It’s hard to criticize Peter Jackson’s new film The Hobbit without setting up a perfect that’s-what-she-said joke: it’s too long, I fell asleep in the middle, and I couldn’t remember the names of all of the dwarves involved.
The first time I viewed The Hobbit, I made a number of mistakes. I saw the opening night midnight showing after a ten hour shift at work; I had a beer both before and during the film; I saw it in 2D. I fell asleep at least twice during the film (much of the actual journey was a blur–I’m surprised I was fully awake during the long build up in the Shire). The parts I was awake for were such a strain I can’t say I enjoyed The Hobbit much at all.
The Hobbit though was a movie I had pined for for well over a year. I’ve been following the pre-production drama for months now. When I saw The Dark Knight Rises at midnight, not only did I stay awake, I don’t recall even blinking.
Realizing it was my own fault I didn’t fully enjoy The Hobbit, I decided to see it again, this time in the middle of the day, and I forked over a king’s ransom to view it in 3D at 48 frames per second. What a difference lucidity makes!
Granted, The Hobbit is often a slow and even ponderous film. The opening scenes where Bilbo decides whether or not to leave home could have been shortened tremendously with no one but the most stalwart of nerds crying foul. Still, going into the theater knowing its not going to be a complete thrill-ride sets you up in the right mindset to take in the full scope of the movie.
The Hobbit is a magical and whimsical film. It’s complete lack of cynicism makes it stand alone in megaplexes showing nothing but films featuring reluctant, ill-tempered heroes. Where else can you see a warty and goitered goblin king being hit by a wizard’s staff? I’m pretty sure there’s no such scene in Jack Reacher, but I haven’t seen that yet so don’t ruin it for me.
There was a lot that worked for me in The Hobbit. I loved Radagast the Brown, an eco-friendly wizard who rides a sleigh pulled by rabbits. He’s the sort of character I’d dream into existence back in the sandbox with a pile of action figures in front of me. I hung on every word during the scene where Gandalf confronts Giladriel and Elrond with news of a dark force massing power in rural portions of Middle-Earth. Also, the 3D filmmaking immersed me in the fantasy world, to the point where the real world seemed stagy and mediocre afterwards.
Similarly, some aspects didn’t work for me. The sequence where the heroes are attacked by a trio of hungry trolls simply went on for too long. In the book, it’s a funny incident that only takes up a few pages, whereas in the movie it goes on so long the film should be titled The Trolls: An Interrupted Dinner.
Quibbles aside, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a unique and enjoyable fantasy film that pushes the boundaries of both technology and your patience. In India, Bollywood churns out tons of films each year that go on 3+ hours. In the US, we’ve become too accustomed to skimpy, unfulfilling movies that we don’t recognize a feast when it’s put in front of us. Like a good meal, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is perfectly supplemented by a very strong cup of coffee (or several if you can).
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What would be your review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?