Nearly twenty years ago, I’ve read The Hobbit by John R. R. Tolkien. Some of the thoughts I’ve had with regards to The Hobbit also held when it came to The Lord of the Rings – terribly uneven pacing. You have 20 interesting pages, 20 boring pages, 40 interesting pages, 80 boring pages… the boring parts often have long swathes of travel where nothing happens in plot, and serve more as atmosphere setters.
One of the best things about The Lord of the Rings movies was that the pacing was a lot better, and most of the slower paced things were either story-integral or were done away in the form of a montage with exhilarating music.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyu, sadly, had decided to do away with some of these things I think of as improvements. If I remember correctly then The Hobbit had been supposed to be a two-movie deal, but ended up being a three-movie deal. Not only this meant they had been given time to show us things that they could have, well, not glossed over, but given less time to, we’ve also received a lot of “extraneous” content. Things that are part of Tolkien’s Middle Earth‘s world, but which did not appear in the original book.
You see, The Hobbit, as a book, was true to its name – it was the story of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, told through his point of view exclusively. What he didn’t see or hadn’t been told? You didn’t know of it either. You’ve only learnt of things as Bilbo had been told of them after the fact. Whereas the focus of The Lord of the Rings is on the history and on world-changing events, The Hobbit is a story with a much narrower (or should I say shorter?) focus.
Aside from getting a lot of history and being part to geo-political discussions in Rivendell, the main character in the first film, at least in terms of how much effort and time are being spent for us to become sympathetic to them/amount of screen time they receive is Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror. Alas, if you look at a “main character” as one that undergoes a change throughout the length of the story then you will not really find one in the first film – and if I’m being honest, it will be Bilbo, but the change is going to occur throughout the whole story – judging who the main character is and the quality of their journey based on a third of the story is unfair. This is a book-based film, so I know what is coming.
But this is just it, if you look at just this film, there’s a lot of dross that should’ve remained on the editing-room floor, there are too many sequences where they try too hard to inject themes that clash with the rest of the film, or are just tie-in material that do not enhance the story told here, but a story we’ve been told in other films. This is a movie I thought after watching: I could easily cut 30 minutes off of this film, and the film would be stronger for it.
Conclusion: I give this movie 5.9/10 rhyming dwarven names. Sometimes giving people more time to accomplish “more” ends with them ending up with less. The experience could’ve been more concentrated, both in terms of theme and content. The focus should be on the titular character, and there were definitely moments where the movie was trying way too hard to be funny. A proper judgement could only be passed once all the films are out, however.