Reviews: The Hobbit

A Review on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I grew up with the animated adaptation of The Hobbit, and I was very excited for the first movie when I went into the theater.

When I left the theater, I was pretty satisfied. From the beginning, things get off to a sort of slow start, but I can forgive that, because it's setting up the characters, setting, and story. Once Bilbo's left the shire, things start to get interesting with awesome CGI effects, dramatic tension between Bilbo and the dwarves, and the constant threat of fantastic creatures, such as trolls, rock giants, and goblins.

Overall, the movie was satisfying, and I'd recommend it to any fan of the book. The pace was a bit sluggish, but I believe we're in for a treat once the second one comes out.

Hobbit 2: Better, Much Better

See, now, THAT was more like it.

Unexpected Journey's biggest problems, IMHO, were the erratic pacing and the flat-out uninteresting sequences that were newly added to the story; D o S, on the other hand, handles these issues in a much better way. Most of the expanded story is integrated seamlessly into the narrative - Bard's backstory adds much more depth to the tale, the confrontation with Smaug is satisfyingly action-packed, and even Kili's romance sub-plot works pretty well; not least because there is some good, believable chemistry between him and Tauriel, who impressed me a lot more than I thought she would.

The dwarf actors continue to deliver a superb (and underrated, since I don't know any of their IRL names and I doubt you do either) performance, so quite unsurprisingly, the movie is at its weakest when it deviates completely from Thorin & Co. Thankfully it doesn't do this very often, and we are only subjected to Radagast once.

As with the Gollum confrontation, the Smaug scenes have also been changed, but this time it's done well. The 3D was especially good here - at times during the close-up shots it actually felt like the dragon was looming over me right there in the theater. The blatantly overt use of Convection Shmonvection (actually, I'm pretty sure riding a metal wheelbarrow RIGHT ON TOP of a river of molten gold makes it Conduction-Shmonduction) turned me off a bit, but other than that, it was pretty awesome. Smaug was animated, voiced and characterized spot-on, too. And it ends exactly at the spot where you're left wanting more.

That said, some things could've been done better - Beorn, for example, was a wisecracking badass in the books but here, is now a humorless grumpy-face. Also, it wasn't a trap, Gandalf, they were surprised to smell you coming. Really, what was he thinking, walking in alone? Did he seriously expect a different outcome than the way it turned out?

What most bothers me, though, is that at this point I have no idea how they're going to do a full-sized movie with what's left of the story, which means the expanded stuff with Gandalf, Radagast and the Necromancer will occupy a much bigger chunk of the concluding chapter. Not optimistic on how that's going to play out. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Overall 8/10.

Someone Is Trying Too Hard

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this movie. I would recommend it to most people. But even while I was watching it, there were issues that I had with the film that I need to vent about.


The Hobbit doesn't quite reach the standard set before it by the LOTR films, all of which had excellent pacing. It even starts off with a misstep: including old Bilbo and Frodo in the opening. Although all the exposition is nice, and its cool to see things that the book only ever alluded to, old Bilbo and Frodo do nothing beyond letting the viewer know "oh, this is an LOTR movie, it's got Elijah Wood in it". The pacing is better after that, once the main quest gets underway. The initial interactions between Bilbo and the dwarves are excellent, the first part of the journey is great, the troll scene is good (could have been better, but good), I loved Radaghast, the warg chase is cool, Rivendell is great. The council between Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf and Saruman is excellently written and may be my favorite scene in the entire movie. Then the dwarves leave Rivendell, and everything draaaaaags. Basically, there's too much action. The entire last half of the movie is action sequences, save for the riddle contest. I like action and action scenes a lot, but an important part of pacing is putting space between action sequences, enough that the audience has a chance to catch their breath. Instead, there's so much action that it gets boring. It felt like the writers were afraid that the first movie would be too boring, so they padded it with more action. If you cut out the Frodo parts, the stone giant battle, and shortened the goblin chase scene and the pine tree showdown with Azog, you could easily keep the movie under two and a half hours. It had no business being that long.

On another note, I could write an entire review about how the riddle contest was mishandled. It's one of my favorite parts of the book, because it felt like Bilbo was playing chess with the devil. The only time Gollum has ever achieved an air of menace was in the first LOTR movie, when you didn't see him. Once we saw him, he became something for us to pity. To do the riddle contest justice, it needed to be dark and it needed to not show Gollum very much. Instead, we got an extremely well-lit cave and Bilbo looking more baffled than frightened by this bald monkey in front of him.

An Unexpected Journey Review

Rather than doing a Good, Bad, Okay, I've chosen a different system: Bilbo, Azog, and Necromancer, like the three movies that this new trilogy will try to blend. Bilbo is the original Hobbit parts, Azog is the added, more LOTR-esque parts, and Necromancer is the Tolkien notes parts.

Bilbo: Oh my word, Bilbo. Amazing new sets that once again bring me to Middle-earth! Language, creatures, scenes from the books! The two things that carry it are, respectively, Martin Freeman's Bilbo and the Tolkien lines. Martin Freeman has this interesting way of gesturing that stuck out as quintessential Bilbo Baggins, the way I read him, and the rest of the performance is excellent, from the "I am a Baggins of Bag-End!" Adorkableness to Bilbo sparing Gollum. Tolkien's writing shows why it still holds up by contributing greatly to the storybook feel. And, oh yeah, the scene with Gollum. That's here too! Makes troper feel as though she's sitting down and reading book in a comfy armchair: 10/10

Azog: This part can be summed up in one word: action. Amazing, well-choreographed, good special effects action. The Azog-Thorin plot feels like it's been dropped in from another movie, but...ultimately, it's a good movie. The scenes are gripping and dramatic, so even if they don't quite feel like the Bilbo plot, they're still very good. Besides, it's LOTR, so it's still the same universe. Good movie, just a bit misplaced: 9/10

Necromancer: If not for two very good scenes, I would have named this whole plot padding and been done with it. And those scenes are the spiders and the part where Radagast goes to the castle. Tolkien's expanded universe always had a very epic, creepy, ancient feel to it, which is captured perfectly in these two scenes. The council scene was only bearable because it seemed that other characters were as bored as I was. Hoping for better things in the sequel. Hinting for better things: 7/10

End result is very opinionated, but:8.7/10. Amazing Bilbo plot weights the score in this movie's favor, and leaves this troper eager for the sequel. Hoping for more epic Necromancer, adrenaline rush from Azog, and some more warm and fuzzy Bilbo. Ultimately, whatever you're watching, you're still in Middle-earth.

Solid Film, but there are issues.

I think I want to not like this film; there are a lot of flaws with it and were this released ten years ago instead of the Lord of the Rings, then things wouldn't have taken off.

Though, I think that's a large part of the problem, after people enjoyed the LOTR trilogy and talked about the extended footage, they decided to work it in this time. The result is choppy to say the least, it feels like they ended up making two films at once, one which is a children's story filled with Dwarves that have silly names and eccentric wizards and another which is a prequel to LOTR with Thorin Oakenshield trying to reclaim his ancient kingdom while other threats loom over Middle Earth. Neither is bad in themselves but when the two are combined and switched between, it's rather awkward.

The feel is rather episodic which each episode being radically different in tone; one minute they are darting around a field with massive rabbits and the next they are discussing political intrigue. There are also definite pacing problems, in a three hour film, Bilbo isn't really given a motivation for going; He went from ardently refusing to running after them with the contract in hand. After that they spend most of the movie wondering why he's even there. Gandalf narratively has turned into a bigger Deus ex Machina on that front, to the point where most of the time when there's danger it's because he's wandered off to take a piss for five minutes.

I feel disappointed by the CG in this films as well. The Moutain Trolls were nice but the White Orc and the Goblins were over the top cartoonish. The latter were slightly more permissable if they were aiming more for the kids book angle but the White Orc looked like a generic videogame villain. It was disappointing compared to the more human-looking Orcs we saw in the original film and made him less threatening.

The biggest problem was that it never set a tone or feel for itself, yet each in itself was solid. Had Peter Jackson gone one way or another this would have been a great film and it shows through most of the time. If you can adjust yourself between the whiplash between scenes, then the content underneath is nice. The whole theatre was exciting every time they began to sing.

If you were a fan of Lord of the Rings like myself, this is worth a watch.

Otherwise, skip it.

An ok start...

I went to the film having finished re-reading the book just a couple of weeks back, and also having played through the game recently as well. Had a great seat, and in a theatre that specifically screens only 3-D movies (am I the only one who noticed that more and more of those are popping up these days?). So I had a very immersive, fun and familiar (the trolls have the exact same design as the game; it was like watching what I had read and played come to life) experience, and as a fan of the book, I went home satisfied having witnessed a good start to what might hopefully be a better overall trilogy.

I do understand the mediocre critical reception though: the pacing seemed off at times, especially when the movie deviates from the book. Some of the changes are good and necessary (The expanded story, the focus on Thorin's background, Azog's ascension to extra) and some are not so necessary (GIANTS! STONE GIANTS! THE LEGENDS ARE TRUE!) and some just feel like they were thrown in there in a hurry (they probably were). Radagast oscillates between Crazy Awesome and The Scrappy and just feels a bit un-Tolkeinish as a character; it's been a while since I read the Rings books so I don't remember much about him and can't tell if it was an accurate adaptation.

The Good: Obviously good CGI, good visuals, and good acting. The dwarf actors, even the ones with limited screentime, pull off an awesome performance. Good music, good 3-D.

The Bad: The pacing; Radagast; and holy crap the ten minutes of Old-Bilbo-and-Frodo scenes that we are subjected to before getting the actual tale underway. That belongs at the end of the last film, not here. Jackson also struggles a bit with some of the more narrative elements from the book; namely how Gandalf defeats the trolls (magic is used instead of wit) and the riddle game with Gollum, which takes place in complete darkness in the book and is quite creepy in the description, but instead is played chiefly for comedic/dramatic effect in a very well-lit (and remember, underground) cave.

Could've been better, but manages a good kickoff anyway. Hopefully the next two will be even better.

Overall 6/10.

I loved it

but I can understand most the things that people don't love about it. This is a film that is a lovely and enjoyable experience if you want to love it for what it is and take it as a 1/3 of a 9 hour film taking each thing as they come. As such I don't really want to analyse but talk about the things I love if you're in the mind to love the film.

It's a beautiful film, full of big landscapes and comfy little ones and I like that they included the songs and made them sound right. I came out humming them and each song represents a perfect little moment. I like that the music itself is a mix of old and new, using themes that we recognise from the Lord of the Rings to convey meaning and new gentler music to display the new tone of this trilogy.

Most of all I love that tone. It's not quite the Hobbit, to me it feels like the Hobbit if it had been written after Lord of the Rings, its light and friendly and comfy but also has more importance and drama than the Hobbit did.

I love the changes. Literature is littered with the corpses of people who tried to imitate Lord of the Rings and I feel confident that no-one has ever successfully copied Tolkien since. But the Hobbit was more normal and a writing style shared by many, it was impossible to drastically change Loto R but the Hobbit isn't inviolate. And when you know that Jackson adds, removes and changes things with a fairly simple line of reasoning, it becomes part of the fun to predict and understand each change. I'm proud that I successfully guessed he would change the bit with the troll, because after setting the dwarves as competent fighters it would have been against the flow to have them bagged by trolls. And in the film it's too early for Bilbo to be the hero and to be accepted and to become competent. I loved that the dwarves had personalities, that Thorin was such a strong character here (naturally all the actors, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage in particular were incredible) and that we could see that Fili and Kili were fighters and wanderers, but not warriors in the way Thorin and Dwalin were. I loved the attention to Moria and the backstory.

The only addition I didn't like was Saruman and Gladriel. I think thats because they're character of Lot OR imbued with Tolkiens special weight and rewritten here they become inane and comic in order.

Can't wait for all three!

The Hobbit: A Completely Expected Review

Let's get the negatives of the movie out of the way first. The big one is the pacing; the movie clocks in at 3 hours, and a lot of that is introduction, padding and exposition. In particular we are treated to a long, boring rehashing of the first few scenes of Fellowship. We don't get the actual movie underway until around the 10-15 minute mark. In addition, the 48 FPS experiment falls flat in a few areas, and the 3D struck me as tacked on. The treatment of the movie series as a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings, while probably inevitable, is also likely to irk fans, though being a young 'un it didn't irritate me too much.

That said, a lot of the padding is quite enjoyable; the scenes exploring the dwarves' background are particularly interesting, and the scene near the beginning when they tear up Bilbo's house is extremely entertaining. Fans of the book, beware: you'll find some stuff you weren't expecting in this movie, and you'll like a good chunk of it.

The movie looks fantastic—despite a few failures mentioned above, 48 FPS was by and large a great choice—and the action is impeccably choreographed. The fight scenes are as epic as you could play out in your head. The soundtrack is even better; your blood and adrenaline will rush every time you hear the "Misty Mountains Cold" Leitmotif that plays every time the dwarves start kicking ass. I don't know if they actually recorded it on live orchestras, but it sure sounds like it. Music and visuals fans will absolutely adore this movie.

But the movie's main strength is its acting. Ian McKellen is a charmer as usual, but the ones who make this movie are Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. Anyone who's seen Freeman's previous work will know just how well he can play the guy who's in way over his head, and he once again shines in that capacity as Bilbo; his acting as a hard-to-explain quality that just clicks with the character. Armitage, meanwhile, brilliantly portrays the bitter, determined, stubborn, and proud Thorin as if he himself had fought off an orc with a log. When you see and hear Armitage as Thorin, you immediately want to pick up an axe and go follow that guy, even if you do have to sign a grim contract.

Overall review: 8.5/10. Go see it, you'll be glad you did.