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Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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by Kevin Gaussoin, Karissa Barrows, Matt Sernaker, Bill Watters, and Mary Anne Butler, ComicsOnline Staff

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the long-awaited prequel to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings 3-film saga. While the LotR series were comprised of one film for each source book, The Hobbit is a smaller book being drawn out into another trilogy of movies. Is this really a good idea or just a fiendish marketing ploy?

The film also sees the return of a couple of our favorite characters from the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen – Lord of the Rings Trilogy, X-Men Trilogy) and a younger version of Bilbo (Martin Freeman – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 2005, Love Actually, Sherlock). This feature begins the tale of how Bilbo ended up with The One Ring in the first place. The Dragon Smaug has stolen the treasure from the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, so Bilbo joins the quest and journeys to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim it.

What did you think about the:

-Acting?

The acting started out way overblown and goofy when the dwarves show up, but eventually simmered down. Was it just me, or did Frodo move funny, like he was sped up?   -Kevin

All the acting felt more over the top than the previous incarnations. I didn’t feel like we got to have the same connection with the characters this time around, and it was especially lacking with Bilbo. The story is really supposed to be about his development, and while it had certain elements pushing towards that, it didn’t get the full effect. That being said, Martin Freeman did a great job with what he was given.  -Matt

Phenomenal. Where some of my CO cohorts feel there was overacting, I’m inclined to disagree. The levels at which roles were portrayed were perfect for the world. Sure, it may seem weird if you’re watching Skyfallor Django Unchained or something, but Middle Earth is a rambunctious and wonderful place, full of the bleakest and most extravagant characters out there. Tolkien Dwarves are particularly so, showing either end of the spectrum at any given moment. Had they been forever at their peak excitement, I’d agree with the overacting opinion. However, given the emotional range portrayed by all of them, I think it was spectacular. Freeman as Bilbo was a perfect casting choice as the sort-of Arthur Dent of Middle Earth. Returning actors did their characters just as much justice as in the LotR trilogy. I was extremely pleased.  -Karissa

I loved the dwarves.  As much as I am a fan of Martin Freeman, I truly feel, and rightly so, that Richard Armitage (Thorin) stole the show with his portrayal of the uprooted heir to the throne. You’re not supposed to find the dwarves hot, right?  Like, attractive hot?  Because I did.  Reading the article recently about Sir Ian McKellen having his emotional break down on the set due to not interacting with the other members of the cast for weeks and possibly months at a time, I found many of his close up scenes to echo this feeling of loneliness and sorrow.  -Mab

That they decided early on to make the Hobbit as two movies was a fully understandable move, but pushing it out to three is going to very definitely dragging it out a bit more than I would think is advisable. The Lord of the Rings was three novels each larger than the Hobbit, and Peter did that in three wonderful films. Even LotR would have been overly long if he’d taken nine films to do the same trick.  -Bill

-Effects?

The effects were glaringly obvious at some points, but were still technically interesting enough to remain entertaining. The white orc reminded me of a Brom painting.  -Kevin

With 48fps, there were some truly stunning visuals throughout the film. The only issue I had was that there were times when it was fantastic, but then there were times where the movie magic was lost as the CGI became so utterly blatant. I agree with Kevin that there were some weird pacing issues when people were just walking around in the beginning that felt off.  -Matt

Seeing the movie in 3-D at 48 frames per second was overwhelming at first, but not in a bad way. The whole time, all I could think is how awesome it was to watch this super high-quality Blu-ray on a movie screen, because that’s exactly what it was like. I don’t get motion sickness ever, so I didn’t feel any of that sort of effect, but those who do might want to pop a Dramamine before hitting up the theater. It was definitely easier to pick out the CGI at such a high frame rate, but it was never to the point where it really bothered me or distracted me from the rest of the movie.   -Karissa

I found the 48 F-P-S (frames per second) to be astounding at times.  I very much enjoyed the depth it allowed the elegance of the set dressings and actor’s makeups and enhancements. The thing that truly did it for me was Gollum.  Holy crap has that character come SUCH a long way in his appearance and presentation just from Fellowship to Return of the King!  But now?  Holy crap again.  The pigment of his skin, and the veins pulsing underneath, the luminescence of his eyes….the creative team behind his effects have outdone themselves.   -Mab

Let’s start by remembering that the Hobbit was written as a book for young adults. So comparing that to say, Twilight, and the Hobbit is presented like Shakespeare. That said, the use of the songs from the book was done very well and not too corny (ok, so Crack the Dishes was a bit of silly fun), but Misty Mountains Cold done as a dirge was just amazing and still gives me goosebumps to listen to.   -Bill

-Dialogue?

I loved all the voices, particularly The Trolls, Galadriel, Gandalf, and Gollum. I want a Pixar-like short film just full of more troll cooking banter-maybe a Troll cooking show. I couldn’t understand the end of Bilbo’s second riddle, nor could I hear the answer. -Kevin

GREAT! I absolutely loved it. I was especially pleased to hear words straight from the novel itself at the beginning of the movie as old!Bilbo began to write the story of his great adventure. I don’t know why Kevin had a problem hearing the riddles (possibly a full theater was to blame), but I heard everything clear as a bell. No complaints overall. -Karissa

I was concerned a bit they wouldn’t use as much direct from the pages dialog, but I was pleasantly surprised that they did as often as they did, probably lending to the 3hr run time.  -Mab

Seeing how far the technology has come with key characters like Gollum is really amazing, the clarity and detail was just spectacular (especially around the eyes). But it only highlighted the lesser amount of detail given to the Trolls, who worked, but not as seamlessly.  -Bill

-Music?

Appropriately epic. -Kevin

SWOON -Karissa

There is something about Misty Mountain, that has made my hairs stand at attention since the 3D trailer was premiered at SDCC 2012, and seeing it within the film was no let down.  The continuation of the basic thrilling french horn “dwarf theme” was brilliant, as were the addition of the “Ring Theme” from the previous three films.  -Mab

The theme was nice, but overused.  It wasn’t Bear McCreary.  -Bill

-Other?

Gandalf is a Time Lord. I didn’t think I was going to buy in to this story being drawn out into 3 films, but now I’m totally on board. I enjoyed it so much, I want them to find financing for another trilogy after this one. Let’s put those kiwis to work on the Silmarillion, eh?   -Kevin

Honestly I so bored with the first 1/3 of the movie that I had to get up and go get caffine. It took way too long to get things going, and I felt like they should have just stuck with two movies for this release. It was too drawn out and just overkill.  -Matt

I went to the movie without the knowledge that the story had been broken up into three movies, so at the end I was like… uh, wtf? So if you don’t know that already, there you go. Best adaptation of The Hobbit I’ve seen yet (and I’m fairly sure I’ve seen them all). -Karissa

I spent several hours before the film started entertaining the audiences outside the theater dressed as a hobbit along with some friends dressed as Aragorn, Arwen, and random dwarf #3.  We were extremely excited for the film, and out of the seemingly small amount of folks in attendance  their level was about on par with ours.  I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of laughter the entire theater gave during the film, reminding me that we were indeed in a company of like-minded Tolkien fans.  I really hope other audiences enjoy it as much as we did.  -Mab

Watching the high frame rate version was definitely a unique experience. On a technical level it was like watching a high definition version of high definition, but given that it’s also supposed to be in 3D, I missed any real immersion or depth of field in the shots. It really feels like so much thought was given to the clarity of image, they forgot to do anything to showcase 3D.  -Bill

Average Rating (out of 5)

Kevin  4.5

Karissa   4.75 (-.25 for those elitists that can never be pleased and those whose motion sickness is so severe they wouldn’t be able to handle the frame rate).

Matt  3

Bill  4, not one of those movies I’ll be watching repeatedly.

Mab   4  I will be COMPLETELY willing to see the film again in the non 48 FPS format, to see how much it changes things.

Rating: ★★★★☆
ComicsOnline gives The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 4.05 out of 5 dwarven songs.

This gallery is the collection of the best photos taken by CO’s own Bill Watters of The Watters Mark Photography on Thursday December 13th 2012 at a midnight showing event hosted by the AMC Bay Street 16 Theaters in Emeryville, California.  Cosplayers featured are Knave Murdock as the Dwarf, Lieven Leroy as Aragorn, CO’s own Mab as Hobbit lady, and Roxanna Meta as Arwen.

 

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About Kevin Gaussoin

Kevin has run ComicsOnline since 2000 so everything you like about it is due to his excellent staff and everything you don't like is all his fault. He hopes you'll comment and share the crap out of it either way. Also he sends you virtual hugs.

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