The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by Sir Peter Jackson and Starring Marting Freeman (Bilbo), Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), and Richard Armitage (Thorin).
Movie written by Sir Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens
Based on the children's novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Summary: The movie opens with a look at Bilbo at the age we find him in The Lord of the Rings, beginning, as he did in that movie, to write down the story of his adventures. This time, he is writing the story of his adventures with thirteen dwarves and a wizard. The movie flashes back to the day that Bilbo met the wizard for the first time in his adult life. At that time, Bilbo is a well-settled and well-to-do hobbit who wants nothing less than to leave his comfortable hobbit-hole and its well-stocked larders. But to his surprise he finds his mind changed by the plight of thirteen dwarves, refugees from a long-conquered homeland. Not even he can describe exactly why he joins them, or even how he will be of use to them, but through many adventures he and the dwarves both learn that it is best that he be with them, for himself, and for them.
Setting: While the summary is unchanged by the various mediums (2D, 3D, and 3D HFR), the setting depiction is very different. For this reason I separate this section into three:
2D... My dad loves the sweeping vistas of The Lord of the Rings as accompanied by the fantastic sounds of Howard Shore's background. Rohan, the green fields, the jagged rocks, sailing through the Misty Mountains, capped with snow. This movie comes close to the epics of The Lord of the Rings, which is saying something being at is one movie and they are three. I found myself occasionally wishing for a little more and that the camera would have been used to greater effect to capture vistas while capturing characters.
3D (24 fps)... in my opinion this is actually the weakest of the three versions. The fast moving camera blurs far more with the 3D effect, which is probably the cause of some of the eye-strain of which so many reviewers have complained. While in slower moving or stationary shots I appreciate the layers of depth (note that this "appreciation" is called "distraction" by those who do not like the movie) this blur is more or less intolerable. I would recommend to later moviegoers that they not pay the extra dollars needed for the more blurry show.
3d (48 fps)... words escape me. This was a new kind of wonder. Something I have honestly never experienced before. It was my third time seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and also the third 3D film I had seen (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (3D 24 fps), and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (3D 48 fps). I understand that my theater was one of the only one's in my state with the the 3D HFR option, but I insist that this is the best version out there, and doubtlessly the one that Sir Peter Jackson was aiming at. With the astonishing clarity, vibrance, and intensity of the graphics I found myself able to look anywhere on the screen at almost any time. Erebor, oh Erebor, that was amazing. It was like Moria from The Lord of the Rings but with a dozen times more space and structure, like comparing a botanical garden with Eden. I watched trolls teeth fly at me in one of the few obvious 3D gimmick moments, with birds passing in the foreground as the camera followed a funny old man in the woods. Simply fabulous.
Don't worry, no long analysis of various mediums here.
Gandalf is his old self, the eye-brow raising, nose-twitching, tall and overbearing wizard who finds himself most comfortable in the company of relatively short people. His partners in the previous movie are wonderfully represented, with Sir Christopher Lee's voice rolling in just like it has for movies from every genre, and Cate Blanchett's intense stare used to perfect effect. She even has the closest thing the elf-queen could be said to have to a human moment. Ian Holm returns to render the elder Bilbo, apparently still having mastered the quiet chirping sigh that he used to such great effect in The Lord of the Rings.
Bilbo in this film is well done by Martin Freeman. While I cannot rave about the fabulousness of his depiction, I can give him a good solid A on his performance. I will restrain myself from fanaticism and say that what he did was not anything very spectacular, but certainly an excellent job.
Thorin is well handled by Richard Armitage. His bearing carries in the age he has in the books (he is well over one hundred years old), yet in a departure from the books he doesn't look it in the least. I do not mind this one at all, however, as otherwise it would seem a far creepier thing to have horde of short old men come rummaging in your house complaining of a lost home. I'd have put the lot out with recommendation that they sleep it off. This unseated prince of dwarves is fiercely determined to reclaim his homeland of Erebor as the heir of its last kings.
And the nameless mass of dwarves? I would say they did admirably as well. The Avengers did well in covering several main characters. This movie balances Bilbo and Thorin excellently, with supporting characters of Balin and Bofur, and a secondary layer with Fili and Kili. The rest are a nearly anonymous bunch, but they do well at neither sitting around as appendages left over from a children's book nor sticking their beards into the main characters' business. Some have complained of Oin and Gloin's names being mispronounced throughout the film. This is true, but The Lord of the Rings did it as well, so it is hard to change back. In fact, Recorded Books Incorporated's The Hobbit audiobook does the same thing, as do most fans that read the book. Thus, the writers appear to have chosen to keep the most common pronunciations of Oyn and Gloyn, rather than the Tolkien-proper pronunciations of Oh-in and Glow-in.
Plot: There are a multitude of frayed ends, untied knots, and dangling threads in this plot. I answer this with the fact that what we are all watching in theaters is what fans will know as the Theatrical Edition. In a few months or years we will receive the Extended Edition, just as The Lord of the Rings, and these will be the definitive editions. They will round out the more subtle plot points and character developments, as well as provide an epic that more happily runs into The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Parts 2 and 3 respectively). So while I did find myself irked by some of the obvious omissions and awkwardly insignificant lines (as well as the shortened songs).
Some have complained of the usual "plot hole" of the eagles in this film. Take my word for it that this argument applied here and to The Lord of the Rings is complete rubbish, and I will gladly explain why for you if you are ready for half-a-dozen reasons.
Content: Violence is common, intense, long, and sometimes graphic. Strangely, blood seems mostly absent. Maybe a few percent of the violent scenes show blood being shed, while the rest it is implied and the camera twists away. Lots of death by falling.
Crude humor is extremely limited, and so-called adult situations are absent. Characters frequently and enjoyably smoke "Old Toby" and routinely drink some alcoholic beverages (Gandalf prefers red wine) but no drunkenness is observed, just a large number of guys getting together and partying (as we always will).
Worth its time in watching: If you don't mind 3 hour movies. I admit that a few times I did wonder how much could be left.
Worth watching again sometime: Obviously I think so, as I saw it three times in theaters. I will gladly buy extended editions once they are out, and watch them and their commentaries again and again. But for many this may be only a one-time wonder, at least after all three are out.
Worth singing its songs in the shower: I have actually done this, believe it or not! So yes.
Worth raving about in public: Yes, if your friends will go see the 3D HFR.
Worth having a poster of it up in my dorm room: I think the answer here is plainly obvious.