The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an unusually slow movie compared to the exciting Lord of the Rings trilogy.
While Peter Jackson appropriately cut lots of things out from the LOTR book for the films, he seems to have done the reverse for The Hobbit – which only slowed it down. He expounds on characters that are barely mentioned in the book, like Radagast and the Necromancer. Azog, the “Pale Orc”, is not featured in the book; he is only found in The Lord of the Rings: Appendix A.
There were also several scenes that dragged the movie, like the starting scene featuring old Bilbo Baggins and Frodo from the LOTR movies. Completely unnecessary – as if people watching the movie don’t already know its connection to LOTR. The ethereal Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) also makes an appearance, if only to lend a female presence to an otherwise wholly male movie. The scenes featuring Radagast healing a hedgehog also seem unnecessary.
Having said that, it was a nice touch to include the dwarves’ hilarious song about Bilbo when they thrash his house for supper. It was one of the comical moments that characterised The Hobbit book – essentially a children’s book – a far easier read than LOTR. It’s a pity that Jackson did not maintain the book’s light, fast pace.
I did not watch The Hobbit in the 48fps projection, although apparently the new format makes it seem like Teletubbies.
In The Hobbit, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a crew of 13 dwarves are on a mission to reclaim the dwarf kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Erebor contains dwarves’ treasures, including the precious Arkenstone. Jackson changed the dwarves’ characters a little to show them fighting to retake their homeland. In the book, however, the dwarves just want to get their gold back.
Gandalf had selected Bilbo to assist the dwarves as a ‘burglar’, a role that Bilbo reluctantly accepts as he generally hates adventure. Freeman plays Bilbo rather well, although the development of his character is somewhat slow in The Hobbit.
The dwarves, unfortunately, are hard to distinguish, except for their leader – the ruggedly handsome Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) – and a comical pair, Fili (Dean O’Gorman) and Kili (Aidan Turner). Thorin resembles the hero Aragorn in LOTR, although the former is not quite as heroic in the book. Kili is skilled with a bow and arrow, a dashing character similar to Legolas in LOTR.
Along the way, Bilbo and the dwarves battle trolls, orcs and goblins. The fight scenes enliven the film a little, although some sequences slow it down, like the battle of the stone giants. Azog (Manu Bennett) is a meh baddie, while the Goblin King (Barry Humphries) is laughable. They pale in comparison to LOTR villains like Saruman and the Witch-King of Angmar. Let’s hope that Smaug will prove to be a much more terrifying, charismatic villain. In the book, Smaug is the mightiest Dragon of the Age – a very cunning, manipulative creature.
The one saving grace of The Hobbit is the scene featuring Gollum (Andy Serkis) playing a riddle game with Bilbo. There is an uneasy anticipation and terror in seeing them battle it out on a game of wits. Serkis’ portrayal of the despondent, tortured Gollum comes to life. You can feel Gollum’s anguish when he loses his precious ring. His large bright blue eyes also evoke pity, even as he wants to eat Bilbo.
If Peter Jackson can keep the magic of that scene throughout the other two movies, perhaps there is hope. Otherwise, it’ll end up as a wasted trilogy that is merely a shadow of the LOTR.