Peter Jackson, I expected better of you.
That’s right: I am disappointed in the first of your (needless, I might add) “Hobbit” trilogy. I’m attempting to collect my thoughts, but I admit that I am not happy and my mind is racing.
First, the good news: I loved the prologue. It’s a fantasic explanation of what happened before the events of “The Hobbit.” Great background on The King Under the Mountain, Thrain and Thorin. They also did a good job of tying in the opening Hobbiton scenes of “The Fellowship of the Ring” and creating some continuity between those series. The dwarves’ arrivals in Hobbiton were also spot-on. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there, the only intervening bright spot being Gollum (which is really saying something). I’ll also give a few positive points to the casting director since Fili (Dean O’Gorman) is fairly easy on the eyes.
One of the things that impresses me about “The Hobbit” book is how fast-paced it is. There’s rarely a lull in the action – two paragraphs later, there’s the beginning of another adventure. Why, then, has “An Unexpected Journey” been boiled down into fight scene after fight scene, with the occasional chase scene breaking up the repetition? Not all of the adventures of Thorin Oakenshield’s crew involve physical battles; battles of wits play just as big a role.
Case in point: the troll scene? All wrong. How can you screw up one of the most well-known scenes in all of literature? I’ll tell you how: by changing it from a battle of wits into a kung-fu-meets-Middle-Earth smackdown. Apparently Gandalf pops out of nowhere randomly, just in time to save the day. Wrong, wrong, WRONG!
And what’s with not beheading the Great Goblin? I suppose it’s not that easy to do when your creature concept includes a huge wattle/overgrown chin tumor that impedes access to one’s neck.
I realize that J.R.R. Tolkein’s work is full of appendices that add additional plotlines to many of his stories. I was patient with the subplots added to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but here it seems like just a cheap attempt to squeeze three movies out of what should rightfully be one, or at most two.
That means that in “An Unexpected Journey” we end up with a whole new villain, Thorin Oakenshield’s personal white whale Azog (Coincidentally, this guy is also white, but instead of stealing a limb, he stole Thorin’s dad’s head). While this is provocative, it steals valuable time and interest away from the core story, and forces the screenwriters to alter other key scenes to create more drama around the Thorin/Azog plotline. Goblin/warg attack? Turned into a chase scene leading back to Azog. Eagle rescue? Happens much later than it should have. And Azog is still alive at the end, meaning we’ll have to endure much more of this through the remaining parts.
I’d like to think that at least one of the remaining three movies will redeem everyone involved, but I’m not holding my breath.