The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review (No spoilers)

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(There will be no spoilers in this review. I saw “The Hobbit” in an IMAX theater, in 3D. Reviews may differ for a 2D movie in respects to the picture and overall “watch-ability.”) Having seen and enjoyed all three Lord of the Rings movies, I was excited at the prospect of the newest (and the earliest, chronologically) installment of the Lord of the Rings epic. I’ve read the trilogy as well as “the Hobbit,” but that was in junior high, and admittedly my memory on the details is hazy. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll state that for this reason an extremely objective comparison of the novel and the movie is impossible. As I sat in a packed theater filled with LOTR fanatics dressed to the nines in fake beards, cloaks and make-shift staffs, I had an open-minded attitude toward the movie, if not a bit skeptical. I, like many others, questioned the decision to split up “The Hobbit” into a trilogy of movies, especially given the fact that the book was shorter than any one of the three Lord of the Rings books. Nevertheless, the previews ended, the lights dimmed, and the movie began. The first thing I noticed in the movie was the picture. I am not a fan of 3D movies as a whole, but this one seemed a good deal more appealing in the 3D format than others I have seen. The 48 frames-per-second filming didn’t detract from the movie in any way for me, and despite a few glaring exceptions where the picture looked a bit cartoonish, I thought the graphics were good. Martin Freeman appeared on screen and provided a marvelous interpretation of Bilbo Baggins, managing to capture his nuanced personality extremely well. Bilbo is equal parts reluctant and excited at the prospect of adventure, and Freeman helped me as a viewer to become endeared to him almost immediately. Ian McKellen provided the familiar face of Gandalf. Initially, he seemed to be showing his age. At 73 years, his performance at first seemed to be impacted in the delivery of some of his lines. After a few scenes however, he either settled into the role or I did; either way, it was no longer an issue. He plays a decidedly more bumbling and light-hearted wizard in this movie, which I believe adequately reflects Tolkien’s vision for Gandalf in the book. Overall the storyline kept my interest very well, fluctuating between dark and ominous and occasionally lighthearted.  Some  have criticized the film for starting too slow, but I don’t believe that to be the case. If memory serves me, the book had a much more lighthearted tone to it, and I wonder how the next two movies will be able to keep up that emotional atmosphere. The dialogue was lively and fun. Some interactions penned by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens were filled with a child-like banter, while others took on a more sinister, solemn tone. Both served to advance the plot and convey the mood of the movie. Director Peter Jackson did a good job at appeasing both the avid LOTR fanatics and the Friday night moviegoer crowd by creating additional storylines that were rooted in material taken from either the Hobbit’s appendices or from the “Silmarillion,” which Tolkien wrote as a sort of history book for Middle Earth. Jackson did use some artistic license, mostly in the way of adding details where the book was ambiguous. He also made some storylines more pronounced than the book did, but such instances can be deemed acceptable in a film adaptation of the novel, in my opinion. My major point of contention with the movie is that I believe it at times lacked continuity. The length of the film didn’t bother me a bit, but at times the pacing felt off. A series of intense and fast-paced action scenes were set alongside longer, drawn out scenes. I didn’t find this to be a major problem, but it did cause the film to lack some cohesiveness, in my opinion. Overall, I would rate the film four out of a possible five stars. It was a gripping narrative, scripted extremely well and brought to life by great actors. I would recommend it, and I definitely plan on seeing the next two movies.
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