Company: New Line Cinema / WingNut Films
Country: USA / New Zealand
Does this highly anticipated film deliver?
Every so once in a while, there is a movie that comes along which leaves you with conflicting feelings. Unfortunately, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is such a film. It suffers from being overstuffed with plot elements that were not originally from the book. Quite a few scenes are lifted from The Silmarillion (the inclusion of the Galaderial and Saruman at the White Counsel) or even created on the spot (like Radagast the Brown's rabbit sled). The Hobbit is a far simpler and shorter story than the Lord of the Rings, so really it should have been shot in two, or maybe even one movie. It is almost painful to admit that the animated TV special from 1977 actually follows the book more closely, despite its exclusion of the Arkenstone and the bear-man Beorn (not to mention its grotesque character designs).
Radagast's scenes are borderline ridiculous, involving blowdrying a hedgehog and driving a rabbit sled.
Yes, this version is actually more loyal to the book...
But by far the most glaring problem with this adaptation is the subplot involving Thorin and the white orc, Azog. Thorin already has enough of a reason to be a relatable character. He feels responsible for the loss of his home under the Lonely Mountain (which was taken by Smaug) and loathes the elves for not helping his people. Azog just seemed like an excuse to squeeze in more long, dragged out fight scenes and show off special effects. He has no character development and looks like a video game boss. (He has a giant hook for an arm. Seriously?) The excessive computer animation on the orcs and fight scenes actually makes the movie seem less real and more fake. Just compare it to the actors wearing orc makeup in the LOTR trilogy.
Intimidating and believable orcs from the Lord of the Rings.
Unnecessary and fake-looking orcs from The Hobbit.
However, the film is not a complete disaster, far from it in fact. Andy Serkins as Golem and Ian Mckellen as Gandalf are great as always. The film does an excellent job of setting the scene in the Shire and remains easy to follow and relatively enjoyable for the first half. (Up until the point Radagast the Brown and the orcs are introduced.) The Goblin King is goofy, but definitely more enjoyable than the Azog. And of course the cinematography, landscape of New Zealand, and score are all quite breathtaking.
Now I want to have a tour of Hobbiton.
Howard Shore is one of the best film composers of our time.
So overall, I would not recommend seeing The Hobbit in theaters. Diehard fans are sure to be disappointed and the second half of the film tends to drag on with cartoony action scenes. However, this film really is strong in places were it follows the book closely and is truly beautiful at times. For those curious, rent The Hobbit when it comes out on DVD, watch the good scenes and fast-forward through the bad ones.