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Friday, December 14, 2012

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyMore than a decade after The Lord of the Rings first graced the screens, Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth for the first of three films based on, J.R.R. Tokien’s Lord of the Rings predecessor, The Hobbit.  While the original source novel is a relatively brief children’s story, in comparison to the latter books, Peter Jackson used appendices and notes written by Tokien in order to expand the story to tie-in better with Lord of the Rings.  As such, An Unexpected Journey covers roughly a third of the original novel.

It remains to be seen whether or not Peter Jackson seems justified in splitting the story into three films, since the original plan of two films was already a stretch.  I never really found myself noticing the three hour length and it seemed to me that Peter Jackson is using the added time to truly flesh-out the story.  That said, there are at least two extended scenes of expositional flashbacks in the film, which some may interpret as being filler.

As part of the film’s efforts to tie the story in with Lord of the Rings, a lot of familiar faces make appearances in the film. Ejijah Wood and Ian Holm appear in the opening bookend scene as Frodo and the older Bilbo.  The bookend seems to be set shortly before the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, even though both actors are now noticeably a decade older.  Other Lord of the Rings alumni to show up in this film include Hugo Heaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchet as Galadriel, Christopher Lee as Saruman, and, of course, Andy Serkis as Gollum.  I already know that a few of these characters already appear in the novel (though, other than Gollum, I don’t know which), but is interesting the ways Jackson has been bridging the stories together (such as subtle hints at Saruman’s eventual treachery).

Since The Hobbit was a children’s story, the film takes place in a much different Middle Earth than the darker one seen in Lord of the Rings.  This Middle Earth is much more in the realm of fantasy and the creatures are portrayed in such a way.  Creatures, such as trolls and goblins, now talk, which gives them a somewhat more cartoony feeling.  Even Orcs have a much different look to them, than they do in Lord of the Rings. 

Then of course there are the thirteen dwarves, who recruit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to retake their homeland.  Many of the dwarves seem to be there only for comic relief, which adds to the more lighthearted feeling to this film.  Of course, there are also dwarves, such as their leader Thorin (Richard Armitage), who have a more dramatic weight to them.  Also, while the story itself is a bit more lighthearted, there is still quite a bit of violence in the battle scenes, which include quite a few beheadings.

Of course, I can’t talking about this film without giving my thoughts on the much-hyped High Frame Rate (48 fps) projection.  First, I will say that I understand completely why people are not really responding well to HFR, since it’s very jarring at first.  Since it’s double the speed of the traditional 24 fps frame rate, at first it looks like the characters are moving too fast.  However, as I became acclimatized to the new frame rate, I began to realize that the pros far outweighed the cons.  The films looks absolutely gorgeous at 48 fps and everything in the film is crystal clear.  When the camera moves, the action is super-smooth with absolutely no strobing.  In addition, there is no motion blur when people move, so you can actually see the action in the battle scenes.  Also, I believe that the higher frame rate helped to improve the 3D images in the film and I don’t think I’ve seen a 3D film (including Avatar) with 3D-effects this clear.  Bottom line is, I support HFR and I look forward to see how it’s improved on in the years ahead (other than the future Hobbit films, it’s also confirmed that the next Avatar will be filmed in HFR).

In conclusion, I can say that I quite enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  At the end of the day, I will probably say that I will like the Lord of the Rings films better, but it wouldn’t be fair to compare the two, since they are two different types of stories.  I’m already looking forward to seeing the second film next year and it will be interesting to see if Peter Jackson’s decision to split The Hobbit in three films was truly justified.

 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).