The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, an absolute pleasure!

Published: January 8, 2013
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I give The Hobbit an 8/10. Without the 3D, I would give it an 8.5! PHOTO: PUBLICITY

When Gandalf first appears at Bilbo Baggin’s front door, at least half a dozen screams erupt in the packed cinema hall.

These screams continue to be heard (followed by equally loud ‘shhh-es’) sporadically throughout the 169 minute long showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – a film that seems to be director Peter Jackson’s attempt to fulfil all (and I really mean all) his dreams of doing further justice to JRR Tolkien’s detailed vision of Middle-earth.

Suffice to say, anyone who has seen and loved the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy (haven’t we all?), read the books, occasionally glanced through the appendices, learnt the odd sentence or two in Elvish, gotten a LOTR tattoo or bought a primer to Middle-earth is in for a fine old time.

For everyone else, you’d better enjoy it, or get out.

Disclaimer: I consider myself at most, an average fan of LOTR. I have read and watched the trilogy (but not the extended version) just once. I have read The Hobbit just once as well, and thoroughly enjoyed it, perhaps even more so than the trilogy because, well, the story was simpler and just more fun. I have flipped through The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth before abandoning them.

As an added note, whenever I play fantasy Role-playing Games (RPGs), I tend to be a female elf torn between being a sorcerer of the light or an evil dark mage. I tend to love plot, focus on enhancing my character’s speech, hate the battles, usually selecting ‘novice’ for game play (this has relevance, I assure you).

With that out of the way, let me get into everything I liked and disliked about the film adaptation.

Things I liked (in no order) – SOME SPOILERS

Bilbo Baggins – played by Martin Freeman par excellence! I could not have asked for a better Bilbo. Freeman played the role just as I had pictured it in my head while reading the book; the sincerity, the honesty, the character development from self-doubt to little hero, and the charming simplicity with which Bilbo is depicted is perhaps the best aspect of the film. Freeman held the film together, and helped bring it down to (Middle) Earth every time it started spiralling into an action-epic with too little soul. Like factor: 9/10

Gandalf – played by Ian McKellen is also, in my opinion, perfect. Flawless acting, a sense of grandeur with enough down-to-earth quirkiness and that warm feeling of ‘everything is going to be okay with the Grey Wizard around’ is all intact. Like factor: 9/10

Thorin Oakenshield – played by Richard Armitage was another stand-out performance. One of my favourite scenes is from near the end of the film where after running to the point of no-return, Thorin turns around to face his old enemy, flames around him, a path open before him, and a determination in his eyes that screams this is a true leader (and the music for the moment is awe-inspiring – and stolen from the original LOTR?). Yes, repeated references to how Thorin does not trust Baggins to come through felt forced in the film, but I blame the scriptwriter for that. Armitage was absolutely convincing in his role as a king-without-a-kingdom, demi-god dwarf with a chip on his shoulder. Like factor: 8/10

The scene with the trolls – was brilliant! Thank you Peter Jackson for keeping the film light-hearted enough to not be on the same mood/tone as the LOTR trilogy. More adventure with less axe-swinging and more amusing banter will keep this female elf (see disclaimer above) more than happy. Like factor: 8/10

The Stone Giants battle – was really scary. The scene nailed it for me as far as generating a sense of terror, excitement and awe go. I had issues with the 3D (see below) and the level of light, but ignoring that, I was totally on edge during this. Question: was this in the book though? Even if it wasn’t, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Like factor: 8/10

The escape from the Goblins – was awesome! I loved Gandalf’s entrance, the pace, the rough-and-tumble aspect of the escape paired with the humour that the dwarves (as a unit) bring to the whole film. Which reminds me – I read a critique of the film somewhere which said,

“The dwarves made very little impression as stand-alone characters, aside from Thorin.”

To this I would just reply, dude, there are over a dozen of them; I think we need to think of them as a single entity, and as a single rough-on-the-edges-hilarious-heroic entity, they were really good. Like factor: 8/10

Gollum vs Bilbo – while my wife found the whole riddles game overly tedious for a film, I loved it! Andy Serkis is a great Gollum. The character itself is so richly layered (and demented, and sad) that the more we get of him, the better. I was really hoping to get a flashback to a detailed vision of Gollum’s past to see how he came to possess the ring and how it corrupted him, but perhaps that is too much to wish for. Like factor: 10/10

Overall tone – the film was fun, not-too-heavy yet heavy enough to make my heart beat harder and my head think, on more than one occasion. I feel the film has the same essence of the LOTR trilogies, which is a good thing because, A: those films were great, and B: I want consistency in a world I now visually picture/know.

Bear in mind, it is different enough from the trilogy, in that there are more jokes, a different more care-free albeit panicky pace, less threatening/ominous and not as deep (in a good way). Like factor: 8/10

Film length – as an average fan of LOTR and a frequent player of RPGs (with a focus on the plot, not the action), I’d say the film’s length is just about right. Three hour long films are becoming more and more acceptable in this cinematic age, and I for one feel The Hobbit — seen less as an adaptation of the book, and more as a chance to explore of as much of Middle-earth as possible — is perfectly acceptable in three large parts.

While critics may disagree, and haters might always point to this as an issue – if I was Peter Jackson, knowing this may be my (and the world’s) last chance (for a while) to get deep into a Middle-earth adventure, I’d make it as long as possible with tonnes of embellishments, too! Like factor: 7/10

Things I disliked (in no order)

Too much action – there is a real limit, I feel, to how far you can push a film visually, particularly with grand action sequences, battles, escapes and what not. While I did not feel fatigue from the film’s dialogue, I did feel fatigue from the running-jumping-battling-swooping-soaring-hurtling-killing that went on. Yes, yes, I have read critiques of the film saying it was too long when it came to the slower, wordier scenes, but give me good conversation, quips and some ale across a dinner table over 15 minutes of running away from orcs any day. Yes I liked the stone giants’ battle and the escape from the goblins, but all the action could have been tighter. Dislike factor: 4/10

The 3D/overall visual experienceThe (regular) 3D was possibly the most unnecessary I have experienced yet. In my own humble lay watcher’s terms: it was distracting and not very good/convincing at times. I can’t remember one scene where it actually added to the experience, and I can remember a few where it seemed just odd (flat albeit beautiful backdrops of New Zealand against oddly sharp foreground stuff). I would have paid the same to watch the 2D version if I had known. Keep in mind, I am all about plot, script and acting, which is where I feel this film excelled, and exactly where 3D is not neededDislike factor: 5/10 

Saruman/Galadriel/Gandalf/Elrond moment – felt forced. When I see such a bevy of great actors sit down at a table, I expect – I don’t know – something more? Instead of being an essential part of the film it just seemed like a LOTR trilogy throwback filler. Fun enough for the fans, but pointless in the scheme of things. The same can be said of the necromancer-evil-is-coming side plot with Radagast the Brown. I guess once I watch all three films in a row, it will make more sense, but right now it was just interesting-but-let’s-get-back-to-the-plot.  Dislike factor: 6/10 

What people watching with me said

“So many additions to the original book’s plot – I love it!”

“They took such a short book and stretched it into three films to earn big bucks off enthused fans!”

“Where are the women characters of worth? Wait…are there any women characters?”

“If the Eagles could be called by Gandalf for a rescue, why the hell couldn’t they be called at the start of the adventure and oh, fly everyone right to the mountain?!”

“It’s too long. I think only LOTR fans would like it.”

“Just randomly watched Batman VS Dracula on Cartoon Network. It was better than The Hobbit.”

“I haven’t read the book! It doesn’t make sense! Help!”

Conclusion

I give The Hobbit an 8/10. Without the 3D, I would give it an 8.5!

For a review praising the film, read: The Hobbit – big things have small beginnings

For a review bashing the film, read: The Oversized Ambitions of ‘The Hobbit

PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

Read more by Jahanzaib here or follow him on Twitter @jhaque_

Jahanzaib Haque

Jahanzaib Haque

News buff and Web Editor, The Express Tribune. Jahanzaib tweets @Jhaque_ twitter.com/jhaque_

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03737685681999936797 Uruj

    When I heard about Peter Jackson filming the hobbit into three separate movies, I was extremely confused to be honest. Because such a small book, as compared to the LOTR trilogy, and three movies. But after I watched it, I thought that this will work out perfectly well, because the movie was simply amazing.
    The changes that were made, such as Thorin’s character as pointed out by another ET blogger, did not bother me at all. What did bother me was that scene when Gandalf was with the elves in Rivendell. I find that scene a bit boring.
    It’s hard for me to decide that what my favorite part was. I mean the trolls were tremendous, the dwarves entering in Bilbo’s house and making such a chaos was hysterical, and don’t get me started on the riddles in the dark.
    Can’t wait for the next two movies!Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Great read! I agree. Here is my review:

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/487936/movie-review-the-hobbit–big-things-have-small-beginnings/

    I am going to watch this at least twice more at the theaters. :) Too bad we aren’t getting the new frames per second in Pakistan! Recommend

  • http://www.jtdjrd.com jhfg

    Good Review. Amzing Movie! Recommend

  • Haris Chaudhry

    such a geek !!!Recommend

  • GrimmJow

    Well, I believe that 3D should be a choice left to the audience in the sense that whoever wishes to see a movie in 3D can do so with the option of 2D viewing at the same time.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/BajiPlease Baji Please

    You seem so much excited about the movie whereas it totally sucked for me. I regret wasting money on such a lot of very very very much grandiose ‘noise’. The only 5 peaceful minutes were when the gollum arrived.Recommend

  • seraphim

    Regarding the Galadriel/Saruman/Elrond/Gandalf moment, I personally found it necessary and important! That is the White Council, which they never show or explain in either The Hobbit or in LOTR! Its like the United Nations of Middle Earth, except it ironically only has Wizards and Elves in it…
    I also found seeing Saruman being “good” and “nice” kinda awesome, even though he kept back lashing at whatever Gandalf said. Bit frustrating too considering what an a-hole he turns out to be in the LOTR. I would have stabbed him with the Morgul Blade without thinking it twice!
    I also loved the fact that they inserted Galadriel again, since she is the only logical ideal female character they could have possibly used for The Hobbit films. Galadriel did a lot more than just hand Frodo the Light of Earendil in the Fellowship of the ring. She and her hubby fought several battles and cleansed Mirkwood with Thranduil and destroyed Dol Guldur! She is the mightiest, most beautiful, mystical and important female character in my opinion. Arwen and Eowyn come in second for obvious reasons.
    I would have loved to have seen Arwen again!! They could have shown her either playing in a courtyard or something with a boy (Aragorn). Or perhaps brushing her hair in her bedroom, or walking around waving her hands in the background, either way she would have been awesome and super gorgeous ♥♥
    That being said, I am also excited and can’t wait to see Legolas in the next next movie. ♥♥♥♥ Seriously, how did Tolkien create such a wonderful, gorgeous, lethal and important elven character and not have him in The Hobbit!! He is about 2,000 years old and not a single mention of him in the book. And poof! he appears out of no where like Boy Wonder in LOTR. Seriously Tolkien! He should have imagined that guy way back!
    I also wonder if Elrond’s sons will make an appearance anytime soon…

    On a more serious matter, why the hell didn’t the eagles fly them directly to Erebor or near Dale???? I mean come on!!! I know what your all thinking too right now. Why didn’t the eagles also take the fellowship straight to Mount Doom, before the Ring wraiths got their flying mounts, and throw the One Ring inside the volcano!!! A LOT of people would have been saved! Starting with Boromir!! Seriously, that dude dies in every single movie I watch! We all saw Game of Thrones! And he also died in Goldeneye, Equilibrium and The Island!!

    Heck! Lets make things even more interesting, why didn’t no one think of asking the Stone Giants to join their side! Granted, they would have probably been crushed before they could say hello, but at least imagine one of those things on the good guys side. Smaug would have been caught by total suprised! And then they could have gone to Moria and killed the Balrog!

    Yeah… I’m done writing this. Always gets me frustrated!

    Movie rocked btw!!!! Loved the whole thing!! ♥♥Recommend

  • Valandhir

    Good review. But there is a few things to point out.

    The Council scene in Rivendell is fairly important as it sets up the whole situation with Dol Guldur. In the book itself Gandalf will only later say that there was some events surrounding Dol Guldur, which is why he had to leave the dwarves. If you dig through the appendixes and other writings you will find a bit more as to what happened there. This is a neat and wonderful tie in with the overall story beyond the events at Erebor and I for one enjoyed the scene a lot.
    The Eagles – Gandalf could not have asked them to bring them all the way, nor would they. In fact, in the book the Lord of Eagles refuses to fly them over Mirkwood. Gandalf can’t order the Eagles, he can ask them nicely. And I believe he keeps that for absolute emergencies (see the few points in the books where the Eagles appear – Rescue, Battle of the Five Armies and Rescue at Mt. Doom.)
    Thorin’s distrust of the Hobbit – it did not feel forced to me at all. I understood the man very well. Thorin – while even saying to Gandalf that he won’t be responsible for Bilbo’s fate – is not someone to let down any of his followers. He’ll try and protect each and everyone of them, including Bilbo. (See Trolls or Bilbo’s near fall after the Thunder Battle). So Thorin’s frustration is understandable and quite natural (at least it was to me). And it made the end scene on Carrock all the more meaningful.
    The movie length – the movie did not feel long to me at all. And I am grateful PJ took the time to truly develop and explore the story. Too many movies these days fall flat because they never take the time to do so or to show of story of some depth.
    Recommend

  • Mj

    Loved the movie and the way Peter Jackson tied the storyline of the LotR, the appendices, and The Hobbit. I also wish there was an option to watch the movie in 2D, since no cinema in Pak is showing it in 48fps. Although I loved the movie, there are a few of things I did not like about PJ’s interpretation: the (mis)treatment of Radagast, the stone giants not remaining the the background against a backdrop of lightning and thunderstorm, Radagast’s rabbit sled, the overly macho uber-orc Azog, and the equation of pipe-weed to, well, weed.

    The negatives are however more than offset by the amazing Erebor sequence which I found to be more awe-inspiring than the Mines of Moria; and the unexpected party, the goblin mines, Rivendell, riddles with Gollum, the battle outside the gates of Moria, and the great acting across the board and the beautiful vistas.

    @Author:

    How Gollum (Smeagol) came to possess the ring is shown in the extended version of RotK. The extended versions are worth a watch for the added exposition.Recommend

  • MH

    @Baji Please:

    Do you know anything about J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional world? If you do, I don’t see how the movie could possibly have “sucked” for you. Yes, the 3D and overwhelming action haven’t won universal acclaim, but there’s plenty to love in The Hobbit: the heart and warmth in Thorin’s and Bilbo’s relationship, the immensely enjoyable dwarf gathering at Bag End, the sheer adorableness of Fili and Kili (not that I expect you to know who those two are), and the epic music and sweeping scope of the film. If that didn’t do it for you, then I suggest you stick to chick flicks or the action movies that come at a dime a dozen. Middle Earth isn’t for everyone.

    P.S. It’s not “THE gollum.” Gollum is the name of the character, not some random species that can be generalised with a “the.” I’m beginning to see now why you missed the entire point of the film.Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Interesting writing …………. like your style!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    For me, it was an Unexpected Disappointment.

    Replete with CGI just for the sake of CGI, there were scenes you could’ve safely missed.

    Need to go to the bathroom? That’s okay. The pointless stone giant battle scene is about to start, which has no bearing on the story itself. Lots of rock hits lots of other rock. Yeehaw.

    The movie seemed awfully tedious, and for people who remember their last Tolkein film to be The Return of the King, everything seems rather petty in comparison. The stakes are fairly low without a Dark Lord threatening Middle-Earth. And it’s padded with painfully long sequences of camera-flyovers of the companions hiking through New Zealand and CGI landscapes.

    My advice: Enjoy the first scene. Fall asleep for about an hour. Wake up when the party arrives in Rivendell. Go back to sleep, and wake up in time to watch the visually spectacular escape from the goblins. You may exit the theater with or without watching the climax scene (which is just the middle of the book dressed to seem more “final” than it actually is).Recommend

  • CJ

    @Baji Please: – If you wanted peace you shouldn’t have gone to see it.

    And reviewer guy-“I was really hoping to get a flashback to a detailed vision of Gollum’s past to see how he came to possess the ring and how it corrupted him, but perhaps that is too much to wish for.”

    This was all shown at the beginning of Return of the King.Recommend

  • CJ

    @seraphim: – Middle earth wasn’t created until after he wrote The Hobbit so Legolas didn’t exist at that point. Had Tolkien created Middle earth before he wrote that book, Legolas would definitely have been in it, being the son of the King of Mirkwood after all.Recommend