I will begin this adventure by making a few statements.
1. I will refer to ‘An Expected Journey’ throughout this review simply as ‘AUJ’ and Lord of the Rings as ‘LOTR’
2. I will refrain from using the word ‘film’ because ‘AUJ’ was shot on RED digital cameras at 48fps
3. I will not hold Peter Jackson solely accountable for any production decisions for there were a total of 1o producers on this project and a few writers as well, including Mr.Guillermo Del Toro. So I will state ‘producers’ in reference to creative decisions made.
‘AUJ’ opens up with a great set up of the Dwarves living it up in their mountain stronghold of Erebor. These Dwarven digs are really a site to behold. Majesty on par with anything we were treated to during our previous visits to Middle Earth. I really felt this scene worked
very well. It portrays the Dwarves as good, fun loving guys who had a strong passion for living, eating and drinking but had a very vain King who fell victim to his passions. His lust for gold and jewels would eventually become the downfall of the Dwarves and they’d find
themselves driven out from their lands by a very nasty dragon named Smaug. This is the basis for the story.
What follows this scene is a little different. We are treated to a scene, not from Tolkien’s novel, but from the producer’s own creation. This scene, with and old Bilbo and Frodo, who are busy planning Bilbo’s birthday party, is clearly meant as a bridge for viewers to see and feel
a distinct connection between ‘AU’ and ‘Fellowship of the Ring’. Many critics have panned this scene as feeling out of place and being completely unnecessary. I agree with the critics on this one. First of all, Frodo isn’t even mentioned in ‘The Hobbit’. He simply was not around.
‘AUJ’ has such a powerful preface to then hit the brakes hard on this disposable scene. No one has to see Elijah Wood again..The movie goes from past to right before ‘Fellowships’ beginnings, then regresses back another 60 years to the beginning of our Journey. Any
near 3 hour movie will need impeccable pacing to keep its audience engaged to the finale. ‘AUJ’ starts off on the wrong foot as it struggles, for the first hour, to find its pacing.
The other material that was added in order to make more money (sorry, got a call a spade a spade) with a trilogy of movies, is questionable at times. I liked, for example, the inclusion of Radagast the Brown and the Orc attack on the group en route to Rivendell. There are other
alterations to the story that I am fine with. Motion Pictures generally are always different than their literary counterparts. Otherwise why make a movie if it’s going to carbon copy the book? But there are a couple of scenes like the council at Rivendell with Saruman, Galandriel and Elrond
that do nothing more than to hamper ‘AUJ”s pacing and rhythm. The movie, at times, is like a car where the driver is and 70 year old guy accustomed to stick shifts who thinks the brake is actually the clutch thus forcing a very jerky ride.
The bigger question, though, really is ‘Does all this kill the experience?’. My answer to that…’No’. The Dwarves are stellar…And by stellar I mean STELLAR! They’re well written and expertly executed. While there may be many hands in the cookie jar for writing and producing, there is only one
director. Peter Jackson again shows the world that he can get his audience to invest their souls into these characters. Some critics have said that he as lost his sensibility with Tolkien. I could not disagree more. No one understands the subject material as good as he does. He again manages to immerse
us so completely in the wonderfully lush world of high fantasy that Tolkien created that we suspend our disbelief. Yes there is much more CG in ‘AUJ’. The living breathing human Orcs were replaced by digitally created ones. I knew this going in but honestly, it matters little in the end because the
atmosphere is so thick and credible that all the pieces fit amazingly well. But back to those Dwarves. It’s hard to have a favorite. Thorin was quite believable and engaging, as were all the others really. There are some light hearted moments. But it’s a light hearted story to begin with. The source material is
not dark and drab like the LOTR trilogy is. I did also love the scene in Gollums cave. Yes Bilbo does acquire the ring in a different manner than the book. But who cares? The rest of the scene, along with the riddling showdown between the two, is intact. Lifted straight from Tolkien’s words. Even the songs from
the novel made it over. I don’t get how people are saying that Jackson has lost his Tolkien sensibilities. I don’t recall people accusing him of anything like this when he made so many changes to ‘LOTR’. Which he did.
The bottom line…If you love the book. If you love Lord of the Rings, you will enjoy The Hobbit. While one can argue that the book can be down in two parts, not three (‘AUJ’ only takes us to chapter 7 in book). Howard Shore’s score is on par, the acting is top notch, from the smallest roles (no pun intended) to
Ian Mckellan’s grandiose reprisal of Gandalf. The pacing isn’t always there. You will feel it a few times throughout the adventure. The 48fps does give everything a more plastic look, even in 3D. But no one flaw takes away from the experience. And while I cannot give ‘AUJ’ the same, enthusiastic 10 I gave ‘Fellowship of the
Ring’ and ‘The Two Towers’ (Return of the King had it’s flaws so I gave it a 9.5), our first return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit, part 1 gets a solid 9 from me! I only hope that, instead of a ‘extended edition’ on home video, there is a ‘shortened edition’ released with Ian Holm and Elijah Wood left on the cutting room floor.
– Orlando G Acosta