Dwarf Tossing

Time to close out the 2012 lists! I never imagined that the last movie I'd see this year would be the new Hobbit, because I was on the fence about seeing it at all. This is a good case of how a movie's final grade is a balance of how much I liked it vs. what I think it was trying to accomplish vs. my pre-existing expectations. I really need to start seeing things with a blank slate so hype or nerd-rage doesn't seep into my subconscious. I was expecting this movie to be a slog. The podcast reviews have been pretty harsh, and I figured that the expansion of a slim book into three movies would make each of them bloated and insufferable. Although there were certainly some unnecessary tangents, this first film of the trilogy actually wound up being pretty fun.

Having Martin Freeman in the lead helps, because he's good in everything, and as always, Ian McKellen knocks it out of the park. I almost feel bad in suggesting that they cut back on the amount of Gandalf, because I enjoy McKellen so much. But there's no denying that there's a bit too much wizard-ex-machina going on in this movie, which kills some of the suspense. Some of the side stories didn't really fit into the main narrative, although it may be laying some groundwork for the next movies.

I did enjoy the group of dwarves, and think Peter Jackson and the production designers did an excellent job differentiating each of them so that they felt like separate characters instead of a mass of ciphers. The story of their leader Thorin Oakenshield wasn't as developed as it could have been, but not to the point that it hurt the movie too much. And where this film really shined is the scene in Gollum's cave, where Bilbo first comes into possession of the One Ring. It could have easily been a tossaway scene, but turns out to be the most suspenseful part of the movie, instead.

After enjoying a movie I was prepared to skip, I've already made my first resolution for the coming new year: It's time to start going into movies with fewer preconceived expectations! Let's see if this resolution lasts any longer than the usual ones about exercise.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: B


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