Verdict: 3.5 / 5
With films like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall smashing box office records, 2012 has proved to be an incredible year in cinema. We’ve witnessed the end of franchises we hate (Twilight) and ones we loved (The Dark Knight Rises). We’ve seen the revolution of characters that stood the test of time (Skyfall and The Amazing Spider-Man) and the birth of new heroes (The Hunger Games). Nearing the end of the year, Writer/Director/Producer Peter Jackson, who has cemented his fame and status on the back of the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, is compelled to give us a prequel to the popular Tolkien series, mixing some of the old with some of the new. But given all the great movies this year, does the Hobbit deserve a place amongst the best movies of 2012? Probably not.
Much like Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first passage in a very long story, starts off terribly slow, extending what should have been two films into a trilogy of three hour films, and in the process allowing the studios to triple their profits. Rebuild the huge sets, bring back a few familiar faces, use a new 3D 48fps format and you’re bound to have another box office hit, right? At the end of the day, viewers can’t help but wonder if they’re being treated to Tolkien’s The Hobbit or Peter Jackson’s version of the story. All the add-ons and extras beg the question, “Is The Hobbit really a necessary prequel or simply a way to milk a popular franchise?”
Sixty some years before the events of The Lord of The Rings, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a hobbit content with his peaceful lifestyle in The Shire, is forced outside of his comfort zone by a wizard, Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo outright rejects his offer for adventure, but soon discovers that his destiny lies with helping 13 dwarves rightfully claim back their home, the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Together they fight off goblins, orcs and even encounter a familiar enemy, Gollum. Simple enough?
Essentially, The Hobbit is a much more childish story in comparison to LOTR. There is a lot more humour, a lot more singing and a lot of the darker themes have been watered down. That’s not to say that it’s without merit. The casting is superb. Martin Freeman is terrific as Bilbo, Richard Armitage does a fine job as Thorin and Ian McKellan is still amazing as Gandalf. Yet, once again, Andy Serkis manages to steal the show as the CGI creature Gollum. Although he only appears much later in the film, Gollum manages to bring much needed excitement to the film. Seriously why hasn’t Andy Serkis been given an Oscar yet?
And then there’s the beautiful visuals, the enormous sets, the scale of the entire project. From the very first frame audiences will be sucked into Jackson’s world – its beauty, magical and majestic. You can’t help but be in awe of Jackson’s vision brought to life by hundreds of hundreds of cast and crew.
Sadly, An Unexpected Journey every so often winks at the audience and never really stands on its own. Fans certainly won’t mind though. If you’re looking for a three hour escape to a familiar land of adventure look no further. If you’re expecting something deep and meaningful you’ve bought the wrong ticket. The Hobbit lives within the shadows of its much cooler bigger brother, LOTR. Unfortunately, it is the weakest instalment in the franchise thus far. Even still it’s a lot of fun once it gets going.