Last night, through the careful machinations of Accidental Chris and his lovely wife, my lovely wife and I were able to go see the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D at our local purveyor of motion picture entertainment. Let me preface this by saying that I have read both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings multiple times. I saw all the Lord of the Rings movies in the theatre and own the extended editions. While I was blown away by the Fellowship of the Ring, I was less impressed with the Two Towers and the Return of the King.
Which is kind of how I felt about the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (H-AUJ). Being a fan of the LotR movies and the novel, the Hobbit, I enjoyed the movie. Were I not both of those, I likely would have found much of the movie tedious. As it stood, I think the various chase sequences – the company of Thorin Oakenshield gets chased by wargs more than once, then by goblins under the Misty Mountains – went on for about 20 minutes too long. Someone who’s not a fan of the novel or understands the importance of Gollum in LotR could be forgiven for opining that the “Riddles in the Dark” sequence outstays its welcome.
However, stacked against this (for us fans) are all the call-backs and – ironically – foreshadowing to LotR. There is a lot of narrative energy spent setting up the LotR . . . which has long since come, so it’s kind of a waste. There are some that seem to be extended Easter eggs, but others are quite quick.
The main difference between the novel and the movie is that the moviemakers wanted to make another LotR. The novel is a children’s story, and to me the dwarves in it always seemed more Snow White than action-adventure types. In the movie, these dwarves are warriors, perhaps out of practice and in the midst of gainful employment elsewhere, but when things get ugly, these guys come out swinging. This is one change that I am 100% behind, given the dwarves of LotR and the posthumous Tolkien works.
Now with 13 dwarves, it’s difficult to differentiate all the characters, but Thorin is turned into a very strong character with an angsty backstory to make him properly heroic. Balin is given plenty of screen time, and as the first to arrive, Dwalin makes a great impression. Fili and Kili have enough spotlight and lines to make them memorable, and while I didn’t actually catch his name in the movie, Bofur is provided with lines and strong characterization. So that’s not bad, really, especially when the action sequences are so frenetic and the 3D blurs it so much that I couldn’t quite figure out what was happening most of the time in the fights.
And while the 3D is quite beautiful in the vista shots, it really ruins the action sequences. My wife found the same. Perhaps we are alone in this, but I won’t be seeing action movies in 3D given the choice. This was my first experience, and while pleasurable in many parts, it ruined others, and did not add significantly to my enjoyment of the movie. 3D, for me, is unnecessary, especially when it makes already expensive movie tickets that much more expensive.
In summary, I think the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a strong recommend for fans of the Lord of the Rings movies, especially those who know and do not worship the Hobbit. There are changes, but they make the kids novel and adult movie. If you didn’t see the Lord of the Rings movie series or have not read the Hobbit, you may not be up for this one. It’s long, and there are parts that fans will likely find tedious.
I give the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 4.5 Riddles in the Dark out of 5.
You can find more information on the movie here.
You can find Accidental Chris here.