USA, 2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Itís been many years since I last saw a Lord of the Rings film, and many more years since I read JRR Tolkienís The Hobbit. In an effort I hope doesnít lead him down the path of Lucas, Peter Jackson presents the first part in a trilogy based on the classic fantasy novel, An Unexpected Journey. The main story beats are certainly there, and performances are all impressive from the cast, bringing the story to life in ways I was pleasantly surprised by. Tolkien is a great writer, one of the most recognized names in literature, but for me, reading something in text can never measure up to seeing a story performed by real people, with real nuances and emotions. For just that, this endeavor by Jackson is already worth the price of admission. Even if we donít spend all that much time with every member of the admittedly large cast, the stars like Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, and Richard Armitage deliver in spades.
Unfortunately, the power of the core narrative feels weighed down by the expanded universe Jackson draws from to flesh out a trilogy of feature length films. A simpler and more streamlined script would have suited the adaptation better, and perhaps could have shortened production from three movies and two hours apiece to two films of 90 minutes apiece. And then comes the somewhat sticky nature of trying to stay true to the childish tone of the novel and yet tie in the more adult presence of the previous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Again, a more cohesive film could have been made had Jackson chosen one over the other. Still, the film is fun, and the central story is still very much a shining feature. The action feels a bit video game-y for my tastes, but I had similar complaints with Jacksonís earlier films. As the old saying goes, itís less about the destination than it is about the journey itself.
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