Long. Perhaps too much so – even for seasoned Lord of the Rings fans.
That about sums up The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the start of the newest trilogy from Peter Jackson. Although many viewers griped about The Hobbit’s 48 frames per second footage when it hit theaters, at the end of the day, every movie boils down to story. And this one just never seemed to end.
As a matter of full disclosure, I’m one of those Lord of the Rings fans who prefers watching the extended Blu-ray cuts of the LOTR trilogy. The extra twenty-plus minutes of additional footage affords me the opportunity to savor the world of Middle Earth for that much longer. However, The Hobbit has only 320 pages in novel form, whereas the LOTR trilogy has over three times the number of pages. Jackson may argue that he was aiming to expand on the appendices through this new trilogy, but he didn’t succeed in his attempt.
In truth, An Unexpected Journey is a lesson in excess. There are just too many meaningless scenes, none of which really offer much to expand on the LOTR mythos.
The film begins by bridging the gap between the older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) we met in the LOTR trilogy and his younger counterpart, played by Martin Freeman. We start off in the Shire, just before Bilbo’s birthday. Bilbo plans to disappear with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and leave Frodo (Elijah Wood) his most precious possession. But first he must finish his memoirs. Cue the flashback and the start of our tale.
Once again, Gandalf shows up in the Shire and does what he does best – cause trouble for Hobbits. He marks Bilbo’s door so that Thorin Oakenshield’s dwarves can later use it as a meeting place. It is in this dining sequence where we are first privy to one of The Hobbit’s needlessly long, overindulged scenes. We watch Oakenshield’s dwarves make a mess of Bilbo’s home, while throwing food, plates and cutlery around like ninjas. The scene just never seems to end. Within the first five minutes, most viewers got the point. Dwarves like to eat and drink. It didn’t need to be ten minutes long and it didn’t need to feel like it was thirty minutes long.
Bilbo ends up going off with Thorin’s dwarves in an effort to reclaim the ousted-dwarves’ lost Kingdom of Erebor. There are a few good action sequences and we even get to see Radagast, the tender of beasts. Gollum (Andy Serkis) also makes his debut (or return as it may be). Serkis’ performance as the dual-minded Gollum is always great to watch – that is if you managed to stay awake long enough to make it to his scene. Seasoned fans will be able to labor through the film, but those who sit on the fringe of genre loving will easily let their attention wander.
Did I enjoy the film? Yes. The acting is great and so are the wonderful set pieces. But, unlike the first trilogy, An Unexpected Journey just isn’t as exciting to rewatch. Instead of an extended cut, it can really use a shorter cut.
The Blu-ray features behind-the-scenes footage from the movie and 10 video blogs from Director Peter Jackson. There will also be a sneak peak of the second movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, on March 24.