Director: Peter Jackson
Nominated: Production Design; Visual Effects; Hair and Makeup
As you guys already know Peter Jackson’s epic masterpiece Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003) had a pretty big impact on my life and I eagerly awaited the long overdue Hobbit prequel – although prequel is a rubbish term because it’s actually an excellent story in its own right. I had resigned myself to having Guillermo del Toro directing. And then he left the project and Jackson returned and all was good again because lets face it The Hobbit just wouldn’t have felt right without the skilled leadership of Peter Jackson. And I was not disappointed by this return to Middle Earth!!
The production design is once again absolutely exquisite but then Jackson brought back his incredibly talented production crew and artistic team, including world re-known Tolkien artists John Howe and Alan Lee, so you wouldn’t expect anything less than beautiful craftsmanship. And now thanks to this new trilogy of films Hobbiton really exists so all the fellow geeks like myself can go and experience a tiny slice of Middle Earth. But I digress … back to the film.
As with the production design the visual effects are again everything you would expect from the team that created new technologies when working on the Lord of the Rings. The goblins especially are grotesque yet perfect in that grotesqueness. And all under the rule of the bulbous Goblin King voiced by the legendary Barry Humphries. The alternate space occupied when wearing the Ring is somewhat subtler but it could be argued that it is due to Sauron being dormant and not actively seeking the Ring.
Andy Serkis is truly magnificent as Gollum, full of joy when winning, albeit briefly, at the game of riddles with Bilbo. It’s interesting watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now when we have knowledge of all the following events. For instance I can’t help but feel affectionate towards Gollum, or rather Smeagol, because of the way his character developed throughout the Lord of the Rings. Equally I cannot trust anything Saruman says or any advice he may give due to the revealing of his treachery in the Lord of the Rings.
I adore all the little bits Jackson includes for both Tolkien fans and fans of the films. I sat there with the biggest grin on my face from the very start, when it was Ian Holm back as old Bilbo just beginning to document his story. And having Frodo back too – putting up the sign for the birthday party and then going off to wait for Gandalf. It’s the little things like this that tie the two trilogies together – linking the past with the future. When Gandalf calls for aid from Radagast it’s the same moth and piece of music used when he calls for aid when held at Isengard in The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with my mum (also a Tolkien geek and the one who introduced me to this incredible world) and my sister, a fan of the films but has never read the novels. I felt so bad for her because she was sat between us so was getting geek out on both sides especially when “the eagles are coming!” But my best example of being an unbergeek when it comes to Middle Earth was recognizing that Gandalf’s line to Bilbo, “Home is behind and the world is ahead” was not actually Tolkien but rather Jackson – or even Billy Boyd (our loveable Pippin) as he wrote the song – using lyrics from one of Pippin’s scenes in The Return of the King (2003).
Howard Shore returns to provide another stunning score. The dwarves song really should have been nominated for Best Original Song. It’s a spine-tingling moment when Thorin (Richard Armitage) begins their lament! On the whole the makeup and hair is excellent especially the dwarves, but at the start there are a few moments where the hobbit feet look a bit too rubbery. The costume department have done a marvelous job outfitting all the dwarves and creating an individual look for each while at the same time having familial links between them like with Kili and Fili and Nori, Dori and Ori. I particularly like Bombour who reminds me of Obelix from the Asterix and Obelix comics. And the detail that went into creating a visual link between Gloin and his son Gimli beyond just having the same axes is outstanding.
Ian McKellen is resplendent in his return as Gandalf, revealing his more humorous and mischievous side. Indeed humor has a big part in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I always laughed when Gandalf is vainly trying to do a head count as they run away from another disaster. I loved finally getting to meet Radagast the Brown. He’s wonderfully flighty and eccentric played to perfection by Sylvester McCoy.
The dwarves are brilliant, all bouncing off each other wonderfully and have a tangible sense of camaraderie between them. My favourite is Kili but then he is played by the magnificent Aidan Turner and oh so very pretty! The little things that set them apart like Bifur’s orc axe in his head which has rendered him speechless; Dwalin with his tattoos; Bombour’s epic ginger braid right across his rotund belly and his constant eating (he could give the Hobbits a run for their money!); Ori in his cardigan! And it’s nice to finally have a face to put to Balin, Lord of Moria during the Lord of the Rings. On a side note can you name all 13 of the dwarves? And if you can how quickly can you do it? (Answers at the end of the blog … no cheating now!)
By far the stand out performance is Marin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He is spectacular … lovable, funny and brave incorporating all the aspects of Ian Holm’s Bilbo while creating the character as his own. I know some people had concerns about him when he was initially cast but he definitely blew them out of the water with his portrayal of this incredible little hobbit. I cannot wait to see more of him in The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and There And Back Again (2014). I’m also aware that many feel the decision to split a slim book into 3 films unnecessary but I approve of it. If they had tried to fit everything into one film it would have felt too rushed and resulted in a substandard adaptation. And I love that Peter Jackson’s ultimate plan is for us to be able to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey all the way through to the end of The Return of the King and have the entire history make sense. Roll on Christmas 2013 and the next installment of The Hobbit!!
Dwarves names as promised. So we have … Nori, Dori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombour, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili and Thorin