This time I'm writing on a much lighter theme: the release of the much - anticipated movie The Hobbit. This being the follow-up (though not sequel, maybe a prequel) of the great Lord of the Rings, expectations were soaring, and all fans were a-buzz. In such circumstances, the situation is ripe for disappointment, but this time, if anything, my own expectations were in fact not only met, but exceeded.
When I heard some months back that P. Jackson has decided to make not two but THREE movies, I wondered how would he manage to keep the tension in all movies. I mean, there are plenty of adventures in The Hobbit, but... THREE movies? And yet he has done it! An opening sequence which connects the Hobbit to LOTR neatly, without overdoing it; followed by an account of the dragon's attack on Erebor which was nothing short of stunning. And don't expect to see a great worm flying above - PJ is showing us just the results of the dragon's attack, not the dragon itself. Way to keep up the anticipation :)
After which, the real movie starts. Each scene is extensive, maybe sometimes a bit overdone, but nevertheless it fits well into the story-line and creates a good rhythm. I'm gonna try to evade spoilers here, but I'll hint that the Rivendell scenes were much more interesting than I expected, thanks to a meeting which is hinted at in the book, but never fully described. And after that - there's an unending adrenaline rush, all the way until the stunning final scene,where the group is staring at Mount Erebor, rising in the distance over Mirkwood.
The movie is faithful to the book, and although some plots were added, it's nothing that goes out of line and is outside Tolkien's world. OK, maybe Radagast is a bit too ridiculous for a Wizard, but then again, according to Tolkien's own concepts, Radagast was indeed considered weird by his colleagues. Saruman has a great comment about this at some point, which I won't specify - just prepare for a good laugh.
The visual magnificence was expected, of course, but even I (big fan of LOTR - books AND movies) didn't expect so much of it. The style is different from LOTR - there's much more color in general, much more 'fantastically'- looking things, but after all, the Hobbit is a much lighter story than LOTR, and I think it was justified to make it more.... childish, in a way. This also goes for dialogue and acting, although the movie isn't without its serious scenes. My personal favorite for this (serious scene) is the moment when Bilbo has the chance to kill Gollum and doesn't - I was literally holding my breath while Sting was almost touching unsuspecting Gollum's throat....
Speaking of acting, hats down for Ian McKellen, AGAIN, who makes a Gandalf the Grey such as we've never seen in LOTR. He's magnificent at moments, a real wizard, but for most of the time, he's just as the Hobbit describes him - witty, energetic and mysterious at times. His very first appearance, in front of Bilbo's door, is funny as hell. His schemes here don't appear to be moving the story (although they're doing exactly that), and his concern for the 'bigger picture' doesn't become apparent until very late in the movie, and I suspect it will bear a lot of development in the other two movies.
Martin Freeman also rocks the world as Bilbo - a dignified and respectful hobbit, who finds himself in all sorts of ridiculous jams, but deals with them in his dignified and respectful way. Point to the trolls scene, where his serious arguments of how it's best to cook dwarves cracked me up.
R. Armitage was also good as Thorin Oakenshield, although he's more of an Aragorn - fighter kind, and as such not very interesting, beyond looking scary and brave in battle and honorable the rest of the time. And the rest of the cast is as usually up to PJ's high standarts.
But the best part about "The Hobbit - An unexpected journey" for me was the feel that I'm watching a movie, created by a master director who not only cares about making 'a blockbuster movie', but about a Universe - specifically this one of the great J. R. R. Tolkien. Just as in LOTR everything, even the deviations from the book were inserted in Tolkien Universe context, here in the Hobbit every single scene dripped with understanding and care for the spirit of Tolkien. Starting with the not-so-obvious hint of King Thror's corruption by his Ring ("He started caring for gold, etc. etc., and darkness fell over Erebor"), passing through a great development of the ancient hatred between elves and dwarves, reflected in Thorin's behavior towards Elrond, and the corruption of the Greenwood by an 'unknown' Necromancer. I almost jumped when Radagast called the spiders 'some spawn of Ungoliant', as I'm sure all you Tolkien aficionados will.
So, 10 out of 10. And I can barely wait for the other two movies, now sure that they'll fulfill my great expectations and be worthy of the great heritage of Tolkien.