(Rating: 12A, 169 mins) Written by Zen Terrelonge
Starring – Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm.
After many years of talk, The Hobbit has been adapted for the big screen, as old and new faces alike unite in Peter Jackson’s first 3D adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings franchise.
Set 60 years prior to the original Fellowship of the Ring exploits that set Frodo (Wood) on course to destroy the ring of power, An Unexpected Journey tells the story of how (Frodo’s uncle) Bilbo (Freeman) happened upon the golden band, with McKellen’s Gandalf the Grey once again the catalyst kicking the hobbit out of the Shire and into adventure.
For those that haven’t read the book, The Hobbit offers a great eye opener to the history of the dwarves, explaining why Gimli of the original fellowship had such an issue with the elves and how his kind fell from grace at the hand of dragon, Smaug, the antagonist that commandeered their home. It’s this that sees Bilbo enlisted some years later to assist a band of dwarves loyal to unofficial King of Erebor, Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) to reclaim their mountain.
Hobbits, dwarves, elves, wizards and orcs; these are the faces you should get used to, for no humans play a part in an Unexpected Journey, greatly differentiating from the original trilogy where the fellowship was fronted by a man, Aragorn, with just one solitary dwarf for company.
Besides from the long delays and 3D debut, the film is significant for another reason, which has delivered mixed results; the fact it was recorded at 48 frames per second – twice that of a normal film’s 24 fps.
Indeed, my own view of the 48 fps is mixed too. Bad news first; at times the film looked too real and as though it was a reenactment of an ancient battle, one perhaps set during a Roman invasion on a documentary channel. It also intermittently gave off the illusion that actors were power-walking across Middle Earth, something that didn’t work during the scenes with heightened drama and intensity.
However, the clarity looked stunning for the most part, which is the good news, considering that the film’s a 169 minute slog. The vast establishing shots of Middle Earth were captured magnificently through the high frame rate and 3D unity, which was evident from the opening when the dwarfs grand bejeweled home of Erebor was revealed, while the Elven home of Rivendale looked as stunning as ever. All in all, the land has never looked quite so beautiful.
The visual dynamics continued during battle sequences too, of which there are several, each of them resembling a video game due to the insane definition and panoramic speed that they’re executed at on screen. Of course, while the dwarves are masters of battle and so forth, it seemed odd that a novice swordsman like Bilbo was able to parry attacks at such a turbulent tempo, but I’m just being picky, the concept worked on the whole.
Freeman stepped into the shoes of the young Bilbo, though he essentially had the opportunity to do as he pleased with the part, given that Ian Holm’s old Bilbo has little to do in the original trilogy. He was a perfect fit for the part as a polite and neurotic stick-in-the-mud, and I imagine he drew upon past characters for the role quite easily.
McKellen was a delight to watch as the wise, playful and knowing wizard Gandalf, alternating between eccentricity and bellowing warrior. Armitage’s Oakenshield was an excellent addition to the franchise, a modest and headstrong commander that resembles Aragorn in terms of cause, while his stubbornness brings in a flawed characteristic and conflict, though that sometimes bordered on childishness.
I had a rant a few months ago when it was revealed that the film was being split into three parts, and my buttocks certainly paid the price for sitting still for three hours. There were a number of times that I expected the film to end and it didn’t, so one can only assume the other films will be just a lengthy, and I think this will be done whether necessary or not in order to keep up the gimmick.
The Hobbit: An Uexpected Journey is in cinemas now.