Having once again had my expectations lowered by critics (not to mention a scathing review from Janelle), I went into The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey fearing the worst. I thought for sure I would now be writing something like: ‘Sorry, Zack (nephew), but The Hobbit was a disaster.’ Instead, I am forced to apologize to Janelle for liking The Hobbit much more than she did.
It must be said, however, that I saw The Hobbit in 2D and in the normal 24 frames per second. I have no doubt that if I had been forced, as Janelle was, to watch the film in 3D and 48 frames per second, my appreciation for The Hobbit would have suffered a major blow. Why Peter Jackson (director) chose to film it that way at all is a complete mystery to me (even after hearing his excuses).
I must also say at the outset that I agree with Janelle’s complaints about the film, especially the extent of the fighting and battle footage and the unfortunate mix of humour and violence. However, the amount of violence in The Hobbit, measured in both minutes and intensity, is much less than in any of the three Lord of the Rings films (which I loved), so I am inclined to be lenient. My big fear is that by making three long films out of a short novel, the final film will focus so much on the Battle of Five Armies that I will wish the trilogy had ended after the second film.
But getting back to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I thought it did a commendable job of introducing us to the dwarves and the young Bilbo and taking us on the first stages of Bilbo’s grand epic adventure, a journey to the Lonely Mountain and the dragon sitting on its hoard of gold (stolen from the dwarves). On the whole, I thought The Hobbit was beautifully filmed, well-acted and altogether enjoyable, but only if taken on its own and not compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy or viewed as the first part of a second trilogy or even compared too closely with the novel.
The big problem with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is precisely that it is based on a novel which is, in my opinion, in every way inferior to The Lord of the Rings. So even if the novel was as long as The Lord of the Rings, the film would have to be inferior, for The Hobbit lacks the grand story elements which make The Lord of the Rings one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Taken on its own, I do think The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great epic tale full of wonder and an impressive ‘fantasy’ feel. But it does not have (and cannot have) the magic which made LOTR the classic it is. When you add in the fact that The Hobbit is no more than a quarter of the length of The Lord of the Rings, the likelihood of disappointment increases exponentially. Even two long films would be a stretch. Three is simply unnecessary.
Weighing all of these factors in order to make a fair judgment of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not easy. For my part, I will award it ***+. My mug is up.