Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (US, NZ 2012)

Well here we go again with another overly long grandiose epic based on some small unknown tale courtesy of a fat Kiwi. The much anticipated prequel trilogy (yes trilogy, don't get me started) to another somewhat well known literacy tale by some bloke called Token?

'Far over the misty mountains cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old'

Yep this gorgeous line pretty much gives you the perfect clue to what to expect in this adventure, many caves and many caverns, dwarf country. From the off we are back in the Shire and on very familiar ground as old friends are soon in the fold and we get another very useful eye catching prologue. The visuals straight away are much like an old pair of shoes, it all just slips back into place, you can see its a Jackson film, only sweeter this time.

Plot? errr its kinda simple, bit like LOTR, Bilbo Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves march off across Middle Earth (yep we're doing that again) to Lonely Mountain, the old home of the dwarves. There they will kick out the nasty dragon Smaug (dragons have personal names? aren't they just creatures?) who took over the mountain dwelling from the dwarves in a really quite violent and unfriendly way. Why? beats the heck outta me, cos the dwarves had tonnes of loot inside the mountain and Smaug wanted it all. Why would a dragon need tonnes of gold and jewels? is he going to buy himself a nice car? in fact why does Gandalf care? on with the review!

On the whole the entire film is pretty much as before with wonderful bold colours and imagination bursting from the screen in some sequences, and with dark shady doom and gloom in others. The detail again is superb with every last item you can see, location work is stunning (tourism on the up again) whilst makeup, sets and props are lavishly rustic and genuine. Weaponry stands out in this film as we see many nice swords displayed which do make you wanna own one yourself. But overall its most definitely a much much crisper, tighter, sharper affair all round, looking much better than the LOTR trilogy as you would expect with time. Really I don't need to talk much about the visuals as its business as usual to be honest...but I will.

The only downside as usual with all these films is certain sequences involving the dreaded CGI monster. Yes skies, sunsets, landscapes, Rivendell, the Lonely Mountain and hordes of orcs all look good in this format, but some things never change. The sequences involving the Warg riding orcs still looked pretty rough and clearly fake just like the last time we saw them. These sequences really do look hokey to me I can't deny, like something outta 'Underworld', the same could be said for the sequences within the Goblin caves and the awful looking Goblin King.

I don't want to moan too much about this film as it was a solid entry but you can't help but find small issues. The whole Goblin caves section was pretty much another Moria sequence really, it felt too much like deja vu. Plus the escape from the caves was really totally over the top with some quite ridiculous action sequences, very much like a videogame at times. Remember the elephant surfing Legolas in ROTK? yikes! Did I mention how bad the Goblin King looked? oh yeah...what the hell was THAT about? like an early concept for Jabba the Hut...really!

Didn't really like the whole tree climbing escape sequence towards the end either, that felt as though they had written themselves into a corner. Unsure how accurate this film is to the books seeing as I've never read 'The Hobbit' but that part really seemed kinda dumb. I'll just pop in that Azog the orc chieftain looks more like a vampire outta 'Underworld' also, yes...I'm using 'Underworld' as a reference again.

To be brutally honest there are other elements that just seemed...pointless? The character of Radagast the Brown wasn't really explored much with no real reason to be there. A minor quibble as I reckon he'll be back with a chance for more explanations. The stone giants sequence seemed a bit irrelevant, unsure if its in the book but it felt like they needed something to fill that gap and add a touch of excitement. Oh and we have eagles saving the day again, boy those eagles are bloody handy to have around huh.

On the plus side apart from the visuals the dwarf company is handled well, cast well and perform well. I liked the variation on the characters even though 'Willow' crept into my mind. Was surprised to find out Graham McTavish was a dwarf seeing as the guy is about 6ft! his character was one of few that was a hardass, the others tended to be a bit dweebish, looked a bit goofy. What is it with the Scottish accents though? why are most dwarves Scottish? am I missing something on dwarf legend here?. Its just amusing that in these fantasy films its always Scottish or cockney accents hehe no problems, just an observation. I liked the dwarf names too, nice, very...dwarfish, but there should of been a mohawk dwarf in the company.

'dwarf scum'...'rebel scumheh.

Gollum is back unfortunately, but hurray! he finally looks realistic apart from his Disney eyes medical problem, man that decision really mucks up his supposedly creepy looks. Some great facial expressions going on this time, really was impressed with the advancement there, but he's still annoying as hell with that fudging voice.

I must admit I feared the worst, I was reading the film is dull and stretched but I didn't feel it. I actually enjoyed this film more than a lot of the original trilogy. I guess it felt more adventurous as I had no clue what happens, never seen anything of it visually despite knowing how it would look after LOTR. Its not quite as dark as LOTR, feels a wee bit more for the kids, hated the fact no dwarfs bite the dust (some must do eventually!!) but the fact technology has progressed is evident and makes most of the film truly memorable. Kinda makes you wanna whip out your Games Workshop miniatures and play, or Dungeons & Dragons, which ever way you role.

Still, the thought does spring to mind how on earth they will stretch it out over two more films. The first was gonna be sufficiently packed but I fear the second may well be reeeeally stretched seeing as the company is close to Lonely Mountain as it is! Lets remember this is only about walking to the dwarves old home and fighting a dragon, some films do that kinda thing in a standard 1hour 30mins. We will see, yesss we will see.