Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Hobbit

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the titular Hobbit, played by Martin Freeman, is invited to join an unusual quest to help a bunch of dwarves regain their home from the dragon that invaded it and drove them away decades ago.  Accompanied by the wizard Gandalf, they encounter friendly elves, not-so-friendly goblins, hungry trolls and plenty of in-fighting.  Based on the popular children's novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and brought to life by Tolkien fanatic Peter Jackson, An Unexpected Journey tells the first third of the Hobbit's story.

The problem is, there is absolutely no reason for The Hobbit to be three movies.  I write this as a person who is a big fan of Peter Jackson's extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and who tries to watch them about once a year.  That story may not have needed twelve hours to tell, but it rarely felt as though it was dragging or stretching out what didn't need to be stretched.

The Hobbit feels like that for most of the film.

Like many, the more successful he becomes, the more impervious Peter Jackson becomes to a judicious editor (see also, J.K. Rowling, Tom Clancy, others).  And a judicious editor would have helped The Hobbit immensely.

After all, the film has a lot going for it.  Martin Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo, the cautious but quietly brave protagonist.  Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis reprise their roles from The Lord of the Rings with aplomb.  The music and production values are simply lovely.  The story is an interesting one, full of twists and humor and action.

It's too bad everything feels so muddled and stretched out.  The film begins in flash-forward, with Ian Holm's Bilbo writing down his story for nephew Frodo, again played by Elijah Wood.  While I liked both of these actors quite a bit in Lord of the Rings, their parts were entirely unnecessary here.  This was a continuing trend throughout the film.  Two films with tighter editing and a few unnecessary pieces cut would have served this story quite well.  Three is doing it a disservice.

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