A trip back to Middle Earth, means a trip that takes about 3 hours out of my day.
This is the begging tale of the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago lost to the dragon Smaug. Oh, and a band of dwarfs that accompany him as well. Can’t forget about those little fellas.
It’s a real shame that the only real hype surrounding this movie, is not just because it’s Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in less than a decade, but mainly because of the 48 frames-per-second. Yes, in case some of you people out there don’t know, don’t care, or even know what to expect (I was sort of in the latter’s boat), 48fps is double the normal rate and makes it pretty damn obvious right from the start of this movie that everything is going to look a lot clearer, but sadly, a little too fast.
For me, this first ever experience of actually seeing a 48fps movie wasn’t as traumatizing as it has been to many others who have seen this movie, but it is quite distracting. Sometimes you forget about it, get used to it, and accept the fact that things are going to look a lot weirder then expected, but then it becomes obvious once again, especially a character is moving in a very, very fast-pace that almost makes it seem like Jackson shot this film, while on hefty-amounts nose candy. Once you get used to it, you sort of are able to enjoy the whole movie but it never goes away and I guess it was my fault for being curious and actually giving it a shot in the first-place. They always say, “curiosity killed the cat”, and even though I didn’t get killed by this movie, my idea of 48fps definitely did, and I will probably never see another movie like this ever again. Sorry Peter, you’re experiment didn’t work so well with me this time-around. I’ll stick to normal 3D for now.
However, as much as I may talk shite on the whole 48fps-element to this movie, it makes the movie look a whole lot more beautiful, if a bit fake in some-spots. Everything looks so detailed, clear, and as good as the details looked in the past movies. Obviously, since Jackson has better technology and probably a hell of a lot more money to work with, he uses a crap-load of CGI that is impressive at some-points, but when you put in a film that is using 48fps, it doesn’t always work and makes scenes look as if they were filmed in-front of a green screen. Which in reality, they probably were, but you don’t want to have that going through your mind when you’re watching a movie about wizards, dwarves, trolls, and other mystical creatures. You want to feel as if you are there, rather than feeling like we’re watching a bunch of guys act in a studio, where biscuits and gravy are probably on a big-ass table in front of them. I wasn’t always picturing this idea in my head, but it popped-up quite a lot, more than I actually wanted it to.
Aside from the fact that the 48fps is more than just a controversial idea that Jackson had on his mind and actually went-through with, the film is still pretty good, even if you know everything that’s going to happen to these characters in the near-future. You know, because Jackson made the sequels to this book less than a decade ago. However, Jackson still seems to have a lot of fun returning back to the place that made him such a household name in the first-place and it’s great to see a lot of that fun and passion jump right-off from the screen, and onto us as we just sit there and have a good-time.
There isn’t an epic feeling to this story and in-fact, it actually starts off just as Fellowship of the Ring did. There’s a crap-load of back-story, exposition, and characters coming in and out of nowhere, and it takes awhile to get used to (as expected), but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along and it’s just great to see Jackson back in his comfort-zone and not trying to make teenie-boppers cry their little, fragile hearts over a young girl that gets raped and murdered. I’m talking about Lovely Bones in case you couldn’t tell, and I think that movie is just one, perfect-sign as to how Jackson maybe felt like he was a bit too big for his britches. Middle Earth is where he works best at, where he has the most fun, and best of all, is where he belongs in terms of making movies and entertaining stories.
However, when you compare it to what Jackson has done in the past, especially with Middle Earth, this film itself, really fails to generate the type of sparks and emotional fireplugs that those flicks had. It was cool to see a lot of these older-characters come into this story and make their impressions quickly and easily, but the other characters that they introduce, don’t seem to be as memorable or as lovable as those ones we look forward to see return-to-the-screen once again.
A perfect example of this statement would be the twelve dwarves that are key to this story and as entertaining and fun as they may be to watch on-screen, they don’t really come-off as memorable. They all seem sort of the same, with the exception of one, and they don’t really have us invested in them, quite as much as we had for characters of the same nature like Gimli or Legolas. They’re just there for comedic-relief and to have the kiddies out there in the world who want to see this, laugh a bit, just to get past all of the darker-stuff and it seems like a real waste of time. I wanted to get to know them more and understand how all of their personalities were different. Who was the smartest one? The ugliest one? The best fighter? The worst? Seriously, they all just seemed like clones of one another, as they all ate, drank, and slept huge and huge amounts, with nobody really being different. Just like my feelings with these dwarves, I wish there was more to this flick and despite it already being a prequel to films we have all already seen and loved to death by now, Jackson can only try to make us forget about them. Notice how I said the word, “try”, mind you.
Martin Freeman was a pretty nice-choice to play a younger Bilbo, mainly because when we had an actor like Elijah Wood, doing satisfactory work as our main hero of the story, it wasn’t anything special but it was at least nice to finally get an actor that can actually ACT, and do some nice-work in terms of doing all of this goofy, Middle Earth stuff. Freeman is fun to watch as Bilbo and definitely hams it up in terms of playing-up the whole slapstick-side of his character and being there to provide us with a bunch of humor and heart, especially to a character who comes-off as sort of a dick in the latter-stages of his life. Some may say that Freeman is trying a bit too hard to be funny and over-the-top, and to that, I would have to say some of it is true, but at least he’s entertaining and kept me interested the whole-way. In terms of the rest of the trilogy lying on the shoulders of Freeman, I think we’re in good-support.
There are many returning-players to this flick, from the other ones, and even though they don’t all have as much screen-time as the new bloods, it’s still great to see them all back and alive again, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen seems to be having an absolute blast returning to play Gandalf the Great, once again, and for me, as a big fan of Gandalf, it was an even-bigger piece of enjoyment since this is an actor that seemed born to play this role and have us on his side the whole-way through. McKellen isn’t doing anything new, special, or even refreshing when it comes to playing Gandalf, but that was A-okay with me, because he is always the most memorable out of anybody that surrounds him.
Also, it was another real sight for sore eyes (literally) to see Gollum for on the big-screen once again and even though he doesn’t take over the film like he has in the past, his presence is still well-deserved not just because it’s Serkis kicking total ass again, but mainly because Gollum himself looks so realistic and perfect in the animation. Hey, the 48fps may be a huge-bummer, but at least the special-effects are great and that’s all that matters, especially when you’re sitting there and over-analyzing Gollum’s look to depth. I don’t think I saw a single pixel in his look. Impressive as hell.
Consensus: Though Jackson does tread in familiar-territory that we all know what to expect and get out of an experience like his return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still fun and entertaining to watch, even if the whole idea of being filmed in 48fps can get a bit tiresome over time. After awhile, you do begin to get used to it but in my opinion, to avoid any distractions to the human-eye whatsoever, just give this baby a whirl in 3D, or regular 2D, especially if you want to save some moolah.