The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/12/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 169 mins

Peter Jackson's latest Tolkien-based epic features terrific performances, stunning action sequences and some state-of-the-art special effects, but it's also far too long and there are problems with both the script and the pacing, while the much-vaunted 48 frames-per-second format takes a certain amount of getting used to.

What's it all about?
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a trilogy of films adapted from JRR Tolkien's beloved children's story The Hobbit. Set 60 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, the film stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, whose pipe-smoking life of contentment in The Shire is shattered by the arrival of the grey wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen boisterous dwarves, led by glowering Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).

Despite some initial resistance, Bilbo is persuaded that he is vital to the dwarves' mission to reclaim their kingdom from the fearful dragon Smaug, so he saddles up a pony and joins their quest. Along the way they encounter all manner of vicious creatures, from wolf-riding orcs to ravenous mountain trolls, rock monsters and goblins. They also stop off at Rivendell to say an entirely superfluous hello to elf leader Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and the wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee).

The Good
Martin Freeman is perfectly cast as Bilbo Baggins and duly delivers a superb performance; he even resembles the older Bilbo, played by Ian Holm, who appears here in a prologue alongside Elijah Wood as Frodo. McKellen is on typically splendid form as Gandalf and there's strong support from Richard Armitage; but, as with The Lord of The Rings, the supporting honours are completely stolen by Andy Serkis as Gollum, whose appearance here is comfortably the highlight of the film.

Jackson orchestrates a number of terrific action sequences, bolstered by some stunning production design and special effects work, particularly in the Goblin's lair. Similarly, the 3D effects are used well, most notably in Gandalf's key scene involving a helpful butterfly.

The Bad
That said, The Hobbit is not without problems. For one thing, at 169 minutes, it's much too long, while the bits that have been added to the book (in order to pad the story out to three films) feel like unnecessary sops to Lord of The Rings fans and serve no dramatic purpose. There are also sequences that should have been cut entirely, such as the scenes involving Radogast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), while some of the language (especially words like ‘chips’ and ‘jacksie’) feels out of place.

On top of that, while the majority of the effects work is excellent, there are sequences that seem shoddy and amateurish by comparison, particularly the dragon attack on the dwarf kingdom. In addition, the much vaunted 48 frames-per-second (the normal speed is 24) format takes a lot of getting used to and gives the film a weird-looking sheen that resembles an over-lit TV production, as well as appearing speeded-up in places.

Worth seeing?
Despite its arse-numbing length (and the fact that it should never have been three films in the first place) and some script and pacing issues, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an enjoyable, well acted adventure epic with exciting action sequences and superb special effects.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12A)
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Content updated: 14/12/2017 20:46

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