Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

I made sure to give this a full day to sink in before reviewing it, because I tend to be a bit biased toward "The Lord of the Rings" (i.e. OMG-squee-this-is-so-cool-I'm-just-gonna-die!). Let's face it, (Sir) Peter Jackson has redefined the epic cinematic adventure as we know it.

He does so once again in "The Hobbit," (titled "An Unexpected Journey," though marketed as "The Hobbit"). We have all come to know and appreciate Jackson's cinematic eye, especially with the sweeping vistas of Middle Earth to which he treated us in all three LOTR installments. He does so again, and even when we see places we've been before (Rivendell and Weathertop come to mind), we see a new aspect of these familiar places, rather than the same old scenery rehashed.

On that note, we enjoy a visit with a number of characters we know from the LOTR films ... but again, it's not as if Jackson trots them out for us to view just because we already know, and have bonded, with them. They are all there for a reason - to further the story.

Anyone who's read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" knows that Tolkien was inordinately fond of history, and there is A LOT of it in Middle Earth. While I had my doubts about why Jackson broke "The Hobbit" into three films - this being the first installment - I understand, seeing it, that it was not only possible, but necessary. And it isn't a dry dissertation, either. While there is one notable scene where several characters simply sit around talking, it's not dull - because the expo is paired with subtext, and things going on that AREN'T being talked about. At no point was I bored enough to say "Get on with it!"

While I really (really, really) missed Aragorn at the outset of the story, I was more than engaged with the story of Bilbo, and especially this film's displaced leader, Thorin Oakenshield (played very admirably by Richard Armitage). And the song "Misty Mountains" gave me goosebumps.

Make no mistake: this isn't "The Lord of the Rings" redux. It is a lighter tale, with more comedy, and even a few shades of slapstick. (Not to mention a number of unlikely escapes.) But is still a good old-fashioned adventure, complete with its complement of honor, sacrifice, and hobbitish courage. Go see it, expecting some beautiful CGI, set design, storytelling, and just plain fun.

Side note: my husband and I being the movie geeks we are, we recognized several of the names in the credits, which WEREN'T the actors. I was pleased to see Shane Rangi's name among them (he of the motion-capture and costume acting for likewise-New-Zealand-filmed "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"). We were also thrilled to see that Alan Lee, who is famous for his illustrations for "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," was listed as a design consultant. So not only is this a terrific movie, it picked from the best available talent. Nice job, Jackson. Looking forward to the next one ... just don't make us wait too long! *grin*

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