After 6 hours of waiting in a full theater at Tempe Marketplace’s Harkins Theaters, the lights dimmed. Even from the third row from the top I could still see the glowing white Legolas wig some elf-dressed fan donned all the way down in the front row.
I was yawning already and the film had not even begun yet. Around midnight the previews started. An ovation rang throughout the theater. The Lord of the Rings never appealed to me on a commercial level, but there I was with my 3D glasses resting on top of my prescription ones, wondering how many pain pills I had in my purse for the post movie 3D headache. I was prepared to meet this installment with some skepticism. After all, The Arizona Republic gave the movie 2.5 stars, so I was curious to see what I would think about the film.
Following applause directed at the title credits, the journey began.
Anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings film adaptations can attest to them being particularly violent and dark. There is a misconception among many that The Hobbit is just as mysterious and bellicose as the previous Lord of the Rings movies. The Hobbit, although it has its moments, is not nearly as macabre as the previous related movies, rather, an attitude of courageous adventure dominate this release. There are sword fights and war flashbacks still, however nothing out of the ordinary for a fantasy film.
Despite the fact that I could comfortably take my 8 year old brother to see this film without hesitation, (maybe I would make him go to the bathroom during Gollum’s scenes…) at the midnight premier there were hardly any parents and children to be found. Granted, this may be due to the fact that it was a school night and they would not have arrived home until 4 am, but I recall quite clearly that during the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, there were countless children waving wands and wearing a scar on their forehead up past their bedtimes. Compared to Deathly Hallows, The Hobbit is practically a musical. I don’t mean that it is silly or extremely juvenile, but it is an easy watch for a child. PG-13 is the perfect rating for this film. Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey does an exceptional job of retaining the lighthearted, child friendly vibe the book portrayed, while simultaneously presenting long time Lord of the Rings/Tolkien fanatics the content they deserve.
In addition to the appealing mood The Hobbit put forth, the actors in the film were superb. Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit which the film is centered around. Freeman, a BBC veteran who won his fame for his role on The Office (UK version), and as Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, John Watson, in the show Sherlock, proves his talent as an actor in this film. From comedy to drama and now to a whimsical fantasy character, Freeman’s versatility is wide. And as always, Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey is always a pleasure, although many complain that there was not enough magic used by him in situations where magical assistance would have been greatly appreciated.
In addition to the acuity of the performing, I am sure it helped to have costumes and makeup transforming into true Middle Earthlings. For example the dwarves were almost cartoon like with all of the prosthetics and hair, however instead of seeming cheesy, it contributed to the mystical world that the audience travels to when watching the film.
Orcs, trolls, and other miscellaneous creatures that were created using CGI technology were commendable in regards to appearance and detail. However in the 3D, 48 fps (frame per second) version in theatres the disparity between the real and the animated was all too blatant. There were a few scenes in which I thought I was watching a Roger Rabbit-esque feature. The scenery of the various lands and kingdoms the dwarves and Bilbo traveled were executed beautifully though.
By the time the film had ended, I was willing to sit through another hour. The pacing was done well and three hours seemed to be nothing more than one and a half. Ending on a suspenseful note, moviegoers will be desperate to see what happens next in Jackson’s other upcoming Hobbit adaptations.
While discussing what had just been viewed with friends, no one had any complaints about the movie as a whole. Minor things such as Gandalf’s magic stinginess, the CGI creatures, and the occasional corny scenes seemed to be the only flaws. Overall, The Hobbit satisfied fans of all ages and was worth the money to see in the 48 fps and 3D. Jackson and the rest of the cast and crew earned an 7/10 in my book.