7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (PG-13) - Runtime: 169 minutes
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro
I had a falling out with the LOTR trilogy a few years ago. I hadn't watched the movies since I purchased the extended editions when they originally came out. So about 2004 was the last time I had seen any of those movies. It wasn't until my brother asked me to go sit in the theater for a whole day (13 hours) to watch all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings a couple of weeks ago that I remembered why I loved these movies so much. I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something magical (pun intended!) about these movies. It's the combination of the story, characters, music and the sprawling vistas that melt my brain. I can't help it - these are fantastic movies, despite me not enjoying the source material that much.
But I cannot say that for The Hobbit - it's a great book that I've always loved it way more than the LOTR trilogy of books. It's just more playful and adventurous than those installments. So when the movie finally got greenlit, I was super stoked to see how awesome del Toro would make these two movies. And then he dropped out of directing and Peter Jackson was on board. And then they decided to split up the book even more and make it a trilogy. I became utterly despondent - this seemed like a major cash-in for the studio and not a creative license to fill in holes in the story to connect to the LOTR trilogy.
And I was further dismayed at less than stellar reviews it was getting. My heart hang heavy. Going into the movie I expected to be bummed out for at least a third of the movie knowing that most of it was just filler and fluff. But that same Middle-Earth magic began to make its way out of the screen and into my brain again. It was so nice to come back to this world again! The music, the sprawling vistas and the delightful characters once again had me fall in love. I swooned, for sure. And I wasn't disappointed at all. Sure, there were scenes that could have been left on the cutting room floor, but it didn't bother me - I was back in Middle-Earth!
Don't get me wrong - the movie has some flaws to it, but it's just such an entertaining ride throughout. I honestly didn't get bored with this movie at all. Only afterwards, upon reflecting, did I think that a couple of action scenes could have been cut. But I didn't notice it the first time around - it may get worse upon multiple viewings. But that aside - there's a lot to love in this movie. The dwarves are all very fun, but Ian McKellen as Gandalf is once again, fantastic. He's the glue in this movie and he's the reason why this whole series goes from good to great. Martin Freeman as Bilbo is great, too! He's done the British hat trick - he's played three great British icons - Dr. Watson, Arthur Dent (from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and now Bilbo! That's astonishing and here he's amazing.
I'm not going to bore you with too many details about this movie. You're either going to love it or hate it. If you are a fan of the LOTR, you just have to see this movie. You may not like it as much as the other movies, but you'll still enjoy yourself. If you do not care at all about this franchise, than you're probably better off sitting this whole trilogy out as well.
Rating: See It!