The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a landmark in filmmaking winning the hearts of both the audience and critics. So it goes without saying that the much-awaited prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will face lofty expectations just because of the legacy set by its predecessor. It may not be fair but it’s an unavoidable comparison, however the film on its own still delivers although is not flawless by any means.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is reluctantly recruited by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) on a quest to help a band of dwarves led by their prince Thorin (Richard Armitage), to reclaim their land and treasure from the dragon Smaug. As the journey begins, Bilbo and the dwarves face dangerous creatures that lurk the Middle Earth and one encounter will change not only Bilbo’s life but also the future of their world.
One of the most-talked about aspects about the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is how it was shot and projected (in select theaters) in high frame rate (HFR) of 48 frames per second (fps). I’ve seen the film twice, on regular 3D and 3D HFR and I must say that 3D HFR version is quite a marvel. Some of the impact is quite jarring at first but as the film progresses, the HFR format settles in and gives an amazing visual experience. Personally, I’m not a fan of 3D because it gives me eyestrain and headaches plus the much dimmer projections is something that I don’t enjoy but with the HFR format all previous issues I had with 3D is gone. What’s good about 48 fps is that is not like standard 3D where you will only notice the effect when there are objects flying to the screen because HF3 3D gives every shot and object with more multidimensionality.
As for the story, I haven’t read the book but from what I was told the novel is not as thematically rich and complex as the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And with the novel divided to three movies, the episodic structure of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is prevalent. Not that it’s a bad thing but with a run time of almost three hours and with only a portion of one relatively short novel being told, pacing problems is inevitable. The first part when the dwarves were introduced (the dinner scene in particular) was too long. I just felt that the scene introduced way too many characters to digest all at once. There are 13 dwarves in the story and unfortunately, especially from someone like me who is unfamiliar with the source material, it’s hard to keep track which is which and even with the lengthy run time I still didn’t get to know these characters quite well with the exception of Thorin who had an emotional backstory and a strong arc that helped carry the film
While the story takes a while to take off, once it gets to the climactic battles it goes to great heights. I was amazed with the scene that involves the Stone Giants that features one of the most breathtaking battle sequences I’ve seen of all time. But hands down the film’s best part and the highlight is the scene between Bilbo and Gollum as they face off with a game of riddles. It was funny, riveting and scary all at the same time thanks to the terrific performances of Freeman and Andy Serkis as Gollum. It’s also worth nothing that the CGI work with Gollum is very impressive and life-like.
While the stakes are not that high in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it is still quite an enjoyable ride and serves as a solid start to another adventure back at Middle Earth. If you can, please go see it in 3D-HFR format as it will give you a different and remarkable movie going experience. 8 / 10
Special thanks to Pinoyexchange for the press screening invites for this movie last Dec. 12, 2012. You can discuss the movie at The Hobbit thread at Pinoyexchange by clicking here. This review will also be posted at PEx Official Movie Reviews
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is now showing in theaters nationwide in 2D, standard 3D, IMAX 3D and 3D HFR formats. Cinemas showing in HFR 3D format are Glorietta, Greenbelt 3, Greenhills, Robinson's Ermita, Robinson's Galleria, SM Mall Of Asia , SM Megamall, SM North Edsa, SM Southmall. The movie will still be showing on SM IMAX theaters during the MMFF season