I’m not a film reviewer/critic. I have yet to find a professional critic who completely shares my tastes in entertainment. But that’s because we’re all just people and we like different stuff. And that’s cool.
All across the Internet, reviews of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY warned me of a bloated movie-going experience upon viewing Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth. And if I were to nitpick the film, I’d surely find flaws—areas where elements could be tightened up and what not. But flaws are in everything. Because nothing and no one is perfect. Not even the greatest films of all time.
And for me, THE HOBBIT not only worked as filmed, but I found it entertaining, funny, and enchanting.
One of the most frequent criticisms thrown at AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is the dwarfs’ extended stay at Bilbo’s hole in the ground at the very beginning of the film. It actually doesn’t take that long. It takes about as long as it took Frodo to leave the Shire in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Maybe even faster. And it also strikes similar notes of FotR with a few quick nods to that first film in the previous trilogy.
In FotR, the extended opening sequence was important for raising the stakes. I think the slow build of THE HOBBIT serves a different but similar purpose, and honestly, the first time I watched FotR, I had a similar feeling—that it took a long time to get where it was going. But after multiple viewings of that film, I’ve grown to appreciate the slow build that introduced us to the Hobbits. And going into AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, I kinda expected the journey to begin almost, but not quite, leisurely. Thus, I enjoyed spending time getting to know the dwarfs, reuniting with Gandalf and empathizing with young Bilbo. Especially, after anticipating that once things got going the story would only grow more intense. That’s what stories are supposed to do.
“A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
As an audience (especially in these modern times), we tend to rush a story along because we want to see what’s next. Heck, in this particular case, we already know what’s next. That’s precisely why we want to hurry it up. But the characters themselves must remain true to the world they exist in regardless of speed. Storytelling isn’t particularly about fast or slow. It’s about telling the truth of the characters and that world. And that’s what Peter Jackson has done.
A cat confronts his fear of birds.