While watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was reminded of a Simpsons episode, the one where Homer and friends form a band called the Be Sharps. They perform their last concert on the roof of Moe’s Tavern, a nod to the Beatles rooftop concert in London. As they perform, George Harrison stops by and says, disdainfully, “It’s been done.”
That’s what I felt with Peter Jackson’s revival of the characters of J.R.R. Tolkien–it’s been done, and it’s been done better, and it’s been done better by Peter Jackson. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and have watched all of the films multiple times, but this film lacks the spark that they did, not to mention the originality.
The problem is that The Hobbit, which was written before the Lord of the Rings, was in a completely different literary tone. It was a children’s story about a quest for gold and a big dragon. But Jackson has made the story in the same, darker tones of the Lord of the Rings, with Middle Earth politics layered on. He’s also stretching out a book of about three hundred pages into three long films. The thought that there are six hours to go is mind-boggling.
But of course The Hobbit is a beautiful film–the New Zealand settings are magnificent. But watching the characters traverse the mountainous landscape, Howard Shore’s soaring score behind them, leaves me feeling a little empty, and is too close a recollection of how George Lucas ruined Star Wars by making three more films.
Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, who will one day look like Ian Holm. He is writing down his story for his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood, back again). One day he was minding his own business when the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen, wily as ever) stops by and asks Bilbo if he would like to go an an adventure. As Hobbits are wont to do, he declines, and is shocked when a dozen dwarves show up unannounced. They are going back to their mountain home, where they were kicked out by the dragon Smaug. The grandson of the king, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, basically playing Aragorn from LOTR) wants his kingdom back.
Along the way they encounter trolls and orcs, and end up captured by a large king who has a goiter the size of a bathtub. Bilbo gets separated and encounters Gollum, and he will find the ring that is all the fuss in the next trilogy (this scene, in which he and Gollum play riddles, is very well done and the highlight of the picture).
Perhaps if this had been made first it would have been better received by me; as it is it’s just a whirlwind of activity without any substance. Out of some sense of misplaced duty I’ll see the next two, but I won’t particularly look forward to them, as I was bored during this one, bored enough to be recalling Simpson’s episodes.
My grade for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: C.