on 17 April 2013
Like most people the Hobbit was an important book for me when I read it as a child, so I too was interested to re live the simple and short tale with the Lord Of The Ring's film magic bringing it to life.
However, there are unfortunately some fundamental points to highlight on this long film, broadly mirroring the comments made elsewhere. The first half is undeniably boring, you don't empathise with any of the one dimensional characters from the off (except, ironically, Gollum), the CGI is appalling (notably the rabbit cart and the dying hedgehog), the padded-out far-fetched fight scenes are straight out of the 'Raiders of The Lost Arc' over-the-top school of action and adventure, the 7 Dwarfs have a hotch potch of dialects from Newcastle, Devon and Ireland (but by contrast the Orcs speak, err Orc and the Elves Elvish), you can't tell one dwarf from the next (except for the one who can't act - let's call him 'Grumpy'), Bilbo has an extremely limited script and acts like that bloke out of the office, not saying anything but looking confused most of the time (Oh hang on, it is him) and the plot is padded out within an inch of it's life with an over zealous and intrusive musical score. Finally, a striking difference between this and LOTR is the humour in the Hobbit. The verbal interchanges between, say, the trolls or the 'monster' with the bizarre sack chin are straight out of Disney Pixar children's comedy stories (he reminded me of the blobby thing from Star Wars), whilst the fight scenes are comically over the top (so much so that you know that all the heroes will get out alive in the end). The final ominous scene with the dragon sums it all up - this was pure Shrek CGI unbelievability and fairy story mock tension, which would struggle to make a 4 year old fear what's ahead in the impending follow ups.
It took me three attempts to get through it, but like the journey, I got there safely in the end..........
Or did I???
So, style wise, one for the kids and fans of Shrek, really. The adults can at least marvel at the beautiful scenery that the not-so-merry band stroll through at length.
on 24 November 2012
He's also now added the same mistake he made in King Kong of indulging in excess - and I'm not referring to the length. The problem is not the length but that everything is over the top, from the size of the trolls, wargs and orcs to the scale of the special effects and the set pieces like the battles.
But what are these mistakes he made in LOTR? Well the ones now anyone can even see from the trailers and clips for this new film are the ones that struck me first in the other films, namely: too many facial close-ups; too much zooming and panning, too much swooping moving-crane or airborne camera always in perpetual movement; excessive use of the wide angle lens which distorts space and perspective; the old fashioned dubbing of the actor's voices; and in particular too much close-miked dubbing of Gandalf's voice which has him sounding as if he's muttering to himself, or as if we're meant to be 'hearing' his thoughts. The tendency towards using too many close-ups means that we seldom get enough shots of figures in context which would allow for some impressive framing and contribute to a sense of atmosphere. But at least the close ups aren't quite as much of a problem as they were in LOTR.
As usual we have to put up with New Zealand instead of Tolkien's intended English landscape. The English countryside, landscape and atmosphere is a very important part of Tolkien's imagination and we've not enough here which can be mistaken for the real thing even in the earlier stages of the journey.
Like all big budget action films these days it's all too much 'in your face', and surely it should be obvious that this is not the right visual style for 'The Hobbit' the book. These constant camera movements, sometimes violent, and the fast editing, are all very familiar anyway having been used increasingly for the last 20 years, but here they are really overdone. The almost continual movement here is no doubt the result of trying to get the max out of 3D - as is the number of times things come suddenly towards you and jump out of the frame. It's also obvious that the battles are overdone with far too many evil goblins against so few in the company of dwarves, resulting in the unbelievable, yet nauseating, slaughter of the many by the indestructible few.
In addition much of it looks very artificial with the dwarves looking either like Disney cartoons brought to life or like good looking actors dressed up to look like romantic Vikings, or some such, and not dwarves at all - everyone seems to have too much make-up on. Still these things are perhaps not fatal to the final effect of the film because after all The Hobbit is not the sacred book that LOTR is, and this is going to be a big family movie. On the other hand Martin Freeman looks not much more like a Hobbit than the actors in LOTR did - for a start he's not fat enough and what's more he looks just like Martin Freeman. It seems to me this sort of casting alone condemns all the films to inevitable failure for the true Tolkien enthusiast, and this and they would have been better family films if an effort had been made to look for some fairly small unusual looking people to play the parts. In any case we certainly don't need to have recognisable actors like Ken Stott and James Nesbitt who obviously make suspension of disbelief impossible before we've started.
This film and LOTR had no business with being about actors and acting and would have been better off with total unknowns in every part. And everyone knows that Bilbo looked something like a younger Paul Simon, don't they?
And then there is the music. We have been subjected to the same old music all over again, which those of us who disliked it the first time around, finding it inappropriate in tone, style and scale, as well as poor in quality, inevitably feeling it even more intolerable to hear again. In fact IF this music was going to be repeated why would we want to see the film at all, if we know and love the book, or indeed the old 1968 BBC radio serial?
But even if there had been new music I suppose that given the same composer it was always going to be the same overblown all-purpose generic BIG film music that we hear all the time for any subject that isn't trying to be 'cool' and contemporary. And surely one of the worst things about the music in the case of the LOTR films was that the Hobbits in the Shire were given music with a strongly Irish or Scottish flavour. Now even one of the Dwarves has an unmistakable Northern Irish accent and another one a Scottish. But why should we be surprised when it seems so often that any film maker setting out to make a film 'entertaining' also feels that he can forget any need to achieve a sense of reality (albeit what Tolkien called 'secondary reality') other than by means of costumes and CGI
This kind of soundtrack makes any sort of detachment - upon which enchantment depends - extremely difficult. And enchantment is a large part of what a 'secondary world' is all about (we have Tolkien's word for that).
Anyway the music is mostly just the same stuff we were given in LOTR and which alone would have been enough to ruin the final effect of however good a film it might have been. It is nothing more than the industry standard for 'big' films and can be composed easily by the yard on demand.
I said that the music is in the wrong style anyway, but it's not that I don't love the late-Romantic style when it's done well as it used to be by John Williams, and he CAN do enchantment too, but even he wouldn't be right for LOTR or The Hobbit. What is needed I believe is something much more pared down, and that could be something more contemporary in terms of serious music (contemporary classical music if you will) or it could be something in the ancient manner like our medieval music, or the classical music of some other cultures. A blu-ray disc could even give us a choice - or no music at all.
I do realize that most of what I have called faults are just the sort of thing the film industry now demands when it wants a huge box-office and marketing success to rival all the superhero films based on comics. This is why the current style of film music in action films, with all its heavy dependence on sudden physical shocks (produced by the new bass technology and 5.1 surround), is all of a piece with fast and constantly mobile camera movement in three dimensions and fast editing, and why the commercial film industry insists on so many close-ups.The frequent close-ups are also related to the close miking and dubbing of the voices as a strategy for the total immersion which is supposed to provide the maximum possible manipulation of the consumer. It can be appropriate for some subjects where the emphasis is on character and acting but it doesn't work for epic narratives like LOTR and I don't believe it will work for an equally extended three part Hobbit which, with otherwise good justification, is obviously intended to represent another part of the epic story of the Ring. Epic requires some distance, and so does enchantment.
I strongly recommend everyone listens to the 1968 BBC radio serial of The Hobbit which has been available for some time on a CD set. It has a magic this film can't achieve, and the theme music and the Dwarves' song are just right. I also recommend its wonderfully idiosyncratic Gandalf. It has no great aspiration to the epic any more than did Tolkien's original book and is much more in keeping with its style. I have no objection to the the narrative being upscaled to the epic for this new film but for the reasons I have given I don't think has succeeded much more than the LOTR films did. I am not recommending the BBC radio serial of LOTR from around 1982.
But Gollum is still a wonder of at least one aspect of the film industry, and at least one way it has done Tolkien justice.
on 10 December 2013
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is one of the greatest films of 2013, and while it doesnt follow precisely the much-loved book, it does respectfully weave a story of its own using much of the content from the appendices Tolkien wrote for The Lord of the Rings. While it can feel a little slow- paced at times, particularly the beginning, it does help to set up important characters that influence not only this film but also the next two to come and will more than likely pay off with the next films. It has the difficult task of setting up not only the Hobbit trilogy but also LOTR that comes after, and still manages to have some emotional stand-out moments where you really feel for the characters and their quest and get to know them on a deeper level. The case the DVD's come in looks fantastic, however, the map that is printed inside doesnt have a line shwoing where the company in the film traveled, as it did in the LOTR which isn't that important, but is a little niggle. The special features are some of the best I've ever watched and feel a journey within themselves. Unlike other films, they dont feel slap-dashed together, but made with care and love just as the film was. Overall, great special features, nice casing, and a great film with extended scenes that flesh out the story and leave hints for the LOTR films, dont hesitate to buy it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
'Bilbo Baggins' is persuaded to join 'Gandalf' and a small band of
dwarfs on a quest to regain their lost kingdom.
as with the awesome 'L.O.R' trilogy this is again a 'dark' tale, along
again with eye-popping c.g.i throughout.
many characters that became familiar to us throughout 'L.O.R' also
feature in 'Bilbo's' adventure of some 60 years before 'Frodo's' quest.
of course the link to the future is laid.
can't wait for the next part of the spectacle to surface.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2013
Let me start with how much I absolutely love this steelbook. The cover is hands down the best out of all editions for this movie and the back has an awesome picture of Gandalf bringing the dawn to kill the trolls. And with the 5 discs with a nice parchment look to them inside the case is twice as thick as a normal steel book and I half expected a VHS to be inside when I opened it. And it is sturdy as it should be.
There are two discs devoted to the extended 3D, one for the 2D extended and 2 more just for special features.
As much as I love the 3D for Pacific Rim, Thor, and Star Trek Into Darkness... The Hobbit's true native 3D trumps all. Depth is unmatched and flawless giving the most immersive 3D experience ever made. And there are no 3D "out-of-screen" gimmicks to be had devoting the photography solely to depth as all 3D experiences should. The quality is so great that to watch the film in anything other than 3D is an absolute crime.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2015
Not quite how I remember the story from the book! The fact The Hobbit is a somewhat shorter story than LOTR I wondered how they'd draw this out into 3 films... Relying on a lot of the familiar features of the LOTR rings movie, the film struck me as depending on a lot of special effects and fight and flight sequences and was drawn out for too long. To my mind they could have made The Hobbit in just one film. Still a well made film with an excellent cast.
on 4 December 2013
I thought my lord of the rings extended edition sets could not be bettered but wow wow wow....this set has totally blown me away,....
Firstly I got lucky and purchased this in a Black Friday deal for 11 quid..so I was happy, but the content in this box set is great...
Starting with the extended editon which obviously adds deleted scenes from the cinematic version , I was actually surprised at one of the scenes deleted where you are told what possibly caused the rift between elves and dwarves,but that's just a minor niggle if it is one....
Then you have the fantastic 3d version on 2 discs....you obviously need a 3d tv for this...
Finally and my favourite part of a a collection are the extras/appendices...absolutely brilliant, take you deep into the making, the highs and lows...ok you know all this from the extras with The Lord of the rings DVD sets, but it's wonderful being taken back into middle earth again, 9 hours of non stop action, keeping you enthralled and making you appreciate the work put in to make this to a cinema or a blu ray....I'm still on the 2nd extras blu ray... But I thought I'd leave feedback as it's fully deserved....
Trust me people....this box set is an absolute must have !!!,,
on 8 January 2014
Contains 5 discs: 2x3D for the 3D version, 1x normal blu-ray for the 2D version, and 2 extras discs. Others have already written plenty about it so I won't bother to elaborate on the film itself or 2D version but will review the 3D.
I found the 3D to be fantastic - great colour, detail and depth used to great effect. There were very few gimmicky 'out of the screen' moments and the few there were were used very effectively, remained smooth and were not excessive (e.g. when Gandalf releases the moth and it flies towards you). I'm sure there is some loss of definition (how could there not be when it has to show 2 different images at once?) however it still looked very crisp and clear to me. Some of the scenes were literally vertigo-inducing! 6 of us sat through the whole film in 3D without any complaints of headaches etc, though we all agreed it took 10 minutes or so for our eyes to get used to it, I think this is normal for anyone not used to watching 3D.
I believe some people have had issues running the 3D with the fantastic performance we had - my hardware was PS3 and an LG55 TV, so experience may vary with other hardware.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2013
I'm not going to review the film itself as there are plenty of excellent ones out there, but for what it is worth, I love the film and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy so I couldn't wait for the Extended edition to arrive on Blu-ray. And I'm pleased to say it is worth the wait.
My first impression was that the packaging is rather nice. The outer sleeve is thick and made of good quality cardboard. The front of the box is a hologram photo of Martin Freeman whilst the five discs come in a black plastic Amaray case rather than the standard blue. All in all it feels like a quality package and it now sits proudly on my bookcase.
The five discs are:
Disc 1 - 3D Extended Edition Part 1
Disc 2 - 3D Extended Edition Part 2
Disc 3 - 2D Extended Edition
Disc 4 - Appendices Part 7
Disc 5 - Appendices Part 8
Unlike the Lord of Rings Extended Edition, the Appendices are included on Blu-ray rather than DVD which is great but they are all in 2D rather than 3D. There is a huge amount of material on these discs which will take some time to watch but my initial impression is that there is some great footage that will appeal to all Hobbit fans.
So on to the main film. In total there are 13 minutes of extra footage included which is mostly concentrated at the start of the film and in the middle, when the group reach Rivendell. On reflection I can see why some of these scenes never made it into the Theatrical release as they do slow down an already long film but for fans of the books they bring some insight into the characters that is otherwise lost. For example, early in the film we see a young Bilbo meet Gandalf for the first time and we also see some new scenes of him looking around Rivendell in awe at the majesty of the Elves. Collectively they show Bilbo's hidden adventurous side and help us understand why Gandalf wanted him to join the group. It also helps explain why Bilbo returns to Rivendell in the Fellowship of the Rings which I really liked.
There are two new songs added in this version - one the dwarves sing in Rivendell and the other sung by the Goblin King. The former is great addition but I couldn't help but feel the latter sounds like an Andrew Lloyd Webber number and I think it changes the tone of an otherwise quite dark and ominous section of the film. But that is a minor gripe as we also get to see more footage of the city of Dale, more footage of the Shire and more discussion at Rivendell between Gandalf, Saruman and Lord Elrond, all of which helps add more colour and depth to the film. A final bonus is a short scene at the start of the film between Thranduil and the Dwarves that starts to explain why the latter dislike the Elves so much.
All in all, the extra footage really adds to the film but at the expense of the timing. It does takes longer for the group to leave the Shire and some might find that the Rivendell section now drags a little. But as with the Lord of Rings extended editions, this version is for the fans of the film and I can live with the slightly slower pace to appreciate the extra scenes.
As a final bonus, and over and above the additional scenes you get a nice tour of Bag End on the main Blu-ray menu.
From a technical perspective, the sound is 7.1 DTS-HD in English, with 5.1 masters in French, Castilian and Italian. Subtitles are in English, Dutch, French, Castilian and Italian. The main film is presented in 16x9 2.4:1 widescreen. Both sound and visuals are excellent just as in the Theatrical release and I would have to be very picky to find any fault in them.
If you are fan of the film and haven't got this yet, then what are you waiting for!
387 of 477 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2012
Since Sir Peter Jackson's last foray into Middle Earth, he's created the fantastic (King Kong) and the fantastically awful (The Lovely Bones), and now we're back and it's like we never left. Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel)... they've aged like elves - not a day. Tonally this is breezier than the Lord of the Rings (let's call it LotR) trilogy, but great care has been taken to ensure that it fits seamlessly into the same universe. The same exquisite detail in close-up; the same use of long shots to make the characters tiny in a vast world.
J. R. R. Tolkien's little book concerns a little hobbit, who lives in a hole, who finds himself on a big adventure with a gang of dwarves, overseen by the wizard Gandalf. Tolkien's dwarves, seeking an almighty golden hoard hidden under a Lonely Mountain, are closer to Time Bandits than a heroic Fellowship, but Jackson and his co-writers (now including Guillermo del Toro) have shifted their purpose to something more laudable: the reclaiming of their homeland.
In a beautifully crafted opening, after elegantly intersecting with The Fellowship of the Ring, the bumbling dwarves are introduced to Bilbo and ourselves one by one, as unwelcome visitors to his humble home. They eat, they sing, they talk, and the scene is set. These are the characters we'll follow in almost every scene. The Hobbit is much more linear than LotR; scenes concerning Radagast the Brown (a wonderfully eccentric Sylvester McCoy, channelling the spirit of Tom Bombadil) and Azog (the orcish slayer of Thorin's father, Thrain) are brief asides rather than parallel plots.
So it's all about the dwarves, and we get to know a few of them well, particularly the bold leader, Thorin (Richard Armitage). He's as close to our Strider, except more reckless, driven by rage, and far less trusting of the titular halfling. As Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman is a more subtle performer than Elijah Wood. And he needs to be - a hero as reluctant as Bilbo is a tough sell, but Freeman convincingly depicts a gradual self-realisation: a drive from within, rather than a compulsion from without.
Jackson proves once again that he's the master of combining CGI with human emotion (even though actual humans are conspicuously absent from the story). The scene involving the Storm Giants - living, fighting mountains - is a good example: rather than giving us an omniscient hawk's eye-view of the battle, Jackson focuses on the real drama: the dwarves and the hobbit, clinging to the giants' knees. And then there's Gollum, arriving for a late cameo. The best chapter in the novel becomes the best scene in the film, with Bilbo and the unlikely keeper of the One Ring riddling in the dark. The special effects might not be technically groundbreaking as they once were, but their integration with real actors remains unsurpassed in cinema.
A couple of issues. Not everyone will get along with the joviality and the slapstick. Once or twice I do feel that certain scenes contain a knowing look too many. (When Gandalf is telepathically communicating with Galadriel, I swear he nods at the audience.) Thankfully, it's consistent, and rarely at the expense of immersion. Also, given what we know, perhaps more could have been done to foreshadow the LotR trilogy - there's certainly room for this in the Rivendell sequence (in which a shabby Gandalf the Grey, in the presence of even greater greatness, looks humbler than we've ever seen him). It's conceivable that an extended cut will provide more references to the impending doom of Middle-Earth.
Given the brevity of the book, what concerned me most was how Jackson et al could possibly
expand the story into the first part of an epic trilogy. The fact that they have, without the film feeling baggy (Bag-Endy?), is, in a sense, an even mightier feat than the adaptation of the LotR novels. It doesn't have the emotional depth of LotR, nor the narrative breadth. It never did. But it has humour and action in droves, along with warmth and intimacy. And it's amazingly good fun - more Jim Henson than Game of Thrones; more Whedon than Nolan. Which is okay by me.
Expect An Unexpected Journey to be condemned as boring and overlong by professional critics (the same critics who probably laud Bela Tarr). Expect it to be dismissed as frivolous and silly. But, more than anything, expect to be entertained by a delightful fantasy film.