this sound familiar? A little dude with
big feet saves the world. A magic ring
is involved. Welcome back to Middle
Earth. After the complete triumph of the
Lord of the Rings trilogy, a big
screen treatment for The Hobbit was
almost inevitable. Fortunately, after a
complicated development process, Peter Jackson retook the reins of what is now
a prequel trilogy. As most anyone remotely
connected to the media culture knows, Jackson’s The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey (trailer here) opens today,
just about everywhere.
and you might miss him, but Frodo appears in passing early on. Of course, The Hobbit is Bilbo Baggins story, which he is writing out for
Frodo’s edification. In his younger
years, Baggins was recruited by Gandalf the Grey to aid a company of dwarves
reclaim their ancestral home from an ancient dragon. A bookish homebody, Baggins cannot fathom
what he would bring to the expedition, but Gandalf just seems to think it will
be helpful to have a hobbit along.
Thorin Oakenshield, the fiery heir to the Dwarvish throne, is openly
contemptuous of Baggins, but several of his compatriots eventually warm to
their halfing compatriot.
also makes no secret of his resentment for the Elvish kingdom, whom he blames
for turning their backs on the Dwarves in their hour of need. However, Gandalf insists they will need their
assistance deciphering a certain magical map.
They could also use a hand with the Orc hordes pursuing them through the
mountains. Frankly, there should not be
so many trolls and goblins roaming about the foothills. There seems to be an evil agency at work,
with most signs pointing to the former Dwarvish homeland.
The Hobbit is just one average sized
book and The Lord of the Rings is a fat
trilogy, one would expect a lot of filler in Unexpected Journey. Yet,
since about seventy-five percent of the film consists of the orcs chasing or
battling the dwarves, it’s nearly three hours do not seem so excessively padded
(as long as you enjoy fantastical action).
that melee looks great in 3D. No lame 2D
fix-up (like Clash of the Titans), Journey was clearly conceived for the
format. However, the High Frame Rate
(HFR) gimmick is another story. Frankly,
the super sharp clarity of image often makes the effects look more fake rather
than the opposite. Conversely, the early
scenes in Bag End lack the warm cozy vibe one would expect.
if HFR is more of a distraction than an attraction, Jackson gets the bigger
Tolkien picture. He understands and
always remains true to the series’ themes of sacrifice, faith, courage, and
humility. Fans trust him adapting this
world, with good reason, so if the HFR experiment is the price to pay for
Jackson’s return to Middle Earth, it is probably worth it.
might not be as epic as its LOTR predecessors, but it does not disappoint. Martin Freeman (Sherlock’s Dr. Watson) has the right everyhobbit presence and looks
quite credible as Sir Ian Holm’s younger analog. Most importantly, Sir Ian McKellen is back as
Gandalf, a role he was probably born to play.
Hammer fans will also be pleased to see Sir Christopher Lee return as
Saruman the White. It is sort of more of
the same, but Jackson makes it feel right even when it looks a little weird. Recommended for fantasy fans, The Hobbit is now playing on over 4,000
screens nationwide, including the AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York.
Labels: 3D films, Fantasy cinema, JRR Tolkien, Peter Jackson, Sir Christopher Lee, Sir Ian McKellen