Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Reaction Review

I now get why this is the main promotional poster.

While it will be remembered as the somewhat lesser prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is more moving and has a deeper, more meaningful sense of purpose behind the characters. The action, acting, and directing are of comparable quality to the trilogy and the movie never seems to drag or feel too long (except a little at the beginning).

Confession: I don’t get the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yeah, I’m going to be walking on eggshells for a bit, but it seems to have just not been my thing. Maybe it’s because I never read the books, but since people say Peter Jackson has done a great job of remaining true to the source material, that might not be it. I acknowledge they’re well-shot, well-acted, good films but I never really connected with the story. Not because it’s a bad story, it’s because I don’t understand why people consider it to be a good story. I don’t get the message or moral to Frodo’s journey and I don’t understand why I’m supposed to care what happens to Aragorn and the others who used to be part of the Fellowship. Because I don’t understand, I can’t say I like or dislike it because I just don’t know what to think. /endrant

The first Hobbit is way different and because I “get it” I appreciate it more than Lord of the Rings, so far.

Bilbo Baggins is recruited (or rather, forced to tag along) by the wizard Gandalf to join the quest of 13 dwarves, led by the dethroned warrior-king Thorin. The dwarven kingdom of Erebor was taken over by a dragon who has claimed it as its lair, kicking the dwarves out and turning them to nomads. Thorin’s goal is to reclaim their homeland, so that means it’s time for another road trip that will last three movies. 

Since The Hobbit is one book made into three movies, The Unexpected Journey is padded and extended quite a bit, but it never felt like it was going on too long and I never got bored. I never really got to learn any of the names of the dwarves, except for Thorin, but it never really mattered because they worked more as a cohesive group than, for example, the diverse and mismatched Avengers who bring multiple specialties to the table. The motivation for the quest is what gives the characters character, and that works fine here. Also, I was worried the dwarves would look so short they would be goofy, but since Bilbo is short and the villains are monsters, the whole movie just seems like Gandalf’s the one tall guy. 

Once again, what I really like about this movie is that every good guy has a clear but deep motivation. The dwarves are trying to reclaim their lost home and Thorin additionally wants to fulfill his royal duty. Gandalf wants to help his dwarven friends and also really doesn’t want a dragon threat around when Sauron returns. Gandalf’s explanation for why he chose Bilbo is also great too. As for Bilbo, his motivation develops over the course of the film and is really the heart of it all. If you don’t know everything about the story’s theme of home yet, I won’t elaborate any further but the movie presents it extremely well.
The villains are generic brutes, but the simplistic story doesn’t need them to be very complicated. One disappointment is that the dragon is never fully seen, probably to hide or budget its CGI appearance. Gollum has some very good scenes that were surprisingly funny and scary at the same time. Every time he moved into the shadows and only his glowing eyes were visible was the stuff of nightmares. But I was surprised he didn’t know the precious was taken sooner. The main villain for this film in particular (saving the dragon for later) is battle-scarred steroid orc Voldemort with a nose, who does all right and is threatening enough. 

While I seem to be the only one giving Unexpected Journey a glowing review, I do recommend you see it and judge for yourself. In my opinion, it was a lot better than I expected and more memorable than the trilogy. Worth watching, and I’m now excited for the rest of the Hobbit Trilogy.

Watched in theaters on the day after release. Reaction reviews are written immediately after movie is finished.

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