Thrice more into the fray
I still remember heading along with my younger sister and my dad on the day of my Confirmation to see Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when it first came out in the 80s. I didn’t/don’t believe in religion, but I sure as hell believed in the power of the force. Obliviously not in a biblical sense, but in a decent karma sort of vibe. Be good, and good things will happen (eventually).
To be honest, I’ve always preferred Star Trek over Star Wars, to me it used science, humanity and intelligence over blowing everything up to resolve issues. And Star Trek’s Chief Engineer Scotty is effectively the MacGyver (my real hero) of the Starfleet Command, using chewing gum and a Swiss Army phaser to save the day.
All this came flooding back within seconds of the beautiful opening bars of Howard Shores’ soundtrack to Peter Jackson’s somewhat expected return pilgrimage to the Shire in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. Within moments you are back in a very familiar land, instantly recognisable and heart-warming.
It’s been over 10 years since ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001) but it may have well been just moments, the only thing that has changed is everything looks brighter, younger, fresher as the forthcoming darkness hasn’t really taken a claw hold yet.
Unlike the Star Wars series, once completed, all episodes of the Rings series will sit very well side by side, with each other, rather than the mess/visual range of the Jedi adventures. And they will age gracefully forever more.
Irrespective of the various demons, monsters and now dragons that the inhabitants of Middle Earth come up against, the greatest battles they face are more often than not, with themselves. Where seemingly minute decisions have potential epic consequences or become the seeds of legendary bravery. Clearly Peter Jackson seems to be a man of high morale integrity and seeps this series in the rewards of hard graft, honesty, encouraging one to live life to the fullest and taking that leap of faith into an adventure.
Bilbo Baggins (truly wonderfully played by Martin Freeman) eventually sees the futility of was is effectively a consumerist doily collecting lifestyle safe existence in the Shire. With the gentle encouragement of Gandalf (Ian McKellen once again owning the role), that gentle encouragement arriving in the form of a myriad of dwarves arriving unannounced (to Bilbo at least) at his home for a big meeting. It really sets home a simple premise – no matter how much annoyance we may feel in certain situations, the emptiness of it’s departure makes us realise what we maybe should have appreciated it, in the moment.
So the band of potential miscreants head off on their journey to deal with a rather nasty dragon called Smaug, who has captured the homeland of the Dwarves. The adventure begins.
It’s a tad unfair to be over critical of what we know to be just a chapter (this the first of three) in an epic series. And we already know the long term outcome of a lot of the characters involved. In reality, the entire series should be viewed as one, which I can’t wait to do. But for the moment it plays like a collection of set pieces as the group head along the road to their goal. Meeting various precarious situations and gaining information about forthcoming friends and foes. Possibly my favourite moment being the return of the brilliant Andy Serkis as Gollum.
And it’s all wonderfully/beautifully visualised and rendered. Though it has to be said that the much promoted HFR (High Frame Rate being 48 frames rather than the normal 24 frames) technology used in the making of the movie, is a doubled edged Elf sword. It’s high definition clarity is at times mesmerising beautiful as in real landscapes and a lot of Weta’s incredible CGI work, but also really dreadful and fake looking in interior scenes such as Bilbo’s house.
At certain times it seems to bring a sterile coldness to what is a wonderfully warming movie. Of course this isn’t going to be noticed by younger folk though, which this movie is clearly aimed at, and it reminds me of the everlasting debate between advocates of vinyl versus cd, which rightly so, kids aren’t going to care about.
I saw all of the Rings movies each subsequent Christmas of the years they came out. The Hobbit continues this wonderful tradition of a truly great Christmas movie experience that individuals, friends and families can enjoy together. There aren’t really many moments like that around, we should maybe learn to recognise and embrace them before they are gone.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is out in the UK from 12th December and released by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc