Ian Frazier ’15

Just a snippet of Frazier’s Top 100!

Peter Jackson’s first installment of his The Lord of the Rings prequels is another satisfying transportation to the majestic world of Middle Earth. The three-part series opens with exposition from an aged Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) about how a city of Dwarves lost their riches and homeland to the dragon Smaug. The film then backtracks sixty years, where a young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is taken off-guard by a wizard, Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), and a group of thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).  The Dwarves intend to take back their land from Smaug.  However, the plot drags.  Only after forty minutes of film, after a fair amount of eating and singing from the Dwarves, does the adventure begin.

As with any Middle Earth epic, the CGI and make-up are excellent and worthy of Academy Award consideration.  The costume designs for each dwarf are superb, and comically entertaining. Furthermore, the film once again excels at the motion capture of Gollum (Andy Serkis), still proving that the special effects of these films are unmatched.

As the protagonist, Bilbo is easily relatable, but it is not Bilbo’s story that makes the film interesting. The story of Thorin Oakenshield, a distraught grandson of a king, is what makes the quest of these Dwarves matter. Thorin’s motivation, resolve, and vigor are compelling to watch, but his arrogance is what makes him an intriguing character.  Richard Armitage, whose performance brings a unique purpose to the film, portrays all of these characteristics resolutely.

Even with strong characters, the story falters in its pacing, especially in the Elf city of Rivendell, where threeThe Lord of the Rings characters make an appearance.  Although the film is an adaptation of a novel, and the screenwriter is at liberty to make adjustments to the source material, the addition of these three characters, none of which were in the original novel, seems simply unnecessary. None of the characters has a distinct purpose in the film and feel completely out of place whenever they are onscreen. The film does regain its footing in the final act, which contains some of the best scenes in the picture, but quickly loses it again after the climax. While the final battle has an epic feel, including an outstanding score by Howard Shore, the closing scenes are unsatisfying. These final scenes do not offer much of a cliffhanger, and upon their end, the feeling is more of release from this three-hour commitment than excitement for the second installment.

Even with the flaws of poor pacing, unnecessary The Lord of the Rings references, and an empty ending, the characters are still deep and compelling, the practical and special effects are unparalleled, and the story is enriching.  Ultimately, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does have a place among the previous Middle Earth films.

Rating: 84/100

Year Released: 2012

Director: Peter Jackson

Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

Best performance: Richard Armitage

Most memorable scene(s): The riddles in the dark

Most memorable quote: “True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ranks 63rd in Ian Frazier’s Top 100 Movie List

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)