The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which ended up being quite expected)

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“I’m surrounded by Dwarves!”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (the first segment in the new Middle Earth prequel sequel from Peter Jackson) is undoubtably one of the most looked forward to titles of the year and certainly for any Lord of the Rings fans since the end of the original epic trilogy. The cast, to a British television addict was a real treat, from Martin Freeman (The Office, Sherlock), Aiden Turner (Being Human) to Richard Armitage (Robin Hood) and they all played their roles well, what lacked however was originality. Now, I have never read the books, I seem to say that quite often in my reviews these days! Even though the stories are set in the same universe it is starting to feel like The Hobbit is just a mini (in book terms seeing as the film is going to be dragged out over three 3-hour films) Lord of the Rings Trilogy. All the characters seem to be set up and even the themes and motions of this first instalment just mirrored The Fellowship of the Ring.

Where I think this was the film’s great downfall you cannot fault The Hobbit aesthetically, it reeked of fantasy action and when the action scenes did eventually take place they were stunning. The game of riddles section with Freeman as Bilbo facing off against a seemingly even more demented Gollum was an exceptional highlight that actually added something new to the series making it more about a battle of wits rather than swords and orcs. The 3D was gorgeous but if I’m honest wasn’t a film that needed it at all, I’d much rather have watched it without like a lot of films these days it seems to have been made 3D just for the novelty and in 10 or 20 years we will look back (maybe) and think it a bit trashy. 3D for me is for animations as that is when it really does give a film a new dimension.

As I was saying earlier, the film seems to follow the same way as the original trilogy’s opener with a lot of slow talk going on regarding the mission, they even end up at Rivendell where Elves help them out, I’m making this film sound really basic but I’m not a nerd for this, I just like it without knowing the technical terms. Thorin has been set up as the Viggo Mortensen role of the film as the courageous hero and the final scenes saw the group have a battle with a few orcs in a forest (remind you of anything?) – they didn’t even manage to kill the white orc. I think once the dragon comes into it in the next film he will die quite quickly though.

This whole white orc thing seems so weird to me, from Lord of the Rings I assumed Orcs were mindless things just obeying a more powerful being but in this they have minds and even some sort of advanced medical capabilities where they are reviving and constructing a metal hand for one of their own. I mean this White Orc guy, he’s only one of them, what was he? Elected to lead maybe? I mean, pick someone new or something, this guy hasn’t got a hand, biut apparently that makes him stronger!? I don’t get that at all. I wish there was some sort of scene in that opening monologue that depicted a group of orcs with a stretcher running onto the battle field and getting him the hell out of there. A bit like a football match.

Another thing I love about Lord of the Rings films in general is how about half an hour of the film seems to be high angle shots of the group travelling across mountains, a bit like a travel advertisement for New Zealand… “Come see our mountains, we have many!”. But seriously, every other shot is them all running or hiking up and around mountains. Surely there is a more direct route they can take on ground? The bit that really got me though was when they decided to just cross a really dangerous ridge where they had to press up against a wall behind them to get across to the other side. Okay, fair enough you say? On top of this fact, they decided to do it in the rain and thunder! I think at that point someone should have turned round and just said ‘alright guys lets sleep it out here and see what the morning looks like yeah?’ – Nah! Instead they just do it in the rain, they would already be risking their lives but decide to do it in much more dangerous circumstances anyway. “Shall we go across this highly dangerous ridge in the rain with the giant stone people guarding it?”, “How much time will we save??”, “In the long run a few hours…”, “Are we on a strict time to be there to fight the dragon?”, “Not really no but…”, “Let’s go round then!”

That’s the thing! They all seemed to do things rather dramatically and stupidly for not being on a time limit, as far as I can remember Lord of the Rings had a bit of a chase involved with the ring so they had reasons to take stupid paths but these guys… These guys! They had nothing to rush for. If they were more strategic and planned the journey for safety they could all get there in one piece and hold off any enemies along the way. As it was they took stupid paths and still ended up having to fight hoards of Orcs!

These are just some of the things I find silly in the story and it sounds like I dislike the film but for all its imperfections I do love it. It is a stunning looking film with a great cast and quite a good start to what hopefully is a better two sequels because I do like these Middle-Earth films. I’ll probably go and see it again at some point just to reassess and for enjoyment but it is a strong film welcome into this year’s top ten list for me.

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