Dir: Peter Jackson, 2012
Bilbo Baggins is enlisted by wizard Gandalf the Grey to accompany a group of thirteen dwarves across Middle-Earth to reclaim their homeland from a gold-coveting, fire-breathing dragon known as Smaug.
The Hobbit has been through development hell, there and back again. It’s therefore regrettable that the first entry in this new, cash-cow trilogy has so little to offer for all the work put into it. Peter Jackson has fumbled into the level of success in which many successful directors love to dwell in, where no footage is sent to the cutting room floor. Put simply, a 300-page book should not be split into nine hours of film. Jackson and his faithful entourage are given too much free reign and The Hobbit merely represents a film from a world without deleted scenes.
When Guillermo Del Toro dropped out and Jackson was named his replacement, the Lord of the Rings fan base rejoiced that their return to Middle Earth was in trustworthy hands. However, Jackson completely mismanages the film, particularly due to his choice to bridge the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. At least 30 of the 170 minutes are irrelevantly dedicated to discussions regarding Sauron and our memorable “precious” while also including Frodo Baggins’ preceding moments before meeting Gandalf in Fellowship. This, needless to say, produces a very laborious first half which knocks the entire film irrevocably out of balance.
The endearing characters and hammering set pieces from the previous trilogy are gone and replaced by a film without a clear tone, reminiscent of C.S. Lewis more than J.R.R. Tolkien. Even the reintroduction of Gollum plays like an almost nonchalant cameo as opposed to a pivotal, menacing scene and the incredibly brief throwback to Bilbo’s trolls in Fellowship leaves more resonance than the entire ten-minute scene in The Hobbit. Both of these are problems that should have been addressed by an Academy Award-winning director of Jackson’s status. The lack of narrative progression between the beginning and the end is insufferable and any skewed criticisms of The Lord of the Rings films being three hours of walking can absolutely be applied to The Hobbit, and reasonably so. Also Howard Shore’s replica score and New Zealand’s all-too-familiar scenery doesn’t help.
The Hobbit is drawn out and painfully long, with its only redeeming factors being a perfectly cast Martin Freeman and an exhilarating final twenty minutes. The financially-driven decision for the original two films to be divided into three parts is artistically criminal and could have been solved by Jackson’s customary release of an extended edition DVD. A superb yet regrettable example in the importance of editing, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey remains an unfortunate film.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆