Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Great Expectations

Peter Jackson's highly anticipated prequel opens up a deeper view of Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


ARTH VADER (AV): I happen to be a lover of (almost) all things Tolkien, Pontificator. The Hobbit is one of the most beloved stories from my childhood. Filled with tragic characters, loss and a never-ending quest for righting generational wrongs. Thus The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is riveting return to Peter Jackson's vision of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. The Hobbit is a near-flawless–if not somewhat heavy-handed–portrayl of Middle-Earth. Jackson has a woven a seamlessly rich story of with a complex cast of characters who weave together in a fantastic tapestry that delights and helps bring Tolkien middle-Earth alive once again.I was giddy in the theater for this one, Pontificator!

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I have a feeling that we are going to agree on almost everything about this movie Vader. I remember reading the book in my younger years and being enthralled by Tolkien’s imagery and the wonder that was Middle-Earth. This movie has brought all that to life... and then some. I’m extremely excited at how closely the movie(s) will be to the book as they are making three movies off one book, unlike the previous trilogy where they made just one movie per book.


AV: Some familiar faces grace the screen in The Hobbit. The familiar faces of Gandalf, (old) Bilbo, Lady Galadriel, Elrond, the bitter and sinister Gollum and even Frodo–all characters from The massively successful and popular The Lord of The Rings (LoTR) trilogy–reprise their roles in a story that takes place 60+ years before the final war of the One Ring. Peter Jackson certainly has a knack for casting what seems near flawless characterizations of the movie's characters. The new characters, and the depiction of Thorin Oakenshield is better than the image I had conjured in my head as a teenager when I first read this novel.

Direction? Gold. The scenes of the shire, the images of the Dwarfen kingdom in the misty mountains and the especially the idyllic paradise of Rivendale, all are breathtaking to behold. If you don't go as a fan, go to for the visually stunning landscapes, too numerous to mention here. 

TP: The casting was half done already with so many returning characters, but the other half was just as brilliant! Martin Freeman was an excellent choice for Bilbo and delivers the goods. He’s funny, grounded and fearful...all at the same time. Richard Armitage brings Thorin Oakenshield to life and makes him even more heroic and commanding than in the book. Graham McTavish has made Dwalin a character to remember...right from the beginning and has asserted his skill. I’m anxious to see the growth of Peter Hambleton’s character, Gloin...being the father of the beloved Gimli from Lord of the Rings. If I really have to comment on the directing...then you, dear reader, haven’t been paying attention to the LoTR phenomenon...or Vader.


AV: Weta Workshop (WW) rivals it's industry rival, the Lucasfilm special effects juggernaut known to the world as Industrial Light an Magic (ILM). Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks and ILM had single-handidly corner the special and visual effects markets forever. Since the release of LoTR, King Kong, Avatar and a host of other effects-rich movies, WW has established itself as a dominant player in the visual effects arena. The Hobbit and it's incredible creatures, characters and landscapes, has brought to life a world that before could only be imagined or animated. The stunning camera-work keeps the audience immersed as the SF/X is a continuous reminder that "we ain't in Kansas anymore". How say you P-Man?

TP: How can this movie be anything but a special effects juggernaut? Quite simply, it can’t. Very few movies simply blow your mind away with the visuals, but this film does just that... from the very beginning! I sat in awe, absolutely stunned at the Dwarvin Kingdom. My jaw didn’t leave the floor until the first knock on Bilbo’s door... but it quickly dropped again soon after. The Hobbit has learned from the previous films and delivered a perfect visual and effects display that is on par with the best that has ever been on the silver screen.


AV: While I am hard pressed to find ANY significant flaw in The Hobbit, I feel it prudent to discuss something that has caught the fan-boy universe of speculative rumor by storm. As we know, Jackson made each book in the LoTR trilogy into a single film. Arguably, one of the greatest feats in modern film making as each of those books could easily spawn a couple of movies unto themselves. So why is it that The Hobbit is on its own a three movie effort? Personally, I don't care. Anything furthers creative and imaginative efforts like this; I say make them–make a hundred of them, heck, make ten thousand! The story is re-told with some embellishment but good God they are beautiful and filled with such fantastic imagery, I would be along for a lot longer ride than three films.

It's well-known that Hollywood selfishly creates trilogies so audiences return for familiar brand name entertainment franchises. The more they can keep great movies in front of us the more money they can make. So what. Because, in the words of my dear friend, The Pontificator, I will always 'be an ardent fan of the cinematic arts.'

TP: I have just been quoted by one of the greats... another testament to how awesome this film is!

I also couldn’t find any flaws Vader, but honestly, I was so swept away I doubt they would have registered anyway. It was a question for me as well the fact that this book sparked three films while the other three only translated into three. Logically, we should have gotten nine films out of the LoTR... but oh well. This movie had it all. The humor was vibrant, injected perfectly in the pace of the film. The action was plentiful and riveting... and the drama was poignant enough to make us care about what happens to these characters.


AV: This one's a shoe-in. Next holiday season, the follow-up film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be in theaters to delight and bewilder us once again. And for anyone who has read The Hobbit, the fearsome and terrible fire-breathing dragon, Smaug is headed for epic showdown with Bilbo and his merry band of Dwarfs as they try to win back their ancestral home under the Lonely Mountain. The Hobbit: There and Back Again, part three, is slated for release for the 2014 holiday season. I await the next installment with baited (dragon's) breath!

TP: What Vader said. No really... my thoughts about the sequels has already been written above. Ok... I’ll add that I’m looking forward to the Smaug confrontation... but I’m really looking forward to the multi-army battle galore that will take place in 2014!


ARTH VADER rates The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I can't say enough how delightful and beautiful this movie is. If you are a passive fan or don't really enjoy movies with deep, rich meaning and content, you may want to avoid this one. At close to three hours, Jackson pulls no punches delving us deeper in to the history of Middle-Earth and assumes you are paying attention through every scene. A fantastic, fun-filled fantasy perfect for the whole family, I give The Hobbit an unexpected (but well deserved) nine busted blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I can’t see how anyone isn’t a fan of these films, but understand that such people exist. Fortunately, I’m not one of them and the joy I get from watching these visual masterpieces highlights why life is so great. This film comes roaring out the gate and runs away with your imagination, taking it on an “unexpected” journey (I actually expected it). I also expected to bust the nine blocks it did... although I’m not sure they weren’t Trolls instead.

The Hobbit–An Unexpected Journey: 9/10 Busted Blocks

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