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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Gandalf: "You'll have a tale or two to tell when you come back."
Bilbo: "You can promise that I will come back?"
Gandalf: "...No. And if you do, you will not be the same."

I've tried to read the books, but I was always so bored by them that I couldn't get through more than a couple hundred pages. So when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out a decade ago, I was sure I was going to be underwhelmed. I was wrong. I loved the first trilogy, even going so far as to buy both versions of the films on DVD. I've followed the development of this adaptation since it was first announced, and I managed to keep my excitement in check with the fact that this is basically a prequel. The track record for prequels haven't been exactly great, and the early buzz for this movie wasn't that good either. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this movie, even if it might be a bit of an embarrassment of riches.

Visually, this movie is without a doubt a part of the same world created by the first trilogy. This is due to the extreme level of care and attention paid to the details. In a way, it feels a bit like returning home. The shire is just as brilliantly green, Rivendell is just as surreal and majestic, and the vistas are still absolutely beautiful. The monster makeup is excellent, the visual effects were stunning, and the score was as moving as ever. I loved the humor, and the simple loving care placed in every little crevice of the elaborate sets. I got chills when certain musical cues reminded me of moments from the first trilogy. The acting was all great, the story was decently paced for such a long movie, and the characters were all unexpectedly fun. There were also some absolutely magical moments in this film, especially the riddle game with Gollum.

So why wasn't I completely blown away by it all? It had all the pieces of a masterpiece, much like the first three movies. I guess it comes down to the fact that there seemed to be a bit too much going on, for what is essentially a simple adventure tale of a king trying to reclaim his lost kingdom. Don't get me wrong, it is an exciting story, and is most definitely worthy of being told in such a grand fashion. I'm just wondering if maybe in the attempt to capitalize on the success of the first trilogy, they might have shoved a bit too much detail into something that should've been relatively simple. Still, I can't be too upset at having too much of a good thing, and I'm not, really. Maybe there isn't anything wrong with this movie, and it'll improve on repeated viewings. I do know that it didn't fail my expectations at all. Perhaps it may have exceeded what I was envisioning by too much, and that is hardly a condemnation.

As for the controversy surrounding the technical aspects of this film, I saw it in the standard format of 24 frames per second, without 3D, and it looked exactly like the first trilogy. There was a richness of texture in the backgrounds that didn't look any more fake than really good CGI. There were some sweeping shots that had some noticeable choppiness, specifically in the opening battle sequences. I blame that on Peter Jackson because he was obsessed with filming this movie in 48 frames per second, and I don't think he thought much about how certain shots would look in the lower frame rate. However, I cannot comment on the differences between the two formats until I see it in the new high frame rate.

Overall, the film might have benefited from a shorter run time, but it wasn't a travesty of idiocy like the first Star Wars prequel. It was a beautifully shot, well executed movie with a few too many extraneous scenes. Still, it didn't fall apart under the weight of that complexity, and managed to pull off some truly epic and magical moments. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to the next year already.

3 1/2 out of 4 Dwarves throwing dishes around with a gleeful disregard of their hobbit host's protests.

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.


  1. J.D.

    I was reluctant to go see it. OMG, ANOTHER trilogy ?! You helped me change my mind. After all, I immensely enjoyed the first one. And I could live in Rivendale on a permanent basis.

  2. It could lose half an hour or so, especially from the beginning, but I loved it anyway. I had a stupid grin on my face the entire time. (9 amazing minutes of Star Trek right before didn't do it any harm either!)

  3. Juliette

    Oh !!??!!? The upcoming movie I presume ?

    Poser la question, c'est y répondre......

  4. I have to ask: did Stephen Colbert get his much-rumored cameo?

    Oh, and if you do see it in the new, potentially vomit-inducing format, JD, you have to update us!

  5. You should try reading The Hobbit JD, it's a much lighter read than The Lord of the Rings, 100 pages and you're already past the point of this movie! ;o)

    I feel a bit uncomfortable calling this movie a Prequel, with all the negative connotations that involves... After all The Hobbit CAME FIRST! It's more like LOTR is a sequel to the Hobbit. Except in reality they're quite different stories told in the same world. The only true connections are the Ring and Gandalf (and Bilbo in some smaller measure). Tolkien's publishers asked him for more hobbit stories, expecting the light-heartedness of The Hobbit, and were kind of shocked when they got LOTR instead, which yes, had a few hobbits. :p

    The main difference between the book and the movie is that you can tell Peter Jackson is going to tie it into LOTR more closely than what's in the book. This means we get more Radagast, we see the White Council (only hinted at in the book and explained in more detail in LOTR's appendices) and we'll get the whole deal with Dol Guldur and the Necromancer. In the book Gandlaf only briefly mentions these things to Bilbo at one point, but Tolkien retold that part of the story in other material, and that's what Jackson's using.

    So yeah, this first movie felt a bit "off" at times -basically when it strayed away from our main hobbit and dwarves story-, but if you consider the wider tapestry then it makes sense.

    I saw it in 3D and it was gorgeous! I really felt comfortable with the depth etc. But I have no idea if I saw it in 48 fps or 24 fps... I don't know if the cinemas here in Spain have the technology for the higher framer rate.

    My advice to people is: go watch it, ENJOY, but don't expect LOTR 'cause this is a different animal! A lot more light-hearted, fun. With singing dwarves! ;o)

  6. Dis donc ma cher folle espagnole,

    si tu aimes tant que ça les nains chantants, tu as sans doute aimé The Wizard of Oz non ?

    I haven't checked yet, here in Montreal, if the have the 48 fps or not though. We do have one in Imax.

  7. Mais bien sur! Qui n'aime pas les Munchkins??? Surtout quand ils accompagnent la magnifique Judy!!! ;o)

    I'd LOVE to see this in IMAX! Or any film... the nearest IMAX is in Valencia, in the Oceanografic, and they only show documentaries... :s

  8. Ding dong ! The wicked witch is dead !!

    On a PLUSIEURS salles Imax dans ma ville natale....

  9. Chanceux! grrrr...

    Has anyone had a chance to see it in IMAX? Must be even more amazing!

  10. Charmante folle espagnole,

    je laisse passer la foule (comme toujours); après j'irai le voir. Par contre, pas encore décidé si ce sera en 2 ou 3D, écran régulier ou Imax.

    Pile ou face ???

  11. 3D and IMAX stp, so you can tell us about it! ;o)

    When I'm really excited about a movie I like to go on opening day. But I'm really good at finding showings without a massive crowd! Advantage of living in a medium-sized city.

  12. Cris

    Même si j’habite dans une grande ville avec une quantité phénoménale de salles de cinéma, je préfère attendre après la folie des 2 premières semaines et y aller par la suite. Je ne raffole vraiment pas du 3D je t'avouerai; par contre, sur le Imax, alors là, oui ça me tente beaucoup. On s'en reparle.....en 2013 ! Vu que cette mythologie est tellement épique, aussi bien m'en mettre PLEIN la vue...

    (J'ai fait référence tantôt a The Wized of Oz pcq non seulement j'aime effectivement le film, mais à cause d'une scène dans le dernier épisode de Fringe)

  13. Yeah, I caught that one too! J'ai crié "The Emerald City!" :p

  14. I've also tried the Hobbit, in fact I have a copy of it a few feet away from where I'm typing this comment. Still I haven't had the urge to pick it up, even after the movie. Honestly the stuff about the necromancer and the white council were a bit more interesting to me than a good portion of the Dwarf quest so maybe the extra stuff is a good thing.

    Since you guys brought up the Wizard of OZ (I do not speak or read French, I had to put your conversation through a translator). What are you feelings about the new OZ movie coming out next year? I'm a little torn.

    As for using the dreaded Prequel tag, it is what it is. I know the book came before the other books, but in this case the LOTR movies came before the Hobbit. That means that the Hobbit movies are officially prequels. No label will change the quality of a film, so perhaps these films can change the perception of that label.

  15. I had NO idea about the new Oz movie until I saw a poster for it outside the screen where I saw the Hobbit. Was a big surprise!

    I have mixed feelings about it. If they start fresh from the book then I'm all for it! If they're trying for a remake of the Judy Garland musical then HELL NO! :p

    Sorry 'bout the French. It's just nice to have the chance to exchange a few quips in it now and again since the internet is almost universally Anglo... at least the sites I hang out in. It's a big part of who I am and I don't get to play with it as often as I'd like.

  16. If someone wants to have a go in Spanish I'm also game! ;o)

  17. Having seen the trailer it is the story of OZ the great and powerful, and how he came to OZ... It does have the witches, Glinda and the wicked witch of west, also the other two witches that were never seen in the original musical. I don't think this one is a musical though. At least I hope it isn't one because the idea of James Franco singing scares me a little.

  18. I did see the Oz trailer; completely went off my mind. Seems promising. To be continued...

    Spanish ? Una cerveza por favor !

    Ti adoro mi pequino corazon !

    Lunes, martes y miercoles.


  19. Definitely NOT a musical !


  20. Pas mal!

    Except that it's "pequeño". And I'll forgive the accents since I know most keyboards on the other side of the Atlantic make using accents a bloody complicated business. ;o)

  21. Thank you for your understanding. I'd have to type ALT and a number to find that sucker ! (give it a try, like ALT 123 and 136 and 150 and so forth)

    And with a MAC, just forget it !!!

  22. lol! Marc with a MAC it's EASY! It's usually just try alt + a letter (or apple, depends on the Mac keyboard), depends on how your keyboard is set up! For example I do alt-E and I get an accent aigüe, then I type the vowel I want and it has the accent on it! See: é. The eñe is alt-N then N ñ. Accent grave will change since I have a key for it, the tréma is alt-U ü, the accent circomflexe is alt-I î etc.
    No memorising of a code for EACH accented letter, just a couple short cuts for the accents and then type the letter you want them to appear on!

  23. Cool trailer! Oz sure looks pretty... but is that 3 good witches I see? Or perhaps one of them turns to the dark side by the end...
    How is he going to defeat the Wicked Witch since we know Dorothy is the one who does it???

  24. ççç ~°°°°;n~   ùù«¬¬¬


    forget it !! have a FRENCH keyboard !


  25. You'll have to so SEE the movie next year in order to find the answer ! Of course, if it's a reboot, then it do NOT apply !

    (bon, bien, coté espagnol, vraiment RIEN à faire avec un clavier français, triple merde !)

    ]]][}{ ∞€££€€∞∞£@@¡ oh !

    ¡hola !

  26. Umm... en français non plus alors puisque t'a oublié l'accent circonflexe sur côté. ;o)

    Has anyone read all the Oz books? How faithfull is the Judy Garland film?

  27. Oublie l'accent circonflexe sur le O. Aucune idée ou ce foutu connard s'est caché sur le clavier.

    øøøø non, pas tout a fait.

    ^^``^^^øòo`ø purgatoire, oublies ça

  28. je viens de trouver !!


    Je dois appuyer sur DEUX touches en même temps wow



  29. mais on va oublier le GN espagnol

    and Billie is probably : either LOL about of this or b) thinking my, these 2 are quite something !

  30. Plan on seeing it sometime this week when I have the time. Glad to hear the good reviews on it, debating on what format I want to go see it in. But figure it'll be good no matter what.

    Minor quibble: It's Rivendell not Rivendale. :)

  31. And a MAJOR quibble : certainly NOT Riverdance !

    wink wink, tongue in cheek

    and quibble : I've learn a new English word tonite !

  32. JD, while I'd almost never tell someone not to read a book, I'd say The Hobbit might not be for you, especially given the stuff you mention as being the most interesting--they don't make as much of an appearance in the book as you might think, at least according to my recollection. And, frankly, it's very twee.

    (I love that word.)

    CrazyCris, I haven't read all the Oz books, but the impression I get from reading about them is that Dorothy is only a character in one; other people become more important in others.

  33. Finally got the chance to see this one, and had a somewhat similar reaction to you, J.D. It was nice to return to this world, and I especially loved the familiar sights and music cues. But overall, I think Jackson did this story a disservice by trying too hard to tie it into the larger world.

    I rather liked the first bit of connection to the trilogy, with Bilbo sitting down to write his book. But he didn't need to add in Frodo, and specifically tie the writing to the day of the party featured at the beginning of Fellowship. It felt like a step too far. And the Radagast, Necromancer, and White Council stuff was wholly unnecessary. That time would have been better spent fleshing out the dwarf company a bit. By the end of the first installment, I only felt a connection with Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, and the dwarf with the weird hat who wished Bilbo well. Leaving 10 other company members that felt like little more than cannon fodder in my mind.

    At the end of the day, I would have preferred a tighter story that let us get to know the larger party better, leaving only the few threads of connection to the subsequent trilogy (Older Bilbo writing the story, Gandalf, Gollum, and the ring).


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