1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey masterfully takes the audience on another journey through Middle-Earth. At times it seems more like an homage to the first trilogy (Frodo and old Bilbo’s welcome but nonessential pre-party scene), but most nostalgiac moments come from the spectacularly recreated sets (the Shire and Rivendell especially) and the triumphant return of composer Howard Shore to the franchise. Gollum’s part in particular is spectacular.
2. The rumors are true; this is a lighter movie than the others, but that’s by design. Tolkien designed the book to be more of a children’s book (how we’ve regressed, am I right?), so there’s the dwarves’ quest to reclaim their homeland, but nothing as gloomy as widespread death, the probable end of the world and an inflamed eye.
3. My one gripe with the movie concerns the much heavier (or at least much more obvious) use of CGI in this film. Now, Peter Jackson didn’t go all George Lucas on us (see my above praise of physical sets), but good grief it seemed like all the goblins and orcs were CGI. I know some stuff the makeup department can’t do (Wargs, dragons), but I kinda missed the physical menace from real actors in real armor who still looked scary and real. The Pale Orc was good CGI I guess, but The Goblin King stuck out as the most Lucas-inspired character. He didn’t sound like an orc, he looked completely implausible, and he even gave a witty one-liner…after being slain violently. C’mon. No anger, just a joke. Thank goodness this sore thumb is out of the picture.
4. Considering they split a single (shorter) book into three movies, I was a little concerned about the plot being spread too thin, like butter over too much bread (zing!). However, I have to admit, after we finally left the Shire, things went pretty smoothly, and the extra material inserted from The Silmarillion added more weight to what was happening. The movie’s plot structure even reminded me of The Fellowship of the Ring. (SPOILERS) We start in the Shire with a hobbit and Gandalf, then leave for an ominous destination with a group of races, pursued by hostile force, then stop by for counsel with the Elves, then run from goblins under a mountain, and finally confront the hostile force in battle.(SPOILERS END) It was still wildly different, but how’s that for similarities?
5. Finally, this movie’s “fellowship” wasn’t quite the standout crowd of Fellowship of the Ring, mainly because it’s harder for the uninitiated to differentiate Dwarf One from Dwarf Twelve than only having one elf, one dwarf, one wizard, two humans, etc. Most of the dwarves were also massively under-developed, with the skimpiest of speaking parts, but we’ve got two more movies to work on that. In the end, this is a movie that more than deserves to stand with the original trilogy, and it’s good fun.
One More Thought: Please, no more 48 fps for fantasy movies. I have heard nobody, and I repeat nobody, who says the technology didn’t pull them out of the movie. If we’re going to go home video/soap opera style, let’s not use the clearness to make everything look so darn fake. Rant finished.