film and I think they both do.  I preferred these additions far more than I did all the slapstick silliness of the dwarves that, while in keeping with the book, made the film seem childish and trivialized the story.  Much has been made of the 48 fps (frames-per-second); I eschewed the theater down the road showing it in that format to see it on a grander screen.  I don’t think I made a bad choice.  Critics have complained that the 48 fps made them nauseous in the action scenes and was a bit too HD for them and the regular 24 fps was already plenty HD-ish for me.   I found the actions scenes to be crisper than in most CGI movies.  However, I will say that I think the crispness did not serve the film in other ways.  I could see clearly the pores on actors’ faces, which only made the pore-less faces of CGI characters like Golum and the orcs look plastic by comparison.  There were moments when what I was seeing looked more like a video game than a film.  That said, motion-capture technology has improved significantly in the past 10 years and the range of emotions on the CGI faces (especially Golum’s) was noticeably improved.  A cavalcade of familiar faces appeared for moments at a time (Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee) while others remained conspicuously absent (notably Orlando Bloom).  I was most disappointed not to see Stephen Colbert, after the recent hinting he has done, and am holding out hope for a future appearance.  Likewise, we can expect to see (& hear) the currently red-hot Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s “Sherlock,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) in both future films as he is both the voice of Smaug and the necromancer.  So, while this film was certainly fun in spades, it lacked the sense of foreboding and of heroic forces against overwhelming evil that made the LOTR films such classics.  I cannot see this series being considered a classic, though it will almost certainly be a far cry better than any other prequels to classic special effects trilogies that I can think of.

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