December 14th has come and gone, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has released in the US and earned nearly $85 million domestically, and I finally saw it in 2D with my wife Saturday night (Dec. 15, 2012). Now the question is, “was it a good movie?” My answer would be a resounding “YES!”
The critical response to The Hobbit has been…interesting, and has undoubtedly made some cautious to see it. Considering the lowest RottenTomatoes.com score for a Lord of the Rings trilogy film was Fellowship of the Ring at 92% and an 8.1 for its average rating, I can’t blame anyone for hesitating at the sight of a 65% score alongside a 6.4 average rating. It appears that many critics take issue with the high-speed 48fps 3D version, though I can’t say why because I haven’t seen The Hobbit in 3D and most likely won’t. All I can say to you, dear reader, is that everyone I know on Twitter and other social media that has seen the 48fps version has either praised it or at the very least has no ill will toward it.
Having completed JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit on audiobook less than a month ago, I can vouch that Peter Jackson’s An Unexpected Journey is not entirely accurate to the book. In my opinion however, this is a very good thing for the film; especially if those behind it hope to present us with a solid and convincing trilogy. While a fair number of scenes and memorable moments have been dropped from the film’s continuity, just as many (if not more) scenes and entire locations have been added; not to mention cameos from characters relevant to the Lord of the Rings trilogy (however brief they may be). Some of these differences actually serve a greater purpose, in that they allow for a connection between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings that simply doesn’t exist in Tolkien’s novel. The others serve as more of a connection to other aspects of the Middle Earth mythos, many of which I would file in the “that looked really cool” category.
Beyond a few strange moments and the film feeling just barely too long overall, there are only two real negatives that I can find in the entire movie. The first concerns one of the connections between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy mentioned previously. We see Bilbo (Martin Freeman) in his later years (before the events of Fellowship of the Ring) as he records the events of his adventure with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves. This scene, which features a cameo likely to put a smile on your face as it did mine, goes on for far too long in my opinion. It only lasts a few of minutes, sure, but feels completely out of place and unnecessary to the movie as a whole.
The second has to do with the dwarves. Unlike in the book, we only get to know a handful of them to any degree; particularly Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Balin (Ken Stott), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Fili (Dean O’Gorman), and Kili (Aidan Turner). The others are recognizable based on their appearance and actions, but it’s hard if not impossible to know what distinguishes them from each other in the movie. My hope is that they will be developed further in The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again (parts 2 and 3 respectively), but that doesn’t excuse this film for not focusing more on the establishment of its primary and secondary characters.
My quibbles aside, I enjoyed The Hobbit immensely. It’s beautiful, wonderfully acted, has a magnificent soundtrack, and there is a distinct element of fun to it that felt a bit absent at times in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Of course, that’s not meant to detract from my opinion of those films, as they comprise one of my favorite movie trilogies of all time. They take place during a much darker period of Middle Earth than the events of An Unexpected Journey as a whole, though that may change somewhat in parts 2 and 3.
When all is said and done, I say that you should see the movie and judge for yourself. Forget what the critics say on Rotten Tomatoes, because The Hobbit is no dud by any means.
I give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: 8/10.
I’m Papa Kenn, and I’ll see you next review.