Hobbit, The: An Unexpected Journey

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: +2

Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis (back as the demonic and creepy Gollum), Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett. Sci-Fi action adventure fantasy. Written by Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens. Directed by Peter Jackson.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A group of dwarves bring a hobbit named Bilbo on their quest to find a treasure, which just so happens to be guarded by an unfriendly dragon. Along the way the group is menaced by other unfriendlies, including mean goblins and ugly wargs.

A simple tale written in 1937, the fantasy adventure maintains themes of loyalty, courage and honor. Its premise is set 60 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with some of the same characters that include the wizard Gandaf (Ian McKellen) and that creepy-crawler Gollum (Andy Serkis). Director Peter Jackson also takes other fairy-tale exploits and places them within this whimsical tale.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Iíve observed that those of this era demand change and a daily dose of new. This includes the look of movies and how they watch them. It has become rather passť to watch a movie with only two dimensions. The latest new is the ultra-vivid, high-frame-rate 3-D (projected in 3-D, at the 48 frames per second rate). Quite honestly, without this visual process, there would be little to discuss concerning The Hobbit.

Oh, I know the Tolkien trekkers will cry foul at that denouncement, but despite its wealthy budget and epic (or overblown) nature (there will be three of these films, oh boy), itís a film that lacks charm or significance. I found the shiny, ultra-ultra sharp look often distracting. It was more like a highbred video game than a movie.

I fear that action/adventure filmmakers such as Peter Jackson, like George Lucas some time back, have become so engrossed with the technical trickery of the new cinema that their stories have become second place Ė or even further down the line of importance. Though times are a-changing, I maintain story and character and theme must be the focus and that gimmicks, like a filmís soundtrack, must be there to support these main elements, not become them.

As for spiritual significance, I found little. Oh, Bilbo the Hobbit learns life lessons, developing a caring, sacrificial nature, but whatever Christian symbolism the story contains is significantly disguised by tons of violent action that even includes beheadings by creatures with a demonic appearance. You have to dig awfully deep to get through the humanism that passes for spiritual enlightenment.

Tolkien once said, "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence." He added that The Lord of the Rings was "neither allegorical nor topical." Because the author was an intellectual with religious leanings, some tend to link symbolism with every scribbling he made. For me itís easier to see the Emperorís new clothes than spiritual enlightenment in The Hobbit. It was more fantasy actioneer than deeply seeded morality play.

This year movie-makers provided thought-provoking parables along with imagery that has a visceral impact in Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Les Miserables. Each had action but also had heart, and none of them seemed apologetic for the profound themes. Not so much here. But I admit, it would be doing The Hobbit an injustice to call it a mere violent fairytale, devoid of sophisticated complexity. Tolkien infused his fable with studied mythology and it is easy to find tried-and-true plot elements. In other words, itís not a bad film. Itís not Jacksonís King Kong. But neither is it his The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Trivia: Here are the names of the 13 dwarves that lead Bilbo on his adventure: Thorin Oakenshield, Gloin, ”in, Ori, Nori, Dori, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: Many sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images; during battle more than one head is whacked off. No blood, which is weird considering a couple of guys get their heads cut off.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: The lead smokes from a huge pipe

Other: We see scary spirits of the dead; several creatures, including Gollum are downright demonic looking; witchcraft.

Running Time: 166 minutes
Intended Audience: Older kids and up

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