Monday, December 23, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, and Ken Stott.

All right. For those who don't know my bias against this movie, here it is in a nutshell. I really like the book The Hobbit and really dislike The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is a fairly silly, light-hearted, fast-paced swashbuckling adventure. The Lord of the Rings is a dark, serious, character-heavy, grandiose sprawling epic. They may be set in the same universe, but the two stories are complete opposites in terms of tone.

The movie version of The Hobbit, as I knew it would, suffers GREATLY when its plot is stretched. There's so much wasted time in this movie, so much unnecessary back story, so much irrelevant subplot weighing down what should be... well, a straightforward "there and back again" tale. The first 15-20 minutes of the movie focus on an uninteresting Brief History of Some Wars of Middle Earth and then a COMPLETELY useless "flash forward" to Lord-of-the-Rings time (just in case, what, we forgot Bilbo was the guy from Lord of the Rings and Frodo was his relative?) before our actual story even starts.

When the movie keeps its pace up, it's entertaining and fun. Martin Freeman makes for a good Bilbo, cheerful and good-natured and willing to forge ahead bravely, no matter what. Scenes like the adventure with the rock giants are taut, adventurous, and fun. But it's bogged down with extra crap - long drawn-out flashbacks demonstrating mostly irrelevant plot points, scenes that seem to be there for no other reason than to foreshadow Lord of the Rings, and lengthy subplots that made me yell, "REMEMBER WHEN THIS STORY USED TO BE ABOUT BILBO GOING TO KILL A DRAGON?"

This movie is not Lord of the Rings. It wasn't supposed to be. And when it tries to be, it fails miserably. Not looking forward to the next two movies and what will have to be an equally plodding pace, except at least Benedict Cumberbatch will get to speak, and that will be a plus. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1357 out of 1973, below Mystic River and above The Fugitive.

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