Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ★★★★


Australia: 26th December, 2012; USA 14th December UK 13th December
Other Countries: Release Dates

Its two hours and forty-sixminutes and, I suspect, therein lays the mixed reviews.  It’s a matter of patience.  My ten year old harsh critic commented positively on the slow beginning, filled with—perish the indulgence—character building, “It’s a three hour film they needed the time to warm up the story.”
Once warmed up though it takes off like a bat troll out of hell. And whether you are a LORD OF THE RINGS fan or, like me (having always thought the films were slightly geeky) not seen all the previous trilogy, this film will thrill both parties.
As the first feature film to utilize state-of-the-art digital cameras to record the action in 3D at 48 frames per second (fps) releasing in High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D), Director Peter Jackson has taken a leap into a new cinematic visual experience.  In some action sequences it truly felt like a roller-coaster ride with the crisp beautiful images.  And wait for the fabulous scene where Bilbo Baggins meets the big-eyed neurotic Gollum (Andy Serkis). It looks so real it is hard to believe there isn’t an agent out there for Gollum and mystical creatures.  As most of the trolls and orcs are English accented I imagined them at the pub moaning how the Troll and Magical Creatures Acting Union needed to strike during the next filming to negotiate more gold rings and quality rat meat.
Calling this film an epic adventure is akin to calling Mount Everest just a mountain.  Even the production notes for the film run to eighty-six pages.  But it’s the story that is enthralling, and it begins with elderly hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) recounting to his nephew Frodo  (Elijah Wood) an adventure, sixty years prior. It began with Wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) arriving at his door followed by thirteen dwarves invading his home and wolfing down his food as they plan how best to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug who has settled in nicely with all their gold.
Young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is not an adventurous hobbit, personifying the average guy who doesn’t rush out with sword in hand the minute he hears there’s a troll about or fling himself hairy-footed into danger for fun.  Overcoming his trepidation, he joins the dwarves led by legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) whose Father had once been King of the dwarves until slain by an Orc war-chief.  Their plan is to return to Erebor believing that the dragon may have left. 
Along the way they face one daring encounter after another with all manner of magical creatures: Orcs, Trolls, Elves and more; all in incredible Middle Earth settings, brought to life convincingly by a team of roughly 350 people at Weta Digital.
Stone Street Studios, Peter Jackson’s production facilities in Miramar, New Zealand, has nearly tripled in size and capabilities since the days when he and his team made THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy in a converted paint factory. Building the world of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY took up the whole of the eight-acre site, encompassing six stages, including the two state-of-the-art stages built specifically for the new Trilogy. It would also involve the construction of nearly 100 sets, the fabrication of thousands of pieces of clothing, prosthetics, wigs, props, and weapons, and take the company from the soundstages in Miramar off to spectacular landscapes across both islands of NewZealand.
Jackson tells more of a story than was written in Tolkien’s beloved book which has been in print constantly for seventy-five years. The story has been fleshed out from the appendices of the final volume of The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit was almost a lifetime’s work for Tolkien,” Jackson attests.  “And a lot of the ideas he had for fleshing out the story—the environment and the politics of the time—are all there.  What became clear to us is that the story has the ability to expand yet still be The Hobbit that everybody knows and loves. So that's what we did, using his notes very much as our blueprint.”
Whether Peter Jackson has overstepped the boundaries with this much loved book will be judged at the box-office.  It wasn’t a film I looked forward to seeing and yet I find myself now counted amongst the fandom of Middle Earth.   It may be a slow warm up but once its boiling most will find that Jackson’s THE HOBBIT has a plot that overflows in an exhilarating way.

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