Despite all evidence to the contrary, Gorilla Film Magazine is aware of films, television and games that are actually popular. We don’t put a lot of effort into covering that stuff, but we’re definitely aware of it. So here’s the Mainstream review of the week.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Release Date: 13/12/12 (theatrical)
Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-earth has long been mired by criticism of the hairy directors decision to split The Hobbit into three movies. Perhaps there was a fear that the slim story would suffer from being stretched over such a long running time, or perhaps people just simply didn’t want to watch three new movies set in Middle-earth, those are the only two reasons I could come up with for the outrage, and neither hold up particularly well. There’s plenty in Tolkien’s universe for a few more action-packed movies, and while it’s true Jackson fiddles a bit with the story, it’s no more than what Tolkien himself did when he went back and edited The Hobbit.
That’s right, Tolkien did a George Lucas and fixed The Hobbit so that it fit the complex mythology he was building for The Lord of the Rings. There’s also plenty said about what happened behind the scenes (all those long walks Gandalf went off on) in the appendices, and it’s largely this well of lore that Peter Jackson draws on.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a conservative little Hobbit who lives in a house in a hole. One day, Gandalf the Wizard drops by, and decides to elect Bilbo as the unofficial 14th member of a company of Dwarves, on a quest to retake their home under the Lonely Mountain, which has been claimed by a naughty dragon called Smaug.
If this all sounds rather twee, it is for the most part, and all the better for it. Significantly lighter in tone than The Lord of the Rings, although still managing to be brutal in places (especially the epic action sequences) the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy is both a welcome return and an intriguing departure from what we’ve seen before.
Ian McKellen’s pipe-smoking, Goblin-slaying Gandalf is as warm and cosy as ever, and Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Christopher Lee and Andy Serkis all make welcome returns (the riddles in the dark being a particularly fun little moment of character interaction and development). But it’s the new characters that spark and fizzle. Sylvester McCoy’s Radagast the Brown is utterly insane, in every way, from his eccentric mannerisms, to the bird shit in his hair, to his method of transport (Rabbits. Seriously). The Dwarfs are mostly comic relief at first, although Richard Armitage’s Grumpy Oakenshield is suitably brooding, menacing and charismatic, the kind of anti-hero The Lord of the Rings didn’t really have. He’s often at odds with Gandalf, Bilbo, and his fellow Dwarves, who all seem to be having too much fun as far as he’s concerned.
Then there’s Bilbo himself, Martin Freeman, who isn’t given too much emoting or speech-giving, but supplies warmth, wit and exasperation in spades. Bilbo is about as different from Frodo as it’s possible to be, he tries to talk his way out of problems, and has a kind of dead pan acceptance of the many dangers he faces. He’s a trickster, a burglar, and a sneak, but he’s also absurdly brave and often quite gung-ho. He is an adventurer, and that’s the biggest difference between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, although there are hints of a coming storm, there’s no sense of palpable dread that you got with Sauron’s search for the magic ring.
The Lord of the Rings is ideal for film adaptation, Tolkien jumps the narrative around, focusing on different characters at different times, a technique that works well in movies. The Hobbit doesn’t really do that, so that’s predominately where Peter Jackson fiddles, fleshing out the backstory and the themes, and adding a nice pacing to the film, which would otherwise be one long chase sequence.
This is a return to Middle-earth and a return to form for Peter Jackson, but it’s a different animal from The Lord of the Rings. There are songs, for one thing, and most of the monsters actually talk, and interact with one-another, in a way that’s often comedic (a huge departure from The Lord of the Rings, where most of the monsters were just plain nasty). There are only whispers of a great evil, and so there’s no real sense of danger, the Dwarfs play rough, and are thrown about like rag dolls at times, but they always come out laughing and slapping each other on the back. The Hobbit is a big barrel of joy, with only hints of dark things to come, and as the film picks up it’s pace there’s a great sense of being swept along, like Bilbo himself, on another adventure.
This was written by David Knight.