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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » January 31, 2013
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
January 31, 2013   
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Middle Earth had to wait almost a decade for Peter Jackson to return. When The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third and last installment of the great Tolkien trilogy, premiered in 2003, it won Jackson and co. 11 Academy Awards. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) put it in its top 10 greatest movies of all time.

After The Lord of the Rings saga was completed, Jackson said he eventually wanted to follow up with The Hobbit, but a dispute with his producers put the project on ice. Instead, pursuing a childhood dream, Jackson came up with an unremarkable remake of King Kong in 2005. His next offering, four years later, was The Lovely Bones, a crime-fantasy drama which failed to draw much attention from global audiences.

The New Zealand-born director is now back, doing what he does best—creating a monumental cinematic work divided into three parts. The first of the three installments clocks in at almost 170 minutes and you can bet the other two will not be much shorter. This approach was pretty easy with The Lord of the Rings, as the literary original was vast and even had to be shortened for the film versions. But turning The Hobbit, which Tolkien wrote before The Lord of the Rings, into an adaptation of such gargantuan proportions is a different kettle of fish, requiring many subplots to be expanded and some completely new material to be added to the storyline. The Hobbit was a slim book written with children in mind. So how do you make three feature-length movies out of it?

The script has been somewhat unnaturally stretched out, and it shows in the first part of the new trilogy. That is not to say the movie is boring, far from it, but fast-paced battle scenes are followed by sections of long-winded dialogue which more impatient viewers could find tedious. What saves the day are the high-end special effects, which show how a decade in the present-day film industry is like a whole era.

Apart from the familiar faces from the previous trilogy playing Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman, Jackson has opted for actors who are little known to most moviegoers. Due to the myriad of new characters introduced in the first Hobbit movie, it all gets slightly confusing. Among the characters are 13 dwarves, but none of them comes even close to the charismatic Gimli played by John Rhys-Davies a decade ago. A notable exception is Martin Freeman (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Love Actually) cast in the titular role of a young Bilbo Baggins. Unlike Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, played by Elijah Wood with a never-changing and depressed face, Freeman’s Bilbo is rather compelling as the initially unwelcome and reluctant hero.

As you sit through the first part of The Hobbit, you will probably agree with the American Film Academy in its decision to nominate the movie for Oscars for best achievement in visual effects and best achievement in makeup and hairstyling. The latter category mainly applies to the aforementioned 13 dwarves, whose hairpieces have become a trademark of sorts for the movie. The first Hobbit movie has also garnered a third Academy Award nomination for best achievement in production design. Which, if any, of the nominations will turn into actual Oscars will be revealed at the end of February.
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