Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

My dad used to read The Hobbit to me when I was a halfling. He also got me the three-issue comic with David Wenzel's awesome art. I clamored for more, and received the animated video. That thing was hideous. When I grew up, Fiancé bought me the single-volume revised edition of the comic. Nerd love just can't be beat.

I say all this as a proviso. I love The Hobbit. I can recite every riddle in the scene between Gollum and Bilbo. I can pretend to lip sync to the many songs the dwarves sing during the journey. Most of all, I want a Gandalf of my very own, especially after watching Sir Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In other words, this is not the place to go for an objective take on The Hobbit.

I love it like cake. It has all the requisite ingredients of a Tolkien epic in cinematic form: panoramic vistas; a soaring soundtrack; snappy dialogue; and moral commentary. And then there's the cheese. Oh, the cheese. Thorin, leader of the dwarves, has a fiercely tragic glower that telegraphs slow-motion battle action scenes with triumphant background music. Boy, does he deliver. The scene at the end where -- SPOILER ALERT -- he hurls himself from a burning tree to attack an orc was the second cheesiest in the movie. "What?" you exclaim, "what could be cheesier than that?" Galadriel. Galadriel is so cheesy that she could bring wine and it would instantly be a wine and cheese party.


For the uninitiated: The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is recruited by Gandalf the Grey (McKellen) to be the burglar for a group of dwarves marching to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), now king of the dwarves, leads twelve of his kin/kith on the expedition. They need a burglar for the sneaky parts of their mission.

In the book, Gandalf keeps disappearing on mysterious errands. Director Peter Jackson seems determined to explain why. The first movie in The Hobbit trilogy shows viewers the side quest that pulls Gandalf away from Thorin and Company: the rise of the Necromancer.  It looks interesting so far, especially since it involves the nutty wizard Radagast.

Jackson also provides a prologue about the dwarves' former glory and their fall from grace via dragon. I think it's effective because it underlines why Thorin and his fellows are hellbent on getting back to the Lonely Mountain / Erebor. It also introduces audiences to the other peoples in the story: the men of Dale, and the woodland elves. Thorin is not a fan of either, but he can be a jerk sometimes.

Two people make this movie shine: Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, and Andy Serkis as Gollum. Their scene together is hands down the best part of the film. Freeman is perfect. I have loved the actor since the original UK The Office. Meanwhile, Gollum is rendered even better than before. The technology for his character is amazing. Serkis does a fantastic job of making Gollum the pathetic-pitiful-crazy figure that he is.

If you love Stephen Colbert and anything Hobbit-related, watch his episodes from the week of December 3. He interviews Freeman, McKellen, Serkis, and Jackson. Colbert is a huge Tolkien nerd. I love him even more.

Now, enough reading! Get out there and WATCH!!!