The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) (PG-13)
The last note of the critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of incredibly, immense power. It's sentimental and moving, epic and haunting. Who would want to mess that up? The film was astonishingly well received at the Oscars, taking home eleven statues. Tying for the most Oscars ever won by a film with "Titanic" and "Ben-Hur", "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" is movie making at its finest. Then Peter Jackson decided to ruin it all with a horribly, incomprehensibly stupid prequel.
Remember the last scene of "The Return of the King"? Powerful, right? Now think about this....a man, his head half-covered in bird crap, being pulled through the forest on a sled by bunnies. That's right...BUNNIES! What happened?!
"The Hobbit" begins much like "The Fellowship of the Ring" did, with a voiced over narration. Bilbo Baggins is an old man recording his life's journey down in a book which he plans to give to Frodo. He recounts all of his adventures, many of which deal with dwarves. The dwarves used to live in a mountain that had many riches. The king was a proud man who became greedy really quickly. As soon as the "heart of the mountain", a rare gemstone, was found, he immediately assumed that he had irreversible power over a large section of Middle Earth. But pride comes before a fall, or an attack by a dragon, whichever.
The real time is sometime before Bilbo's birthday party from "The Fellowship". Elijah Wood is there as Frodo and he tells Bilbo that he's going to go look for Gandalf. Then Bilbo spirals into a memory of when his adventures start. Gandalf decides that he wants Bilbo to go on an adventure, we are never really told why and when we are supposed to realize why Gandalf picked Bilbo it only makes us more confused. Gandalf was scared? He's the only one with fighting skills in the whole movie! Do you remember the scene from the original trilogy when he's wielding two swords and becoming a hard-core orc killer? And we're supposed to believe that he's afraid of a little dragon? No, I think not. I smell something afoul in the writer's room.
But Bilbo refuses after having his home torn apart and his pantry destroyed by a pack of ravenous dwarves. They smell, they have no sense of decency, and they sing while they wash dishes.....wait, what? Yes, that's right—they may belch and fart and scratch their bums...but by golly, they can rearrange a kitchen.
Bilbo is cut of the cloth that his doily is made of, he's full of holes. He's weak and cowardly, but he knows this. So when given the chance to go on this adventure to claim back the dwarves's kingdom, he declines. Then he wakes up the next morning and we're supposed to believe that a hard night's sleep has changed his mind...not so, I feel.
So he signs a contract and goes with the dwarves. Before this point, the movie drags, like really drags. But when Bilbo sets out, for the first time in a while we see a glimpse of the Peter Jackson that we learned to love. Then it falls back again in a horrible scene in which the company of dwarves encounter trolls. The troll from "The Fellowship of the Ring" was scary. The drums signaling that he was coming are haunting. That scene in the depths of the mountain is chilling, one of the best scenes in film history. Then we flash forward (or backwards, rather) to "The Hobbit"'s trolls. They're British, stupid, and incredibly ugly—not scary at all. The film's script relies on booger jokes and more butt scratching to try to get laughs...it didn't work.
Finally, after what seemed like the time it took to make the movie, the scene ends and we can get back to questing.
I'm not really sure what happened in this movie besides a lot of horrible script and walking and a vendetta with an albino, giant orc. By the end of the movie, they can see the mountain way off in the distance which is supposed to inspire us to watch the next one but instead made me think: "Oh Geez, there's going to be two more."
The visual effects are good in the movie, but they are so misguided and mistreated. The most obvious offenses are the trolls and a goblin king who has a giant, bulbous, warty, gelatinous, sickening double chin.
If "The Hobbit" was trying to be an adult's movie...it failed. If it was trying to be anything else, it failed as well and here's why: there was way too much violence to be a kid's movie (decapitations and borderline disembowelments) and way too many bland conversations around tables. Where was the lightning dialogue of the original trilogy? Where was the power that glued you to your seat and forced you to watch? Where was that je nais se quoi that made the movies so irresistibly good? I don't know, but it certainly traveled as far from "The Hobbit" as possible.
During the opening scene when the line is given: "Where there is sickness (referring to the greed of the dwarf king) bad things happen." I guffawed in the theater. That was it? No epic, poetic dogma on the evils of greed just "bad things happen". That was the moment that my heart sank into my stomach and I realized that I was going to have to ride out a very long, unpleasant wave.
"The Hobbit" is pretty much awful. It lacks story, heart, and war. I think that J. R. R. Tolkien just turned in his grave.
The script is so bad that you are not convinced in the slightest that you are in Middle Earth. I was half-expecting one of the dwarves to whip out a cellphone.
My suggestion: ditch the horrible script, belch jokes, and singing dwarves.
The ending is set up for a couple of good things: Smaug, the necormancer, and more of Cate Blanchett.
I really hope it raises its standards because there's not that much ground beneath it.
The thing about "The Hobbit" is that it felt like leftovers. Not delicious, juicy roast beef leftovers; but dry, overcooked, poorly seasoned, gritty leftovers...it's not a very appetizing movie.
Score: 1 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones