The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Hitchcock

Kenny D December 14, 2012 1
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey vs. Hitchcock

I’m just going to tell you now that I’m not dedicating much of this review to Hitchcock. It feels wrong to let it share the company of Bilbo and his traveling companions.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

When The Hobbit was in pre-production, it was announced that Guillermo Del Toro was directing. I was so happy that a great visual director was going to present us with his unique version of Middle Earth. I should mention that I’m a unapologetic lover of the the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is my Star Wars. Well, Del Toro eventually dropped out and the only director who could treat the series as it should be treated was the original, the best, and the reluctant Peter Jackson. It has been 9 years since Return of the King and once the Hobbit begins it is a seamless step back into the world of Hobbits, Dwarves, Wizards and Elves.

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“I’ll not leave you, Mister Frodo. You’re my precious…”

This film follows Bilbo (Martin Freeman) as he joins a group of adventurers, 13 dwarves and Gandalf, on their way to reclaim their kingdom, which was destroyed by the dragon Smaug. Very few of the dwarves believe that Bilbo will contribute to the quest, but Gandalf knows that Bilbo will have a significant impact on future events. (Gandalf has a thing for little people, methinks) But just as in Lord of the Rings, there is a lot of traveling that must take place first. The group is also being stalked by a group of orcs, whose prime target is the dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield.

This movie has received a fair amount of criticism for feeling too bloated. It’s nearly 3 hours and it is the first of another trilogy. If long movies and fantasy is not your thing, then this won’t appeal to you. In fact, if you didn’t like the Lord of the Rings films, this movie will not change your mind. It closely follows the same pattern set in Fellowship. The band of travelers is introduced and established, they fight some orcs, visit Rivendell, and fight some more. For some reason, I see no wrong in that. There were too many dwarves, but that’s how the book tells it. No sense in dumbing it down for the movies. With so many, you only become familiar with 5 of them. Their leader, Thorin (Richard Armitage), is an Aragorn-type prince warrior who will not give up until he reclaims his homeland for his people. He was fully fleshed out as a character and even seemed vulnerable.

The Hobbit is a kids’ book. This is evident in the first 45 minutes of the film, as it displays light doses of humor. The overwhelming amount of dwarves take over Bilbo’s house and it plays as pure pandemonium. I enjoyed the playful schematic of the dwarves, but the movie really started moving when the group was on the road. You know that New Zealand loves it every time a new LOTR movie comes out, because we are reminded just how beautiful the country is. They have built their entire tourism industry around the films.

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Now, pardon me, but it’s time to geek out. Ian Mckellen was born to play Gandalf. He is the driving force of this series, even when he’s not around. His new found friendship with Bilbo only strengthens the responsibility he feels for Frodo later on. I’m so happy that Martin Freeman plays Bilbo. After great roles in The (good) Office, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and Sherlock, he gets his chance to shine in a feature film. And he fits the part perfectly.

The best scene of the film is when Bilbo meets Gollum and they play a game of riddles. Gollum doesn’t seem like the weak character he becomes without the ring. Andy Serkis once again shows his talent, even if he doesn’t show his face. I could have watched the two of them matching wits for far longer. I only hope that now that Bilbo has the ring, that we get to see more of Gollum. He really does add something special to the series.

Now onto the “controversy” with the 48FPS. Let me put it this way, if you’re a die hard film buff and love Lord of the Rings, you owe it to yourself to see it as the filmmaker intended. I’m even recommending 3D on this one. But if you casually see movies and are personally insulted by different visuals than you’re used to, then go see the 24FPS version. Chances are, you won’t have a choice at the majority of theaters. I felt it was odd-looking in the first act, the actors moved too quickly and I felt like I was there. But once the movie gets into its special effects and green screen, you don’t notice the difference at all. I’ve yet to see it at 24FPS, but I will soon, so I can compare the two experiences. Normally I don’t like 3D either, but there was something magnificent as you fly over the mountains of Middle Earth and a falcon flies by with Gandalf riding atop. Nerd. Heaven.

Half of the beauty of the LOTR films has been found with its soundtrack. An Unexpected Journey, composed again by Howard Shore, does not disappoint. He once again composes magic and the score pulls you right into the fantasy.

I genuinely loved this movie. I previously complained about the Hobbit being stretched out to 3 movies in all, but now I welcome it. I will be happy with 6 more hours of a great journey. And that’s not even counting the inevitable extended editions.

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Anthony Hopkins stars as one of film’s greatest directors, Alfred Hitchcock. This film shows us a window of time right after North by Northwest is released and he is feeling the pressure of Hollywood looking for younger directors. He decides his next movie will be Psycho, a very controversial novel based on the killings by Ed Gein. As he’s working on the movie that will make or break his career, his marriage with Alma (Helen Mirren) is on the rocks. Instead of working on his marriage, he spends most of his time fawning over his movie’s leading ladies.

This movie had me for precisely 30 minutes. I was very interested in seeing the man behind the greatest suspense flicks of all time. I especially liked seeing how Hollywood producers reacted to a director of his caliber working on a tasteless horror movie. But then, it really got quite dull. It turns out that the drama between he and his wife (who is being courted by a friend of theirs) is not that interesting. Well, not interesting enough to be in a biopic about him. The last ten minutes of the picture, where they show the clever publicity around Psycho’s release, brought me back in. Sadly, it was too little, too late.

Hopkins did a great job disguising himself. I never once saw Hopkins, but I didn’t quite see Hitchcock either. He just seemed like he was playing a very uptight fat British man. Mirren is fantastic, but I just didn’t feel the chemistry.

I don’t think the quality of this movie takes away from anything Hitchcock ever did. Unfortunately it was a little forgettable. This movie is rental quality. Shame.

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“We both know which movie you should see…!”

One Comment »

  1. Emily December 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm -

    I agree with both reviews. And props for the Flight of the Conchords poster you sneaked in!

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