It took me two tries, but I finally managed to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in its entirety. My first go at it was with the 48fps High Frame Rate version (don't do that), and I was so distracted and put off by the frame rate that it resulted in my first ever walkout from a movie. But I'll discuss more on the HFR version in another post, and for now, lets just focus on the movie itself, without any of the distracting gimmicks. So I did give it another chance, this time the regular version, and I still had my reservations going in, but oh boy was this so much better. Not a perfect movie by any means, but still a very fun adventure to tag along to.
Now, I'm bound to slip into some spoilers as I snark and poke fun at this movie, so fair warning to that. But speaking of which, I actually kinda wish the theater I saw it in was empty so that my friend and I coulda just openly snarked at the screen all throughout. This movie was tailor made for that sort of reaction. Like, when Saruman appeared on screen, I had to bite my tongue not to scream "ASSHOLE!". And, earlier on, Gandalf tells a story about how Bilbo's great grandfather invented the game of golf after slicing an enemy's head off and sending it flying into a hole. Later in the movie, during a battle with the goblins, we see a giant rock roll down and knock down enemies left and right, which left me wondering if this might not be the origins to the game of bowling. And there's a ton of other moments like this, which really made for a fun flick.
I did find it interesting, however, that for a movie titled "The Hobbit", there's very little of said hobbit throughout. There's probably a good hour and a half stretch where all that Bilbo has to contribute is just facial reactions to his various situations, with very little actual dialogue. It's kind of a shame, too, 'cause Martin Freeman did an awesome job as a young Bilbo Baggins, and the few scenes where he's actually allowed to do something on screen were done really well. I mean, hell, the scene with Gollum was probably the best thing to happen in this whole movie. When they started their game of riddles, I did worry that it was gonna get old fast. But it didn't, and in fact, it only got more and more intriguing, to the point where the movie could have just been three hours of Bilbo and Gollum exchanging riddles and I would have been more than satisfied.
But really, the movie should have probably been called "Gandalf: An Unexpected Journey", 'cause he's clearly the star of this show. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Ian McKellan is as awesome as ever, though he's definitely showing his age now, which makes it sorta visually weird how much older he looks in these prequels to the original Lord of the Ring movies (meanwhile, nobody else has aged a day!). And speaking of the Lord of the Rings movies, this one definitely fits in the world, though I do wonder if Peter Jackson may have borrowed a little too much from those films. For instance, in many respects this first film in his Hobbit trilogy feels very much like The Fellowship of the Ring Lite. It hits all of the same plot beats as that movie, and features a large gathering of characters who set off on an epic quest. The only difference being that this particular gathering isn't nearly as memorable as that featured in the original trilogy.
Bilbo and Gandalf are joined on their journey by twelve dwarves. There's the Legolas-lite dwarf, the bald, bad ass dwarf, the old, wise, white-bearded dwarf, the big fat "why is he even there?" dwarf, and of course, their dwarf leader, Thorin Oakenshield, who takes up the role of Boromir from the Rings movies (so, Thorimir?), only, since Sean Bean's not playing him, he gets to actually live to see the next movie. And it's just as well, too, since if he died here, who the hell else would there be to take up his spot? 'Cause, as I said, none of these dwarves stand out as all that memorable, and save for Thorin, I couldn't tell you a single one of their names. They're all so interchangeable and get lost in the pack that it makes you wonder why Jackson didn't just try and trim it down a little for this adaptation.
Of course, that's probably an idiotic thing to even suggest, given that he's stretching a single book across three movies. So of course he's gonna pack in as much as he possibly can from this world. And honestly, that was my biggest fear going in, is that there'd just be way too much happening, and that most of it would be fluff. And there definitely are scenes that didn't need to be included. The entire opening, with old Bilbo talking to Frodo, felt like pandering, and didn't really add much of anything worthwhile. And there were a few other scenes that felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, such as when the mountains started coming alive and playing their giant game of Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots. But despite these scenes' inclusion, I never got the feeling that the movie was overly bloated or anything. They were all enjoyable enough and added to the overall fun of the movie, if nothing else, and they didn't slow things down a bit, either. Honestly, despite the excess, this might be the best paced movie in this whole series yet, which I so would have never imagined to be possible going in.
So I really enjoyed this movie. The humor is genuinely funny, the action seriously intense, and all the while it was just a great fun time. On a technical level, I wouldn't say it quite meets the standards set by the Rings trilogy, but this was still a fine enough effort nonetheless. And the film nicely sets up the next installment as a little dumbass bird wakes up the dragon Smaug, who's apparently been busy Scrooge McDuckin' (Smaug McDuckin'?) in his swimming pool of gold coins this whole time. But in the end, as our adventurers view their goal in the far distance, we actually get the sense that there just might actually be two more movies worth of trouble for them to find themselves in (not to mention the running. They can fit in so much more running with that distance!). So yeah, despite any of its flaws, I liked this one a hell of a lot more than I expected to, and I look forward to the next two.