*May contain some spoilers*
While the Lord of the Rings could have done with extended versions (Which were later released), did The Hobbit really need three films? Before seeing the movie, there were definitely reservations of a relatively short book with a good arc being sliced in three. Where would they end it? Would it feel simply like the inciting incident part of a story arc being dragged on? In a world where audience are unhappy with books leaving out things and now mad at something being extended, not everyone is going to be happy. Then there is the question of the necessity of the 48/fps.
All these thoughts left as soon as the movie opened up and the journey back to Middle Earth began.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey envelops you in sheer joy no matter the format. Even just the opening with Bilbo and Frodo just unleashes All The Feels. The references in Bilbo’s dialogue to the opening of the book are tied in seamlessly as we are taken back to that much unexpected visit. Freeman completely embodies Bilbo, the execution of the lines and his utter inability to deftly deal with his home being invaded by dwarves is pure hilarity. Gandalf is a fantastic foil to Bilbo’s initial haplessness.
What stands out the most in this film is the wit of the characters and the way the relationships are built. While Gandalf’s faith remains unshaken about selecting Bilbo as their burglar, seeing the way Thorin grows to embrace Bilbo carries the entire film. The friendship that unfolds between the two and the rest of the dwarves doesn’t have the awkward distracting attributes the Sam and Frodo bromance did. Just also seeing Thorin begin to let go of the grudges the past that held him back in order to lead their way to defeating Smaug (The Dragon who took over the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor) builds an emotional connection to the set-up of the next two films. The story is there, seeing the events that the travelers are thrown into that bond them together speaks for the timeless ideas of friendship the Hobbit is beloved for.
When whether or not the movie looks good in 48/fps is irrelevant. The LOTR trilogy’s effects look fake and terrible in many HD televisions but that doesn’t affect the fact that the story is still amazing. Yes the frame speed takes some getting used to and things look more surreal but it’s a transitional time to get film to work in HD without it looking outdated. Surely criticisms will lead to improvements.
While An Unexpected Journey won’t have the same cultural impact as LOTR, it is still a very well done addition to the Fantasy genre. Jackson made it work and embellishes a beloved world. Some of the added scenes that aren’t directly lifted from the book do take some liberties but it’s all done in a respectful manner that builds up future events while leaving the integrity of the story unshaken. Overall, it is an excellent and fun movie that fantasy geeks of all ages will enjoy.