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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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We’re gonna need a bigger chicken – ★★★½

Pencil in 13th December 2013 and 18th July 2014 as we await the conclusion of “The Hobbit: The Longest Film Ever Made”. Peter Jackson has been kind enough to give a screenplay credit to Guillermo del Toro for his efforts. Del Toro was supposed to direct back in 2010 but had to pull out as a result of constant delays mainly due to MGM’s financial concerns. Jackson then stepped back into the breach smiting uppity extras and took the reigns of middle earth once more. We’re in safe hands with him as he delivers an enjoyable yarn concerning the most unlikely of heroes.

Martin Freeman takes on the mantle of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit quite content with living in the Shire cocooned from the world or any type of adventure. Cue Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), your friendly wizard who has chosen Bilbo to accompany a not so merry band of dwarfs on their quest to take back their mountain home which is currently in the hands of the dragon Smaug. After an hour of protesting by Bilbo and our introduction to all thirteen dwarfs with some songs thrown in for good measure proceedings get underway.

One must remember that The Hobbit is a children’s story, it does not have the dark overtones or impending sense of danger that The Lord of the Rings has. It was published in 1937, two years before the outbreak of WWII and seventeen years before The Lord of the Rings was published. The childish nature becomes evident by the introduction of the dwarfs and the fact that most of their names rhyme, Fili, Kili, Oin and Gloin etc. The piece is not without a sense of menace however as Jackson having learnt his trade with films like Bad Taste and Braindead makes the most of the unsettling characters, be they troll, goblin or orc.

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| o | – Are you in all 3? I am. 

The film really shines when Gollum (Andy Serkis) first appears on screen with the ensuing twenty minutes the highlight of the film. Serkis as always breathes humour, pity and fear into the character making a strong argument for a supporting actor Oscar for his efforts. McKellen is a close second in the performance stakes, showing his years of experience and is able to convey strong emotions with a mere raised eyebrow.

The main problem with the film is the number of characters, namely the thirteen dwarfs we have to get to know. Jackson does his best making them easy to distinguish, with one merely looking like a small human. Their accents are one of the few negatives as it was my impression they all hail from the same lonely mountain yet now seem to be from Scotland and Northern Ireland and Thorin (Richard Armitage) must have spent some time at RADA.

CGI has let The Lord of the Rings down at times making set-pieces seem clunky or fake. Granted I didn’t see this in 48FPS so can’t comment on that, but the film still suffers from ropey CGI most notably when the party ride the Great Eagles. The best segment is when we delve into the Goblin caves allowing Weta to flex its muscles and all the costumes are without fault.

Finishing at what I am told is the half way point of the novel it does seem hard to believe how Jackson will get a further six hours from of the source material. Although there is no one better to do it and you can’t help but wonder if he will ever reach these heights again with both his previous outings: King Kong and The Lovely Bones failing to ignite the screen. The Hobbit has certainly benefited from a nostalgia kick from Lord of the Rings fans and Jackson et al have much work to do to allay calls of the franchise merely being a money making scheme.

New Zealand, USA /  Directed By: Peter Jackson  /  Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro  /  Starring:   Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt  /  169min  /   Adventure, Fantasy   /  Release: 13 December 2012 (UK/Ireland)

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Páraic

Páraic wanted to be a gangster as far back as he can remember. Brought up on a diet of films he was too young to be watching by his brothers, all things 80s teens thanks to his sisters and the classics by his folks he's turned into a well-rounded (maybe a little too round) film lover. Only recently discovering North by Northwest, he longs for a train journey with a beautiful blond.

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