In 2003, Peter Jackson and company swept the Academy Awards with 11 wins for Return of the King; forever setting an incredibly high standard for fantasy/adventure films. Nine years later, Jackson returns to bring Tolkien’s 1935 masterpiece to life in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. How does it fare in comparison to the mighty Lord of the Rings trilogy? Let’s find out.
It’s hard to go wrong when your muse is a world-renowned novel with an enormous fan-base That being said, there is an ulterior task at hand in this movie: introducing Sauron and setting the stage for our beloved LOTR. While not straying far from the book, and successfully integrating parts and scenes from the first Tolkien trilogy, I still felt a lot of the dialogue to be off the mark. Phrases here and there that didn’t quite fit in with the story being told, not to mention a cheesy, though appropriate, resolution to Bilbo’s “internal struggle,” which was the only real character insight we received. Overall, however, I very much enjoyed the story, and was able to overlook such diminutive squabbles.
This was difficult to grade, considering that all of the returning actors lived up to their namesakes (Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood) and Martin Freeman perfectly captures Bilbo Baggins. That being said, the supporting group of dwarves was not as well cast as I would have liked. Thorin, the leader, was my biggest complaint. While he was able to brood just fine, I felt that Richard Armitage was far from the mark. This was the story of most of the dwarves, with a few minor exceptions. In the end, McKellen and Freeman pulled it off in a heart-warming fashion.
Peter Jackson has, over the past decade or so, become one of my personal favorites. From The Fellowship, to District 9, to Tin-Tin, and even King Kong, I have always enjoyed his style and innovation. In The Hobbit, prepare yourselves for a wide array of breath-taking panoramic camera sweeps packed with history and life. Apart from some rushed battle scenes, and a few shots from what feels like a hand held camera, I found myself gaping at the beauty of the world Jackson and Tolkien have created. Visually gripping and masterfully cut, Jackson’s newest film takes us back to the Middle Earth of old. Not only did the movie supply us with well-done 3D, but also boasts a new 48 FPS format which makes the magic seem all the more real.
Finished Product: 21/25
Through the entirety of the movie, CGI is used quite heavily. In my opinion, it is displayed too often, and sometimes very poorly. The film’s musical score is moving at times, but feels out of place at others. A decent and fitting composition, but it hardly lives up to the Academy Award-winning score from Return of the King. As was the case with the first Trilogy, the massive sets and scenes in the film are astounding and incredibly detailed. They truly make you believe that this world exists.
Final Score: 84/100
Overall, I found myself reveling in the joy and fun of traveling back to Middle Earth and reuniting with old friends, such as Gandalf and Elrond. However, it is far from becoming the masterpiece that was Return of the King. Even with its downfalls and shortcomings, it dutifully sets the stage for a big finish in part two, and begins to hint at what the alleged “part three” may hold in store. Looking down the road at the films to come, I find myself singing along with the dwarves: “Far over the Misty Mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old, we must away, ere break of day, to seek our pale enchanted gold.”