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Movie review: The Hobbit

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(L-r) JAMES NESBITT as Bofur, MARTIN FREEMAN (front) as Bilbo Baggins, STEPHEN HUNTER as Bombur, GRAHAM McTAVISH as Dwalin, WILLIAM KIRCHER as Bifur, and JED BROPHY as Nori in New Line Cinemas and MGM's fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY 3D

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Richard Armitage

CLASSICATION: 13v

RUNNING TIME: 166 minutes

RATING: ***

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IAN McKELLEN as Gandalf in New Line Cinemas and MGM's fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

RETURN to the world of Middle Earth courtesy of director Peter Jackson and conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe.

Actually, composer Howard Shore is also greatly responsible for the atmosphere, because right from the get-go he starts expanding on the musical thematic work he started in The Fellowship of the Rings, taking you back to the Shire with the opening sequences of Bilbo and Frodo preparing for Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday.

The Hobbit starts more or less where The Fellowship of the Rings started, but this time we go back in time to learn how Bilbo (Freeman) got the ring off Gollum in the first place, when he went on his own adventure.

Though a respectable hobbit of middle age at the time, Gandalf (McKellan) puts Bilbo forward as a thief to a company of dwarves hell-bent on reclaiming their lost dwarf kingdom in the Lonely Mountains.

These dwarves sing songs (and not of the hi-ho variety) but they aren’t of the stumpy dwarf variety. They cover the gamut of old and tired looking greybeard to seriously responsible Thorin (Armitage) and even the mutually exclusive concept of a cute (and that’s of the hot and not cutesy variety) dwarf in the form of Kili (Aiden Turner).

As a complete aside, it makes sense that the dwarves span a variety of body types since Tolkien wrote about seven different kinds of dwarves and this kind of geek-speak should tell you a bit about the film.

It is a lovingly referential homage to the world of Tolkien on an epic scale – the sets, costume designs and poetic dialogue come straight out of the addendums, which were actually as long as the books.

Jackson has recreated the sense of pageantry we experienced in The Lord of the Rings, even if he hasn’t managed to keep that edge or recreate that sense of dread.

To get back to the big screen, these dwarves also love to pick a fight, but really they’re just looking for a place to belong, and this is subtly reinforced by the use of the Shire and Fellowship musical themes. This helps to play on the concept of home and loss of home which resonates throughout The Hobbit and will be a main theme of all three films – after all, this particular storyline is about folk of the earth reclaiming their home.

Personal growth is another big theme of the stories and we will see over the course of the films how Bilbo Baggins trades social respectability for knowledge, wisdom and the friendship of people very different to his hobbit self.

Bilbo is more assured of who he is than his younger nephew Frodo will prove to be in The Lord of the Rings and Freeman is a baffled, if amusing opposite to the gloomy dwarves. Gandalf shows the signs of the confusion about his own abilities and origin, again a denouement that will play out only in the later films.

On the action adventure side, there are plenty of fights with the dwarves hurling themselves against orc backs, warg snouts and troll knees with equal abandon.

The film sticks so closely to the source material, though, that by the end of the film, we’re barely within sight of the Lonely Mountain, the eventual destination of the journey.

This isn’t really that much of an unexpected journey. We knew The Hobbit was going to have to get the film treatment when Peter Jackson made such a success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But, was it necessary to turn the first book into a trilogy? While there are fights aplenty, the pace is so slow. Okay, the word to use is probably deliberate, but it does make the story drag on and on.

At least we get to see our favourite little crazy bad guy with googly eyes, Gollum (Serkis) step up to the plate as second unit director on this trilogy, so he’s not just a small guy in a cgi suit.

But, if you’re not a fan, this is going to be a hard slog of a journey.

If you liked … The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring … you’re going to like this.

THE HOBBIT BY NUMBERS:

1: Hobbit

1: Gollum

1: Dragon

1: Crew member whose sole job on set was to look after prosthetic hands

2: Filming units

2.6: Average days shooting on a given set

3: Wizards

3: Trolls

4: Tons of silicon used to generate the facial prosthetics

5: Complete hair, make-up, prosthetics and wardrobe for each of the 13 Dwarves

5: Average number of doubles used for each main character, including scale, stunt and riding doubles.

7 km: Length of toupe tape, which attaches beards to faces, used on the production

10kg: Human hair for wigmaking

10.4: Average days it took to renew a studio with a new set

13: Dwarves

14: Tons of silicone used to mold all of the armour and weapons for all cultures

60: 2nd unit studio crew

65: Number of people it took – actors, doubles and stuntmen – to portray 13 Dwarves

91: Wigs created for the dwarves

99: Studio sets built

100+: Hobbit feet for Bilbo

100: Total 2nd unit location crew

266: Shooting days

300: Bottles of spirit gum used in the production

350: Off-set crew

450: Main unit studio crew

547: Travelling weapons for the 13 dwarves

700: Main unit crew on location

800: Crew travelled on location between two units

860: Bottles of isopropyl alcohol (to remove prosthetics)

600-700 wigs: Nearly everyone in the film is wigged

2 100: Approximate number of VFX shots in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

8 900: Number of continuous hours the art department took to build, decorate, and tear down sets. This involved different crews working 24/7

11 862: Prosthetics made


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