‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is the Weakest entry in the One Ring Franchise so Far

I hate The Hobbit.

Let me back up and please, put down the pitchforks and torches.

What I mean to say is, I hate The Hobbit novel.  It’s nothing that J.R.R. Tolkein did, after all, he did create the fantastic world of Middle Earth that millions of nerds pledge their virginity to every generation, so he must have been doing something right.  His style just doesn’t mesh with my way of thinking.  To me, a story needs to hook you from the beginning.  To him, a story needs to start with eight chapters of food.

Again, I don’t blame him. It’s probably just my ADD or perhaps it’s that squirrel out the window.  Man, I love video games.  Kittens are funny.  Whatever happened to that kid who played Urkle?

What I’m trying and failing miserably to say is that my exposure to this book is limited only to what I have seen in the animated version of the film (which I actually liked, so don’t give me any guff over it).  I know that shouldn’t color my view of the movie, I’m just telling you where I’m coming from.  I’m kind of a Tolkien noob so, if I say anything that makes you think I’m an idiot about this story… you’re sort of right.  So shut up about it.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the prequel to the fantastic Lord of the Rings trilogy.  In it, we learn of Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo and how, upon taking an “unexpected journey” with Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves intent on taking their mountain home back from a colossal fire-breathing dragon, he comes into possession of the Ring of Power which, as you might remember, is the driving force of the original trilogy.

So, here we go… This movie is dull.

Let me start over.

This movie starts dull and gets better, but it’s still dull for a good 45 minutes.  Sure, Peter Jackson had the good sense to throw in some flashbacks with gigantic war scenes and dragon attacks, but those only serve as a temporary reprieve from the plodding and apparently necessary slowness of the opening act.  To be honest, I wasn’t really even interested in this movie, the dwarf’s quest, or any of it until the Trolls steal the horses and that’s almost an hour into this monster.

Once stuff actually starts happening, An Unexpected Journey is a darn diverting piece of entertainment.  It made me feel nostalgic for the original trilogy, the action scenes are cleverly staged, and it makes me want to see the next movie next year.

The pacing problems are related to splitting the book up into three movies, I’m sure.  Annoying, yes, but it is what it is.  It’s the Hollywood beast nowadays.  Just thank your lucky stars more movies aren’t doing it.  Bad enough that I have two Twilight movies to sit through before I’m done with that stain for good, imagine if The Smurfs had a Book One and Book Two or Eddie Murphy released 500 Words and then 500 More Words the following Summer.  What if Atlas Shrugged had… Wait… Oh, darn.

Forgetting the regrettable pacing problems of the movie (which really aren’t a problem once the movie wakes up and actually does something), The Hobbit is spectacular, grand, and a lot of fun.  Seeing Gandalf again in all his gray glory is a real treat and the dwarf characters are a lot of fun even if I still don’t know which is which.  Surely the following movies will flesh them out.

Hey, it’s got Gollum too!  I missed this little turd so much and I’m actually kind of sad that this will likely be his last appearance in the film series (unless Peter Jackson shoves him in somewhere like he did with Frodo – which wasn’t that bad, mind you).  In An Unexpected Journey, Gollum seems even more alive than he did before.  There’s more dimension to him, more weight… He’s more alive and real.  Whatever tweaking they did, it worked great.  The scene with Gollum is wonderful as well.  Not only nostalgic for stories long over, but also essential to the plot… it doesn’t feel like it was just thrown in for fan service.

I should also point out that I did see this movie in 42 frames a second 3D even though I hate 3D and, since everyone else is complaining about it, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring even though you didn’t ask.

I thought it was pretty neat.

Granted, it’s new technology still in its infancy and there appear to be some bugs to work out namely that the action is a little too smooth and I believe that our eyes are accustomed to some blur even in real environments, but the action and landscapes are so crisp and alive that, for once, I feel like the 3D was an actual augmentation and not a gimmick.  The 42 frames a second work best in wide epic shots while, in close ups, it does make a strange effect where everything appears to be moving a little too fast, but overall I think that there is hope for this technology.  I really don’t see how it made things look “fake” or “cheap,” I simply believe that the added realism of the technique has thrown some people for a loop.  With some refinements, it will be much better.  It was so great to see the grand action scenes in the goblin stronghold without everything blurring when the camera swooped through.

I liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but I will acknowledge that it’s the weakest of the Rings movies that have been released. The movie’s drawn out and plodding nature coupled with its dull starting execution is definitely a strike against it, but if you can hang on long enough, the movie will take you on your own unexpected journey and you’ll love every moment of it… at least every moment after the trolls show up.

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