Friday, 14 December 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

After the worldwide success of the universally praised Lord of the rings series it was almost inevitable that it's child friendly predecessor would follow suit with a feature film adaptation. Many years later after much cast deliberation and technical issues, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has wondered onto our screens boasting a crystal clear higher frame rate as well as the modern blockbuster necessity 3-D. With much hype to live up to The Hobbit didn't have a particularly easy task, transcribing the innocence of the children's novel with the previously established gritty world of middle-earth ; and whilst it was pleasant to revisit Tolkien's universe, the Hobbits journey felt slow, forced and tediously childish.

 A seemingly forgotten fact surrounding The Hobbit, is that it's very much a children's novel, following the adventure of a mythical Hobbit being taken on a quest to a mountain guarded by a vicious dragon. It's a classic children's novel with obvious coinciding themes. However the problem lies when Jackson attempts to merge the gritty sensation of Lord of the rings with the totally contrasting themes of The Hobbit. This results in a giant mess of Dwarves, dragons, necromancers and nonsensical folk-law  A clear target demographic is not present and in an attempt to appeal to everybody it coincidentally appeals to nobody. One scene you find yourself in the company of a jolly naturalistic wizard tending to the needs of the local wildlife, the next he's being confronted by the deeply intimidating shadow of the necromancer. This unproductive contrast between every scene makes for a totally inconsistent tale of messy fantasy. 

 Many of the cinematic issues with the Hobbit come as a result of the brilliantly told, yet undeniably faulty tale of the novel. Most notably the Dwarf pack was simply too large for the audience to care for each one of them, so in an attempt to display individual personalities Jackson tries to give each one sufficient screen-time  yet even still, the most memorable ones are the ones which are simplistically stereotyped for the joys of a younger audience. Characters are forgotten as the story becomes overwhelmed with sophisticated ideologies instead of focusing on character depth, which it's Lord of the rings counterparts achieved with excellence.

  CGI which was previously used sparingly as a tool to sustain an audiences belief and enhance the visuals, in the Hobbits case has now become an easy way to show off the worst of a wonderful universe. This overindulgence of hackneyed special effects detracted from the story completely, forcing you to think that your watching a low budget B-movie rather than a cinematic spectacle. This extensive use seemingly poor CGI, wasn't aided by the technical addition of a higher frame rate, only highlighting the prosthetic and computer animated negatives. This unrepresented technology did near to nothing to enhance the viewing experience of the audience with the exception of the fluid movement and crisp imagery during the establishing shots of vast nature.  It's increasingly useless counterpart of 3-D followed in an all too familiar suit, proving to be useful in the first 5 minutes yet simply being an irritating 'dimmer switch' in the events proceeding.

 The novel, although providing some nuisances does however provide the sturdy foundations for this epic adventure tale, which in itself is sweet and nostalgic. Displaying scenes of creative imagination for the most part, despite it's obsession with special effects. The novel however is transcribed in a bizarre fashion, dragging each chapter to unbearable lengths in the hope that they'll fortunately piece together making the shape of an 'epic trilogy'. The obsession of money is a clear drive behind the narratives procrastination, with greedy box-office numbers getting the upper hand on cinematic beauty.  

 Much of this films faults come as a result of it's tonal inconsistency, which is a shame as there's much to be admired here if it wasn't for the sticky facade of issues. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins is the link desperately holding the story together, providing a performance that was not only relatable but also innocently charming. The best scene, displaying middle-earths magic once more, appeared from the magnificent chemistry between the performances of Freeman and the iconic Lord of the rings creature, Gollum. This scene perfectly encapsulates the excellent performances of both actors as well as being one of the few scenes which truly balances witty humor with child friendly storytelling. Issues arise when observing the bigger picture, with two more installments on the horizon and little explained in 'An Unexpected Journey' the Hobbit needs to rethink it's demographic and find harmony in it's tones.

60%- Middle earth is as much missed as it is infested with issues.

Calum Russell

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