Celebrating Great Films

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

#119 at time of writing.

After the phenomenal success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and some legal wrangling with New Line cinema and the Tolkein estate), Peter Jackson gained enough trust from the studios and the fans to do whatever he liked with The Hobbit. Originally planned as a two-part film with Guillermo del Toro at the helm, Jackson took over and expanded Bilbo Baggins's tale with backstory from the Lord of the Rings books to end up with a behemoth three-parter.

And it shows. Part one, An Unexpected Journey, runs to nearly three hours (will the DVDs still have an extended edition?). It's certainly flabby and self-indulgent. But you know what? I was very happy to indulge it.

I sat enjoying the expansive story world, feeling at home as each scene lingered languidly. Like sitting by a fire with a glass of port on Christmas morning.

Much has been made of the fact that this is the first feature film to be shot and projected at 48 frames per second, twice as fast as the industry standard of 24 frames, the intention being to provide the smoother, more realistic motion, especially in 3D. Did it make much difference? Meh.

Interesting to note that the filmmakers did not have the requisite rights to use material from Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales - evident when Gandalf "forgets" the names of two of the five wizards, Alatar and Pallando, who only appear in the book Unfinished Tales. So, plenty of scope for yet more engorged trilogies in the future.

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