The first in an
unexpected trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been made as what seems to be a response to The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson has striven to ape the same feel with a new tone. It didn't have to be an improvement, and it is not, but it had to be capable of existing as a complete movie in itself, if not a complete experience - The Fellowship of the Ring is the only one of these movies to thoroughly achieve that. By its end, you will have seem glimmers of the intoxicating brilliance with which Jackson and his team imbued Middle Earth, and these glimmers are lovely, warm, one feels in secure hands. And Jackson's hands are secure with this material, but his head is possessed of an ambition that sends him wayward, and he makes too many unwise decisions. In the moments where he reverts back to recreating the tone of the old trilogy, with Howard Shore's masterful score providing a near-constant blanket of aural richness, The Hobbit is wonderful - thrilling, dramatic, deliciously portentous. Yet, in others, he veers too close to the content of those films, entire scenes which seem totally lacking in original thought, with a lighter touch that renders them paltry. The first hour or two are marred by rather a lot of these, and end up aimless resultantly. Things do pick up, though, and there are several scenes towards the end which ought to prove immensely satisfying to fans of the earlier films, and fans of adventure filmmaking. Visuals are enchanting - 48fps is initially jarring, but it enables tremendous clarity in the images, although it adds little to the less detailed shots, and reduces the cinematic aspect to many also. Acting is mixed - Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis inhabit their roles with gravitas and gusto, respectively, but some of the newcomers are too self-conscious, particularly Aidan Turner and Richard Armitage, who gives an abhorrent performance, pouting and posing like he's in a cheap music video. I don't doubt that there'll be enough material to sustain two more movies, even though this one was stretched pretty thin on the plot front, although I hope they're less reliant on copying their forerunners and more tonally cohesive. Jackson gave us the same movie three times ten years ago. I don't see why he can't do the same again.