Since the first trailer was released, I was really looking forward to the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. Then the warning signs began, first the footage unveiled at Cinema-Con was badly received and then came the news that there would be 3 films of The Hobbit. I started to get nervous but today, I went to see the film and all my fears were unfounded. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a brilliant film.I have to start off by talking about Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. As anyone who has seen Sherlock or the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows, Freeman is excellent at playing the everyman and there is no better fantasy everyman that Bilbo Baggins, making Freeman perfect for the role. This perfection really comes through, all the different ways at which Bilbo gets frustrated and then finds his courage are perfectly portrayed by Freeman and his interaction with the other cast members is brilliant. This is especially true of Andy Serkis as Gollum late on in the film in the Riddles in the Dark scene, easily the best scene in the film. Freeman and Serkis play off of each other brilliantly in this scene and the dialogue is perfectly written. Simply put, if I had to give just one reason to get people to watch this film, it would be for Martin Freeman’s performance.
That isn’t to say that the rest of the cast doesn’t get time to shine. As I said, Andy Serkis is great as Gollum, seeming even more dangerous and manic in this film than he did in the Lord of the Rings films. Ian McKellen is brilliant as always as Gandalf, in fact all of the returning actors, Serkis, McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood and Ian Holm are all as excellent as they were in Lord of the Rings so there’s no point going into them here. I have to say though, the scene with Holm and Wood at the start of the film is a perfect way to link The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings together in the context of the film.
The new cast members are the ones I want to talk about. Richard Armitage gives a very dignified and powerful performance as Thorin Oakenshield and you really get a sense as to why the other dwarfs all respect and follow him around. Ken Stott is very warm and friendly as Balin, easily being the most likeable new character in the film. There’s just a warmth in his voice that makes you like him as soon as he start’s speaking, it’s something I can’t put my finger on but just works. James Nesbitt is really funny as well as Bofur, easily being the funniest character in the film and his dialogue is hilarious as well. Nesbitt also gets a great dramatic scene late on in the film that made me like the character all the more. If there was one complaint I have with the new characters is that the other dwarfs don’t get as much time to shine as Thorin, Balin and Bofur. Some of them I couldn’t even figure out their names. Hopefully this will be solved in the other 2 films. I have to say though, my favourite character that wasn’t in Lord of the Rings is easily Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown. Now I really like McCoy as an actor, he is easily my favourite actor to play The Doctor in classic Dr Who and he brings the same eccentricity he had as The Doctor to Radagast. He is just a joy to watch every time that he’s on screen and, being an environmentalist, I really liked his whole goal of protecting the environment of Middle Earth. Plus, he easily has the best mode of transport out of any film character this year. Screw The Bat, screw the Heli-carrier, give me a rabbit-drawn sled any day.
As far as the plot of the film is concerned, whist there is a great deal of stuff added to the film that wasn’t in Tolkein’s book, virtually all of it is important in fleshing out the characters and the importance of the quest to the dwarfs. The prologue related to Erebor and the Moria attack provide a great deal of character background to Thorin and other added scenes, which I won’t spoil, give a lot of character development to Bilbo, as part of his overall character development to gain more courage and realise his role in the quest. If there is one part I felt was unneeded it was the Stone Giants, I felt that scene was just designed to pad the film out a bit longer which it really didn’t need. There is one concern I have though, I don’t see how 2 more films can be made from the rest of the book unless the third film is designed as the bridging film between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
I also saw the film in 48 frames per second and, whilst the technology isn’t perfect and does take some time to get used to, I though it was incredible. The image quality was outstanding in this format, especially for all of the long sweeping landscape shots which show off just how beautiful New Zealand is. Plus, whilst it did highlight some effects problems, the effects used in this film are brilliant and much better than those used in Lord of the Rings, especially in regards to Gollum so on a technical level, the film is incredible.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. There are a few problems but when it’s good, it’s incredibly good and thankfully, this is the standard format of the film. I wouldn’t go in expecting Lord of the Rings but you should still expect an incredible film from the man who knows Middle Earth like the back of his hand.
My Rating: 5/5
I just want to quickly give my thoughts on the 9 minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness that plays in front of IMAX showings of the film. The film looks brilliant, Benedict Cumberbatch looks really sinister as the villain, it’s great to see Noel Clarke doing sci-fi again after his great turn in Doctor Who, the production design looks great and all of the cast are really suited to their roles with the plot in this section providing a great mix of humour and drama. Really looking forward to Star Trek Into Darkness