Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend the Lord of the Rings franchise never happened, that their success would somehow have no effect on how millions of fans across the globe would look at The Hobbit. Even still, on its own merit, The Hobbit is an incredible movie.
Peter Jackson has proven time and time again that he’s probably the best person in the world to handle sweeping epics, and he’s pretty much the big kahuna when it comes to them. After all, Lord of the Rings (and I’m sure now The Hobbit) are some of the most beloved films of all time. He’s come a long way since Dead Alive (which was a masterpiece in its own way), and while The Hobbit offers him a new tale to tell, it’s not exactly something fresh and exciting for him to tackle. That just means Jackson is in his comfort zone.
For starters, The Hobbit has a tremendous cast. I don’t just mean that every one of the dwarfs, hobbits and wizards is talented, which they are; I also mean the cast is huge. So big, in fact, that the nearly three-hour run time doesn’t even give the audience a chance to get to know all of the protagonists.
Of course, there are those few “hero” characters that get their moments to shine. Martin Freeman does an incredible job as a young Bilbo Baggins, who finds himself being whisked away on an adventure by the great wizard Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen). While these two easily stand out, the dwarfs start to blend together. Sure, each has a unique look, but only a few stay with you after the credits start rolling. Their leader is probably the most pronounced (Richard Armitage), but other than that, few manage to distinguish themselves. It’s worth noting that their ranks are made up of such actors as James Nesbitt, Aiden Turner and Graham McTavish, so it’s a shame the audience wasn’t given the time to get to know them. Of course, that’s something that I’m sure the next two installments will remedy.
Peter Jackson has proven himself as the world’s biggest J.R.R. Tolkien fan by taking on this next trilogy so soon after finishing the last films. Originally, Guillermo del Toro was slated to direct the film, and you can still see his touch in it (he does still share a writing credit), but he dropped out partway through pre-production. This might have been for the best, because now The Hobbit seems to fit perfectly into the world that Jackson so painstakingly created.
That being said, Jackson might have reached too far with this first installment. Despite being nearly three hours long, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey barely gives you a chance to breathe before throwing you into more action. It’s a nonstop thrill ride, which is great, but it would also be nice to have a moment to take in everything that’s happening, especially if you haven’t had a chance to read the books. Of course, Jackson is a true master, and even though so much is being thrown at you, he gives you just enough moments of rest between goblin battles and orc ambushes to let the film’s pacing right itself.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not a perfect film, but it is a serious contender to be the best film of the year. Right now, it goes toe-to-toe with the likes of The Avengers for being the most effective blend of both stars and popcorn, or rather art and entertainment. There’s little doubt in my mind that this movie will be a complete success, and it’s definitely one that deserves to be seen in theaters and in 3D. Despite rumors flying around of some people getting sick, I experienced no difficulty at all, and I even found that the enhanced frame rate helped with the movement and made it even easier to watch. It is a work of art, one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.
While there are still some Oscar contenders waiting in the wings, The Hobbit is the film that is probably going to be the most worthy of your hard-earned dollars. So, do yourself a favor this holiday season and makes sure you treat yourself and your loved ones to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.