Movie Review | The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Plot Summary: A reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of dwarves to reclaim their mountain home, and the gold within it from the dragon Smaug. (IMDb)
Having loved the original Lord of the Rings trilogy – especially the extended editions – I was so hoping that The Hobbit would be at least a decent accompaniment to them, but it really doesn’t get off to the best of starts in An Unexpected Journey.
To start with, the film is over two and a half hours long – and this isn’t the extended edition! For such a lightweight and insubstantial story, that’s just far too long. There are lengthy sequences and set-pieces that just kept going and going, even long after I’d already lost interest.
The Hobbit is a short book and even watching this film just once is enough to show that it really shouldn’t have been stretched over three movies. I get that Warner Bros had a launch date locked in place and so the entire trilogy was forced out whether it was ready or not, but there’s a lot here that just isn’t needed.
As an example, a lot of the extra padding shows what Gandalf got up to when he disappeared from the story in the original book, but then there are moments when he disappears and we don’t see what he’s doing. It just feels inconsistent – either show what he’s doing every time he leaves Bilbo and the dwarves, or none of them.
And then there’s the size of the cast, with all of the dwarves named in the original book appearing even if some of them have little more than a line or two across the entire length of the film. It might’ve been sacrilegious to some, but couldn’t a couple/few have been pruned to keep things simple?
Martin Freeman is good as Bilbo Baggins, as is Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, and Sir Ian McKellen is reliably fantastic as Gandalf the Grey. The problem is that they’re the only real characters of substance in the main group of fourteen characters! Why bother staying slavish to the book here if so much is going to be changed and/or added elsewhere?
It doesn’t help that so much of the film is oddly-paced, with every ‘chapter’ being turned into an action sequence, often for no apparent reason. There’s very little time for the characters to breathe, which is incredible for such a long film, and it just wore me down in the end. The movie became white noise that led to my concentration wandering.
Some of this could have been helped if it had looked great, but the lack of proper pre-production shows clearly here, and some of the VFX looks really poor in places. There obviously wasn’t enough time to get all of the shots finished before release and is yet another way in which a strong editor could’ve salvaged this film by rescuing the poor VFX teams and the audience from another overly-long stretch of computer-generated nonsense.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a big disappointment almost from top to bottom. The uneven pacing, sequences that go on far too long, and clearly unfinished CGI are too much for the acting from the leads to make up for. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where a lot of people gave up on this trilogy.