Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Or we can simply walk into can do that, right?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 5 out of 5

I saw the first Hobbit film of the trilogy at a midnight showing on an Ultrascreen in 3D and, maybe this is the huge nerd in me talking, but it was AWESOME! Sure the critics were less than impressed but I have to say, it was nice to return to Middle-Earth.

"Can somebody help me?  I can't get down."

Do I really have to tell you what The Hobbit is about? I do? Haven’t you read the book? You haven’t? Why? And why am I only directing this review to those who haven’t read the book? If I would have just directed my questions towards those who have read the book and seen this movie this review could have been a lot easier. I could have just said this movie is awesome and moved on but here ya go…

Trolls...the non-internet kind.

Okay, so The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes place before The Lord of the Rings (that tidbit is for those who live under a rock and never heard of The Hobbit or LOTR) and how Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman as young Bilbo and Ian Holm returning as old Bilbo) got the One Ring and how he became the adventurous hobbit he is.

"Hey...are those two wargs doing it?"

Apparently, the lead singer to Nickelback is also a dwarf.
 Bilbo is visited by the old wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and asked to join in an adventure that will help the wandering dwarves of Erebor reclaim their home under the Lonely Mountain that was conquered by the dragon Smaug. Reluctantly, Bilbo agrees to acts as the burglar for the dwarves; lead by Thorin and accompanied by Bofur, Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bombur, Fíli, Kíli, Óin, Glóin, Nori, Dori and Ori (and Gandalf, too!). On their way to the Lonely Mountain, the crew comes across goblins and their king (voiced by Barry Humphries), a pale orc named Azog (Manu Bennett) out for revenge on Thorin, massive stone giants, trolls, Gandalf’s fellow wizard; the eccentric Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) encountering a dark Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch) bringing evil to his home in the East, and Bilbo has his faithful meeting with the fallen hobbit Gollum (Andy Serkis) where he acquires the ring that will play a somewhat important role in times to come.

Is that hair gel?

Come on, PETA, tell the armed dwarf that "fur is murder."
 I’ll admit it; I am really bias on this one. I’ve never made my geekhood a secret and I’m not going to start now. I’ve read The Hobbit at least a half a dozen times and the LOTR novels and movies have been read and watched by me to the point one would think I’m addicted to Middle-Earth…and some pipe weed. Add to this equation that this first film in The Hobbit series contains literally tons of actors that I really enjoy; like Martin Freeman from The Office and Sherlock, Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords, James Nesbitt from Jekyll and Manu Bennett from Spartacus and Arrow (and returning cast members from LOTR’s Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood), and the fact that the film is a wondrous fable filled with stunning visuals, epic special effects and a tone that really fit the light-hearted nature of the children’s novel and I was pretty much destined to love this movie.

"Don't mind my sweatband, I just went jogging.  Turns out you can just
run into Mordor."

Also, this isn’t the animated film that came out in the 70s so I don’t have to deal with getting that “greatest adventure” song stuck in my head for days on end after watching it.

Hipster dwarves shave their beards and do it ironically.

So...a dwarf's man cave is literally a cave.
 When the project was first announced I passed out from excitement. I passed out again when one of my favorite directors; Guillermo del Toro, was announced to have written the screenplay and was going to direct it. I would have loved to have seen his unique vision of Middle-Earth even if it could directly conflict with the established world we saw Peter Jackson create. However, after many delays, del Toro left production and remained on as an executive producer and Jackson returned to helm the film. What was presented was a return to the world he created and stayed in for over a decade of his life and it felt like no time had passed since he wrapped up filming The Return of the King. Everything still looked like it did when Frodo and the Fellowship were on their way to Mordor.

Saruman looks like he needs a nap.

When Jackson announced the film would be in two parts I said, “Okay but I would willingly sit through a 4—even 5—hour Hobbit film but I understand that our country’s attention span is measured in half a blink of an eye.” However, I was shocked when he announced that instead of two films, it would be a trilogy. My immediate thought was, “So, each film is going to be an hour and a half long in order to milk as much money out of us as you can, Jackson?” But since I love Middle-Earth and J. R. R. Tolkien I screamed, “TAKE MY MONEY!”

"Uh oh...I shouldn't have had that second 2nd breakfast..."

Oh look, it's the eagles.  The pretentious race who was too
good to do any real help during the ring crisis.
 I originally believed that purely monetary reasons were the guiding force to make The Hobbit (a book anyone can read in a single night…well, maybe not anyone because we all know the cast of Jersey Shore—most of their viewers too— can’t read so they obviously can’t do it) into three films but when Jackson said they were going to build on the story by pulling from references in LOTR and the appendices in The Return of the King. Jackson could have probably also pulled from Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion but they didn’t have the rights to the film and that becomes the reason why Gandalf says he doesn’t recall the names of some other wizards.

Rush Limbaugh even has a part in this one...ha ha, who am I kidding?
This man is in much better shape than Rush...better looking too.

Pulling in more material ended up making The Hobbit go from a small but wonderfully fun tale of Bilbo’s hijinks as he goes from a lazy hobbit who cares only about a good book, a savory smoke and a couple of second breakfasts to a grandiose epic that belongs right next to the rest of Jackson’s Tolkien films. Rich backgrounds that were only mentioned in the back of The Return of the King play out in front of you and make the dwarves desire to get their home back more important.

One thing I've learned in life is never break out your Gollum impression while
making out with a woman.  That'll end that make out session pretty quick.

The Hobbit is a slight shock to the few people who only know of Tolkien’s work from Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy since it’s not as dark or foreboding and is more light and humorous. The Hobbit was a kid’s book before anything else and the tone that the movie had was a very faithfully translated by Jackson and even enhanced with some dark elements that were thrown in thanks to some added history that I discussed in the last two paragraphs.

"Dammit, I can't keep track of all you dwarves...I knew I should have brought leashes."

Radagast is racing for pink slips later.
 One of the strongest aspects of the film is seeing Bilbo played by another actor after Ian Holm set the standard. Martin Freeman perfectly played not only a younger version of Holm but the hobbit I always envisioned in my head when I read the novel. The playful but uncomfortable demeanor of Bilbo as he becomes a fish-out-of-fish when he leaves The Shire is there in all its glory and done so in a way that is addictive and fun thanks to Martin Freeman. Peter Jackson stated that Martin Freeman was always his number one choice to play Bilbo and would have even adjusted their shooting schedule for the entire series because Freeman almost said no due to his commitments to Sherlock. Thankfully Freeman was the man because apparently Shia LaBeouf wanted to play Bilbo and I could NOT handle a stammering, stuttering Bilbo trying unsuccessfully to make comic relief in a very painfully obvious way. Freeman handles the humor with more subtlety…not to mention Freeman can act circles around LaBeouf before LaBeefy can even utter his first annoying stutter.

"How'd they get the flaming bag inside my hobbit hole?"

He got a speaking part this time!
 In reality, there isn’t an actor on this cast that isn't performing their duty exceptionally. I could go on and on how each and every dwarf (even ones with limited screen time) help make the world of The Hobbit come to life and how seeing the returning cast members from LOTR look like a single day hasn’t gone by since they’ve performed their roles or how Richard Armitage really makes Thorin Oakenshield a powerful but troubled leader as he leads his men to Erebor. I could even mention how Andy Serkis clearly isn’t mortal as he makes Gollum (even though Gollum is completely CG) a real character that you are simultaneously entertained by, frightened by and feel sorry for. That brings me to my next point…

My next point is don't fuck with Dwalin.

"What's the matter, trolls?  A little...hard?  Okay, I'm a
wizard and puns are not really my thing."
 The Lord of the Rings was a visual and special effects buffet that kept feeding you minute after minute of their running times. Every detail was done to perfectly craft a world that looked legitimate. With painstakingly rich sets and costume design, amazing locales and a combination of using practical camera effects and computers; all those involved were able to create a realistic Middle-Earth where you believed that Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood (who, in real life, McKellen is slightly taller than than wood) were actual drastically different in size but interacted in a completely seamless way. This same insane amount of attention is returned as once again every single aspect of the world that is Middle-Earth looks like it was bred, grown, made, consumed and produced in a world where hobbits, dwarves, orcs, dragons and wizards exists side-by-side with men. The height difference we’ve come to expect is there at well and just as frighteningly realistic as it was before.

Fun Note:  When Thorin gets too much pipe weed in him he starts spouting off
racist things about elves and the kingdoms of men.

Even more frighteningly realistic was the decision to film the movie at 48 frames per second rather than the standard 24.  Originally a topic of some debate when this was announced, I must say the end result was breathtaking as the action that unfolded before you moved smoothly with no motion blur or shuttering.  When I saw this in the theater at midnight the footage was so clear and flowing so well that it looked less like I was looking at a screen and more like I was looking through a window at the real world beyond.

Sometimes albinos are the object of healthy fear...but only when they are also
orcs.  Every other time laughter is the only real reaction you should have.

Basically, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just want I wanted and more from the start of the Hobbit trilogy. The story is just as fun as the book, the visuals still make me want to visit New Zealand because it looks like the world’s most beautiful land, the special effects are astoundingly good and the film ends on a note that is satisfying enough to end on but gets the appetite roaring for the next film.

Can't wait...

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