Title: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Excellence: 2 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A bloated, overlong adaptation of Tolkein's beloved novel that could have been fantastic if they'd just allowed a film editor at it
My wife and I went to see The Hobbit on opening night. Let me preface my review by reiterating that I am one those (few?) ardent fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels who also enjoyed the films so this is not a continued Peter Jackson hate-on.
In fact, there was a lot that I enjoyed and thought was very well done in this film. Martin Feeman was perfect as Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellan was always a good Gandalf. The casting I thought, overall, was stronger than the L.O.T.R. films (which I personally thought was fine). Even Richard Armitage, who I'd had reservations about, was an excellent Thorin Oakenshield. Howard Shore's score was good as always, ESPECIALLY the tune he put to the dwarves' "Misty Mountains". It may have been worth the admission to the cinema just for the scene where the dwarves sing it:
Much of the expanded backstory of the dwarves that is introduced to the story was interesting and I did like seeing more of the dwarves who I always liked. Costumes, sets, etc. are all good as with the L.O.T.R. films. In many respects, I thought that it was better done than the former. To make a long story short, in my view, it had all the elements that could have made it a masterpiece ... had they left 1.5-2 of the 3.5 hours on the cutting room floor and made one Hobbit film rather than three.
The film was way too long. It felt like self indulgence on the part of Peter Jackson, self-indulgence that he was allowed to get away with due to his success with the original trilogy. My "feeling" may well be correct since in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine he quite arrogantly said that "I make movies for myself". This film really proves that film editors truly are the unsung heroes of movie-making. I love fantasy, I love Tolkein -- I appreciate the extended edition of L.O.T.R. and actually wouldn't have minded there being a bit more in there -- but I was actually getting bored about 2/3 through this and near the end, thinking based on Lego sets I'd seen that the first film might encompass the adventures in Mirkwood, was thinking "please, no more". Perhaps it is not simply length, but the cramming-in of too much stuff that doesn't progress the plot. The sort of stuff that writers must painfully excise from their work. That's why I give The Hobbit 2 stars despite a whole lot that I did like.