Written by / 12/14/2012 / 2 Comments /

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

year: 2012 rating: **
In LORD OF THE RINGS, the old Bilbo compares wearing the ring – and the weight it bore upon his soul – as butter stretched onto too much bread. That’s exactly what director Peter Jackson does to THE HOBBIT, at least judging by this overlong first outing of three completed films.

As a novel, THE HOBBIT can be described either as a lightweight alternative to THE LORD OF THE RINGS or a nice snack before a big meal. Turning it into a sprawling epic, Jackson piles way too much exposition, backstory and add-ons: including a revenge tale involving a gigantic one-armed Orc (with the expressions of an irate professional wrestler); a klutzy wizard with a bird's nest on his head riding a sleigh pulled by bunny rabbits; and human-shaped mountains fighting each other during a thunderstorm. The most exciting parts of the book seem placed within THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY as filler action sequences between tedious bouts of dialog and a few horrific songs. A meeting in Rivendale, where the top brass discuss what's to come (including a shadowy Necromancer), is overlong and boring, while the presence of Saruman is meaningless: he was needed much more in RETURN OF THE KING where he doesn’t show up at all.

As the title character, Martin Freeman looks perfect as Bilbo Baggins, the uptight Hobbit hired as a “burglar” to join a band of Dwarves to reclaim a stolen treasure. His delivery of lines seems more befitting a modern comedy than the fantastical Middle Earth. Yet when the stakes are raised and he puts his neurosis aside, Bilbo comes alive. But he’s not a character to truly invest in… especially in the shadow of Elijah Wood’s Frodo. While he’s supposed to be reluctant to join in on the adventure, he underplays his hand and never seems the most important part of a story bearing his name. It’s the dwarf Thorin who gets most of the attention, obviously intended as the new Aragorn – with a long brooding face and the bravado of an intrepid hero, he’s the one to root for. Thorin alone carries the honor of the dwarves and the basic plot to get their riches back from a dragon. Even in Tolkien’s book, all the dwarf names get dizzying and it’s hard to center on anyone else. And while Richard Armitage does his best to shine, he has too many distractions to compete with.

Ian McKellen’s noticeably aged Gandalf provides so many 11th hour rescues, there’s little suspense on how the antagonists will get out of each predicament. He's like that BOMB button on the video game that provides a much too easy out: The best scenes involve the gang escaping from inside an Orc mountain, and then going up against a pack of ferocious (though much too computerized) wolves. Although the Orc King, who looks somewhat menacing, has a comically sarcastic voice, distracting from what should be a formidable creature… He seems more apt to deliver a standup routine than end lives. And this is the problem throughout much of the film: an awkward balancing act between a children’s movie and a gruesome bloody epic. Even the meat eating Troll trio, kickstarting the book’s action, come across as The Three Stooges here.

The “Riddles in the Dark” segment, technically the most important, where Bilbo finds the ring in Gollum’s murky lair as they trade riddles back and forth, is completely wasted thanks to Gollum’s hard to understand delivery of either the riddles or the answers. Andy Serkis (and the special effects team) overacts the writhing creature to an embarrassing level. Martin Freeman tries hard to make the scene as important as it should be – but he’s competing with a hyperactive cartoon. Who knows, maybe THE HOBBIT trilogy will improve after this bloated mess. Based on a delicious book replete with nonstop adventures, our heroes should escape more deadly obstacles rather than wallowing in pretentious melodrama backed by searing music that, even during cool fight scenes, is way too deep and operatic. Since LORD OF THE RINGS was broken into three movies just like THE HOBBIT, perhaps it should have been nine: three films for each volume. Sure, that would have been much too much information. Exactly the problem here…

It's apparent Peter Jackson is too close to the material at hand. If another director took a stab at THE HOBBIT, it may have turned out more of a solitary adventure rather than a desperate attempt to glue one long saga together.
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2 comments:

  1. My greatest fear has come true it seems by your last comments. I was having this exact discussion Monday night with a friend. My premise was that I had been totally excited with the fact that Guillermo Del Toro was going to be directing THE HOBBIT instead of Peter Jackson. One, Del Toro proved he is awesome with creating an alternate environment and does the fey as good as anybody with his movies PAN'S LABYRINTH and HELLBOY 2. Two, he doesn't have the Peter Jackson habit of "Well I have the power to throw everything into the movie including the kitchen sink, let's include three kitchen sinks, an ice box, and a trash compactor." - in other words - he wouldn't take a straight forward adventure story and turn it into an over bloated corpse that starts to stink in summer sun.

    My main argument was: THE HOBBIT would have made an awesome single nearly 3 hour movie. A good duology. A bloated mess of a trilogy.

    I'm going today at Noon o'clock. I'll post my final tally then.

    Great review as always sir.

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  2. Upon further review...

    I saw it at the noon'o'lock showing today. I have never been so upset about a translation of a movie from book to film in my life. Several times during the movie I would have walked out if I hadn't been with one of my friends. As soon as the movie ended I stormed out of the movie theater, ran outside and up the stairs (at Marina Pacifica). I was seriously shaking with anger I was so upset, my voice quivering when I was trying to explain to my friend why I thought it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

    I HATED THIS MOVIE with all my being. What an absolute abomination. This is what I had expected with Jackson directing the LORD OF THE RINGS. Instead he waited 10 years to drop this turd.

    This movie almost killed my love for movies. I was freaking BORED through the first half of this movie, and the second half of this movie if you heard sarcastic laughter after the fake 'audience' laughter, that would be me, yes it was.

    I could go scene by scene with commentary, this movie has so seared my senses. I won't though. I won't be seeing the sequels.

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