|Bilbo and the dwarves|
(image source: Guardian)
Almost 10 years after the last film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released, and set 60 years before the events in that saga, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey marks the first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s bedtime story.
The 10-year-old son of the publisher of the original book described The Hobbit as ‘good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9’. Though, when published, the book greatly appealed to adults and children alike, it is clear that An Unexpected Journey is much lighter than the Lord of the Rings films. In general it is funnier and sillier but still successfully retains some darker Middle Earth elements – such as Warg-riding Orc attacks and the threat of a mysterious evil power. The Middle Earth we see in An Unexpected Journey is also much better looking than in the Rings trilogy. It is greener and brighter with New Zealand’s beautiful landscape being shown off well by the second unit director, Andy Serkis (who also continues his role as Sméagol/Gollum), which reminds us that The Hobbit is set in a time of peace, where little Bilbo Baggins has barely a care in the world – that is, of course, until Gandalf turns up and the adventure begins.
The special effects are spectacular with some huge set pieces and there is an immaculate and almost unreal level of detail. Director Peter Jackson and his team chose to shoot the film controversially at 48 frames per second, twice the norm, and whilst some have claimed that this gives the film a plastic look, with others claiming that it hurt their eyes, the filmmakers say it will reduce motion blur and create a more immersive experience. Unfortunately, my local cinema wasn’t screening the film at this higher frame rate and therefore I watched the film at the standard 24 frames per second, but I would be intrigued to know what actual difference the higher frame rate would make, as I struggle to see how the film could become any more immersive.
|Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Andy Serkis as Gollum|
The high point of the film is undoubtedly the scene in which Bilbo and Gollum exchange riddles in an underground cave. Martin Freeman proves that there’s a lot more to him than just Watson from the Sherlock series or Tim from The Office, and is a perfect fit for the protagonist – we see a large change in his character that shapes all 169 minutes of the film. Andy Serkis is also exceptional as Gollum (though no one expected any less of him after the Rings trilogy) and confirms himself as the master of motion capture acting.
I fear that a common mistake among people criticising The Hobbit will be to compare it to The Lord of the Rings.