Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

I managed to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this weekend and figured I would do a quick, spoiler-free review.

I'd like to start by saying Peter Jackson must have read a different book than I did.

WARNING: It looks like I spew a lot of hate in a moment. Bear with me, because I DID enjoy the movie.

I've read The Hobbit numerous times, as opposed to only reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy once. This being so, I had several issues with the film:

They added a new character that I didn't enjoy and felt wasn't necessary to the plot. Everything he represented could have been handled simpler and with the traveling group, as opposed to flashing to this particular character. In the novel, his portion was relegated to a passing remark by Gandalf about the nature of the world and a certain area in it. It was expanded upon in this film as a better direct lead to the Lord of the Rings, but I still feel it was unnecessary.

The movie is heavily action packed. The book had almost no fight scenes whatsoever. The change isn't done poorly, it is just unfortunate that a current audience wouldn't be able to watch something unless it involved constant adrenaline pumping events. Instead of the journey from the Hobbit novel, we get something closer to the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring, under constant pursuit.

Also, we lose sight of the title character far too often, and when we pan back to him for a big moment, it seems awkward and not fitting to the character, especially how the character was written.

The book was originally 310 pages, where The Fellowship of the Ring was 531 pages. The film adaptation of Fellowship ran for 178 minutes, while Unexpected Journey, the FIRST OF THREE HOBBIT FILMS, ran for  169 minutes. It wouldn't have been impossible to do The Hobbit in one film. At the very least, it would have been an acceptable double feature if they were both 2 hours. Turning the book into 3 films is beyond excessive -- where Peter Jackson didn't have enough room for each of the Lord of the Rings movies, he's adding too much to The Hobbit. I don't normally expect film adaptations to be faithful to the written work, but I had come to expect quality from Jackson. I really can't see a reason for the additional 6 hours (I'm assuming each movie will be similar in length). I assume it's something to do with more money, but I dislike how this means the novel will be stretched and perverted.

It doesn't even take nine hours to READ the novel.

Ok, for the most part, those are my issues. If we take out the fact that this film is an adaptation of a novel, I really enjoyed it. The action scenes were done well, even if this sets a new standard for "plot armor". Certain characters are given appropriate detail and made very interesting. And, as much as I don't feel it was needed, I enjoy the new pursuit aspect they included, and I think it is done better than in the Fellowship of the Ring.

The cast is amazing. There are several actors I really enjoy, though I didn't care for Martin Freeman's rendition of Bilbo, as much as I love the actor. There are too many characters to build an appropriate relationship with, but they did well enough for those focused on. And the gave the group antagonists that will carry them through the films, which I suppose is necessary when considering the unreasonable length of the trilogy.
Yeah, try to name them all without Google, I dare you.
There are also a few times where the movie quotes the novel, word for word. Those moments in particular made me smile (as opposed to the foam that appeared when they missed  a perfectly quotable opportunity).

A random note, we accidentally saw it in 3D: when they said, "The Hobbit", I said, "Shut up and take my money", apparently. That being said, this was one of the better films I have ever seen. It wasn't filled with gimmicky scenes that attempted to launch out at you (damn you, Amazing Spider-Man), the 3D just added and really beautiful layer of depth that I think most 3D movies have lost sight of. AND this was in a theater that couldn't get it's stuff together.

I could go into some more comparisons of particular scenes and events from the novel to the movie, but that would venture into spoiler territory. I'll save that for next year, right before The Desolation of Smaug comes out. Uhg, what a rubbish title.

Ok, since I've obviously gone more negative than positive in this post, I suppose you'll want some sort of rating scale. Here it is:

In case you wanted a size comparison...
If you judge Unexpected Journey against The Hobbit novel, I rate the movie a 4/10. It takes too long to tell a relatively short story, Jackson added (and changed) too many story elements (something he DIDN'T do with the LotR movies, for the most part), and most of the characters, due to their extreme number and Jackson's additions, don't get appropriate focus. I honestly doubt ANYONE seeing the movie (without reading the book) could name even half of the company Bilbo travels with.

Now, if you judge Unexpected Journey on its own merits, I actually think it was either a 7 or 8/10. I'm on the fence because the issue with too many characters still persists and I hated the additional character and all his scenes on their own merit, not to mention their unnecessary inclusion.

The Wife, having never read the novel, had no issues and gave the film a thumbs up. Well, actually, she eventually had an issue because I kept leaning over and saying, "in the book...".

Go see the movie! If you haven't, I strongly suggest you DON'T read the novel to prepare yourself. You'll become bitter, like me. Read it after, because it is an amazing book all on its own, and easily one of my most read novels ever.


  1. side note as to why the movie was so different than the book, Jackson pulled from the Tolkiens other works like "The Book of Lost Tales" and "The Unfinished Tales" as well as drawing inspiration from the beginnings of an updated post LoTR version of The Hobbitt that Tolkien began but sadly did not finish before his death in order to expand upon the story, allowing him to create 3 movies instead of one.In a way its more like what Peter Jackson thinks a revised version of The Hobbit would like, not so much a straight adaptation of Tolkiens original work.

    1. Dave, I knew some of the stuff was being pulled from "The Book of the Lost Tales" and I assume the next two movies will do the same (and then some, if they're making the trip back home a lengthy one), but I've never read any of the additional work by Tolkien (father or son) beyond the Hobbit and the LotR trilogy.

      I'm not sure I appreciate Jackson's revised version, per se, but I'll reserve final judgement for another couple years (after There and Back Again). For now, it was entertaining, just off base for the actual book -- and Jackson had been true to the books previously, which makes that especially jarring.

    2. I agree that while it's going to be difficult to judge Jacksons version until the entire story is played out, it would've been nice to see more of a translation straight from page to screen like with the LoTR movies. I also enjoyed the film but there's a part of me that wishes he just produced a single 3 hour movie telling the tale from start to finish instead of dragging out three films over a year and a half at least (in some ways it feels like as much of a money grab as anything). Hopefully they all come together well and I do look forward to seeing the two remaining portions of the Hobbitt story. Maybe some day another film maker will be daring enough to jump into Middle Earth and give a more literal translation.

    3. I couldn't have said it better myself -- I would have preferred a literal translation, which is what we got with the LotR trilogy (which was a feat unto itself).

      But, of course, there's always the chance that the completion of the trilogy will wow me... I just don't see myself saying "Hmm, I want to watch the Hobbit... for 9 hours" ever -- especially after I've seen them in theaters.