When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.
5 Things You Need to Know About…
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes us to a reminiscent locale that I did not expect nor, if I had known, would I ever have wanted to indulge in the journey: Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Both are prequels that provide sprinklings of appreciated nostalgia for the original trilogy (its characters, its world, its themes), but often fall flat and pale in comparison to the original work (Gandalf is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Gollum is Yoda. Boss Nass is the Great Goblin). More acutely, both movies rely more heavily on CGI than their predecessors (the great “could/should” debate so eloquently presented in Jurassic Park) and the CGI is often a problem. Yes, Gollum’s enhanced motion capture technology (we are almost ten years since the Return of the King release) is fantastic, but too many times Peter Jackson relies on character CGI in instances where great makeup in the previous trilogy would have sufficed. The result is a movie that juxtaposes the lush and beautiful Middle-Earth surroundings (New Zealand should win some kind of film award for its incredible work here, yet again) with the clearly fake (and as a result cheap) artificial creatures and settings that oft inhabit it. It is just (literally) not a good look.
2. Martin Freeman, as the younger Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm is back in the opening sequence as the older version of Bilbo who we recall with a bit of fear and concern from the Lord of the Rings trilogy), is a perfect fit for the big feet and warm-hearted Hobbiton community of the Shire. Freeman, whose notable credits include the role of Tim from the British version of The Office (the model for the American version’s Jim) and Dr. Watson on the BBC’s incredible and riveting series Sherlock, has the self-effacing humor, kindness, and gentility to immediately become the Hobbitest of Hobbits.
3. Of the 50,000 camera shots in the movie (a random and hugely inaccurate layman’s estimate), 49,934 are moving. The movie is in constant motion and sometimes I just which I could see a moving image in a motionless frame. Maybe this was a mask for the less than CGI (your eyes had limited time to adjust), but it was distracting and did not work as the standard practice for almost the entire movie. While we’re still on the CGI/direction challenges, the wide shot CGI heavy transitions to closeup real person moments were the opposite of organic and seamless. Honestly, I am not sure what was going on with Peter Jackson much of the time during this movie. He was having a tough time.
4. Gollum (played again by the brilliant Andy Serkis) is in only one scene of the movie (as called for by the source material novel) and the movie suffers because of it. Couldn’t part of the “unexpected journey” of the title been some type of Gollum quest through Middle-Earth? Mr. Jackson already picked through other Tolkien universe source material to provide padding for three movies. An original Gollum story couldn’t have fit in as well?
5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a simple tale of a movie cloaked in an epic motion picture’s body (splitting this book into three movies seems to have been a wee bit self-indulgent) that, although it hits several points of endearing nostalgia, does not create many lasting memories of its own.
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His weekly X Factor column appears on Afterbuzztv.com and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.