And so, the journey of Sindarin Erebor's heroes has thus begun
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ken Scott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Aidan Turner, Dean O'Gorman, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Callin, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Benedict C*mberbatch, Sylvester McCoy and Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.
The journey back to Middle Earth has not been an easy one. Rumors of Peter Jackson's return, burning workshops, financial halts and even talk of Guillermo Del Toro to be the new Guardian of Middle Earth. In the end, gladly accepted and thanked by the many fans around the world, this new and much awaited journey has begun.
We open in The Shire, home to the happy and merry Hobbits of the fictional Earth named Arda, and also home to the familiar Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins. It begins with a story, as always, but this time, about the past adventures if Bilbo before he decided to retire and escape. Back the clock 60 years, which is nothing compared to how slowly these creatures age, and we see a young (by Tolkien standards) Bilbo Baggins smoking his pipe in peace until an old but familiar friend visits him: Gandalf the Wizard. Wanting him to embark on an adventure, he is accompanied by twelve Dwarves: Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, Ori and Thorin Oakenshield. A lot to remember, I know, but after multiple viewing, you'll get the hang of it. This adventure is to help Thorin and his race reclaim their once ancient home in the Lonely Mountain, along with its treasure guarded by Smaug the Dragon.
What does Bilbo have to do with their affairs? Why does Gandalf need him so? In this long first act that takes up a good number of pages I ask myself why does gandalf drop so many rocks on this poor man's conscience? A little arrogant and rather mean attitude from someone so beloved and pure. Though that may not be the case to many , but for me, I'd be pretty upset if a band of misfit men were to enter my home indirectly invited by a third party and order me around. Not without purpose, as are the tales of Tolkien. Gandalf could have chosen anyone else, but all to inspire an old friend once more to leave the four walls of his home. Hell, he even makes an excellent point of adventure not being the same in books and tales, but rather leaving and exploring the real world. As all the characters are fantastical and impeccably created, Bilbo remains that one character that directly represents us, the audience. We see the world through his eyes, as he is it's narrator. Hobbits are wondrous, and we learn much from them.
We return to familiar territory. Rivendell, home of Elves, The Orcs realm, Trolls that at least talk this time around, Weathertop, and new realms that were once mentioned, and now, we see them come to life. Like the Potter books, once day I will read with patience all the Tolkien books. My brain has this ability to instantly forget what I see in the film adaptations when reading the source material, so it should be a fun future. Going in blind, the execution started a bit average, cliche at some parts, repetitive (by a lot) but ultimately, satisfying with a touch of a smile. Truly this book is meant for the youngest reader. There is humor to be adored, without sacrificing the dark actions and blackness of villains to enforce the imagination.
Not knowing any of the Dwarves, I can honestly say that the actors performed them well. Gimli may have been the only Dwarf to actually fight with an axe and shield, but I can now see where he got his great skills and dark humor. Richard Armitage plays Thorin Oakenshield. A mouthful, I'm sure for the uninitiated, but even though he's a brand new character, he's also familiar. I'm betting that when Tolkien decided to right the Lord of the Rings trilogy books, he shaped the characters in that world after the ones in this book. Thorin may be a Dwarf, but tell me he doesn't remind you of Aragorn? Excellent warrior, proud and selfless, but flawed all the same.
Never heard of Martin Freeman by name but surely I've seen his face. He plays Bilbo with tact and elegance. He exerts many emotions, even the ones we are to feel when the battle heats up. Hugo Weaving doesn't do much, but wise men talk as part of their action. Cate Blanchett, quite possibly the most beautiful character in all of Middle-earth (That's right! I said it!) as the elvish queen Galadriel, the wisest and most odd character in their universe. She serves Gandalf and his company when they need it most. Hopefully in the next films, they explain her past relationship with Mithrandir a little more, for I detected a bit of a once flame between them.
Finally, last but not least, Gollum. No doubt his return to the big screen will fire up the roar of the fans, as Andy Serkis delivers his best rendition of the character yet. I did complain when the posters were released and a few clips before, about utilizing updated motion capture technology having the character look worse. Initial perception, changed instantly. He looked better than before, and though we know of his fate and past, I couldn't help but fell deeply sorry for him; being changed by a round trinket that doesn't hold much meaning as of yet until later on in the future. Curious though, why didn't Bilbo see the eye of Sauron when he cloaked himself?
The battles looked great. Don't know why the Orcs spoke in tongue and the Trolls English, along with the goblins, but no matter. The war between the Dwarves and the Orcs in Moria didn't hold much to what I've already been exposed to before, but have it been filmed with Red Epic cameras, adds a touch of beauty to it, you tend to easily forget. The past of Erebor, Smaug's appearance, Saruman's presence to thwart Gandalf's quest; all lovely. To this day, I still ask myself, why not take the bloody Eagles all the way to their destination? But that would defeat all purposes, wouldn't it? There are never shortcuts.
As Peter Jackson executed this story well, he did it with new technology. The famous 48fps or HFR (High Frame Rate 3D). After reading an article about the technology in my U.S. Media Now class this fall, I couldn't help but feel turned off by the idea. No doubt the intentions are pure, but a bit excessive. The point is to eliminate the motion blur that classic 24fps offers, or the FILM look. I understand that as technology improves, so should the way movies are recorded. I consider myself a purist. But if I must adapt, so be it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. Avatar might have brought back credibility to 3D technology, and very well it did, but now, like it, I feel that 48fps will be shoved down our throats like bad genitelea.
The good of it all is how crisp the images look. Followed by excellent cinematography, costume designs and make up artists, these Red Epic cameras reinvigorate Jackson's thumb for cinematic quality. While at a convention, there where fans whom were treated to the new frames, were simply turned off because it looked like a bad Soap Opera. Seeing the Hobbit in regular 2D, there was only one scene where I managed to see what those angry fans meant, and that was the conversation (spoilers) between Gandalf and Saruman. Notice the motions, and you will be shocked. Finally, on the whole HFR topic, Jackson is very good with a camera, but I felt that some of his longshots were forced only to make a point with how 48fps works.
The cherry on top is Howard Shore's music. Though miles behind his magnificent work with the Lord of the Rings, all his composition here may be a bit repetitive around the Misty Mountains song, but without a doubt, the Dwarves singing was as beautiful to the ears as Pipin's song in Return of the King. It will be the theme of the Hobbit as was the theme before for the previous trilogy.
Overall, not a full star worthy start. It has it's flaws, like any other film, for none are perfect, but despite being a lighter tone and a little familiar, it works. I would watch it again gladly.
Written by: Bawnian©-Dexeus.