The Hobbit turns 10 and we may have mistreated him a little

The Hobbit turns 10 and we may have mistreated him a little

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey remains a divisive and difficult to evaluate cinematic object, one of those films that divide and will continue to divide fans and critics in an absolutely symmetrical way. It could not be otherwise given its clear distance from what was the original trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. Ten years ago, we were given a film that guided us towards a much lighter narrative dimension, distinctly different in terms of aesthetics, pace, as well as target audience, and certainly less revolutionary overall than what he had loved. Which is why many seemed to want to live almost on reflected light, on the memory of what Peter Jackson had offered. But was that first chapter really so lacking? Is it really considered a minor title? Or has this period of time served to find reasons for a radical revaluation?

A saga with a very troubled genesis

It is said that time can help to reevaluate everything, to change opinion, above all when it comes to cinema, we discover that in history many films that were considered failures, especially if they were sensational hits at the box office, were then re-evaluated. On the other hand, it has happened that films that had enjoyed the favor of the public and also of the critics, were then downsized in their importance, their iconicity and consideration was questioned, perhaps also due to the arrival of new interpretations and points of view on cinema and its purpose.

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey which opened the second trilogy dedicated to the works of J. J. Tolkien, is generally considered the best film of that second trilogy, which had an absolutely tormented genesis. The whole failed to repeat (and this objectively cannot be discussed) the refinement and the incredible impact that Peter Jackson had been able to give us with his Lord of the Rings. But despite this, 10 years later, the first film was and still remains a work as divisive as it is misunderstood.

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Just do a tour on social networks or in any blog, to still find today who sees in it a substantially ideological and artistic betrayal, and who, on the contrary, an enjoyable entertainment work, a colorful, entertaining fantasy film, an adventure perhaps more family-sized or for the teen audience, but not deserving of contempt or belittlement.

And taking into consideration the creative process of the saga, of that first film, one must always take into account the fact that the genesis of the second trilogy is one of the most tormented ever of the last twenty years, something that still today it cries out for vengeance. The director must have been Guillermo del Toro, a filmmaker who even recently with his Pinocchio has demonstrated an originality of gaze and vision that is unique in his genre. Del Toro had been strongly wanted by Peter Jackson to carry out a project developed in the basic lines of him almost simultaneously with the first trilogy, with Jackson who was simply to be the producer and screenwriter here. The collaboration between the two immediately seemed particularly positive, given the deep affinities that bound the two filmmakers, eager to create an original and surprising product.

However, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had a hand in ruining everything, the historic production company that began to navigate bad financial waters, thus delaying the shooting times and forcing the eventually the Mexican director to take a step back and leave the project in May 2010. Peter Jackson thus found himself forced to go back behind the camera in extremis, having to deal with difficulties, also in terms of timing and coordination absolutely immense on set. The script itself and above all the storyboard weren't complete yet when shooting started and basically it was a question of improvising, of completing everything as we went along. Something absolutely unheard of for a production of our days, which was added to a generally relaxed climate, given the legal precedents between Jackson and New Line Cinema, called into question by the Tolkien Estate for revenues from the first trilogy. To all this were added legal and logistical problems, which nearly took the filming from New Zealand to Eastern Europe.

Pros and cons of a film very different from the first trilogy

The Hobbit - an unexpected journey was conceived as something that would completely change the concept of special visual effects, giving a journey that was above all (but not only) a feast for the eyes. Hence the choice to use 48 fps High Frame Rate 3D, something that (at least in theory) would have enhanced Andrew Lesnie's photography.

However, the final effect by all accounts was quite inconsistent, not always credible outside the crowd scenes, especially as regards the interior scenes and it certainly helped to give many the impression that that first chapter of the Hobbit had not been treated as it deserved. Basically, a part of the public and critics seemed to confirm an inaccurate post-production, and of being faced with a pure commercial operation of little authenticity and credibility. And yet, to be completely honest, that first chapter of a trilogy which experienced dizzying ups and downs, thanks to the two protagonists absolutely in part, to fascinating costumes and an in any case imaginative and genuine world building, it's not that it probably has so many sins of which make amends.

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Martin Freeman picked up the witness of Ian Holm with great effectiveness and managed to give us a Bilbo Baggins who in all respects almost seemed the metaphor of the ordinary (not to say average) man, the one who from the comfort zone does not want to go out, lazy, listless, fearful, much more boring than he himself realizes. At least until he finds Ian McKellen's Gandalf on his way, who here had the opportunity to make his Gandalf even more structured and interesting, moving with his usual skill and charisma. Very colorful, flamboyant, as well as adventurous in the most classic sense of the term, this first film probably left the most faithful of the first trilogy quite bewildered, also due to the massive use of CGI that went in perfect contrast to what Del Toro had already shown want in a fantasy film . But above all, the latter was a choice that denied that atmosphere halfway between modernity and blockbuster of ancient times that had probably been the basis of the expressive power of Lord of the Rings. Erebor and his accursed treasures, Smaug and the tragedy of the dwarven people, Azog and his werewolves under the orders of this mysterious Necromancer… of course, it must be admitted, there were some iconic moments.

And then there were above all them, the dwarves, the "dirty dozen" who had to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor, that lost mountain and with it their homeland. Peter Jackson gave us a colorful and fun crew, in which homage to Japanese animation, to Kurosawa's cinema in particular, hovered, each one different, each one unique in his own way and armed with an easily recognizable and captivating personality. A very nice and boisterous company, commanded by him, from Thròr Oakenshield . Richard Armitage in all probability was not the best choice for the role, something that already emerged from that first film, in which he represented the tribulation between ambition and duty, but not only or not so much through his fault, as through an excess of " epicness” that struck him. In reality, the characterization of him at the level of the script probably turned out to be wrong, with that attempt to make him too excessively a sort of anti-hero who, however, looked like a human on a small scale. Indeed, since that first film, the aesthetics with which he and some dwarfs had been recreated compared to others seemed strange to someone, as if to distance himself from the pure "nanality" of the mythical Gimli.

A great adventure to rediscover

But nevertheless, with all its flaws and problems, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a wonderful adventure, with the ability to make us kids again, which then it was above all the cut towards which the whole operation aimed from the beginning. That is why it must also be recognized that perhaps the general public had loved Jackson's War of the Ring so much that they wanted to relive it again and again. He couldn't accept anything new or even minimally out of line with the memory of the first three films, of the revolution they represented. But the past is the past, Frodo himself had taught us in the Return of the King and as Fitzgerald wrote in the Great Gatsby, the past cannot be relived or brought back to life, it is a dangerous illusion. So why not look at that first film, at a fantasy with a beginning that is anything but bad or banal, with those picturesque dwarfs with inexhaustible resources, like a perfect mix of epic, mythology and irony?

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Look at the gallery Wasn't it a perfect film? Perhaps, indeed certainly. But it cannot be denied that there were frequent variations of atmosphere and rhythm that were anything but bad, as well as that Peter Jackson had managed to give us the vision of a world in the balance, besieged by a dark and lurking enemy, by an evil that crawled back into the world. The initial attack of Smaug, in which the Dragon lives on sounds and short and partial images, almost seemed to want to pay homage to the iconic nature of Spielberg's Jaws, the biblical concept of monstrosity as divine punishment. And then how can we forget the "party" at Bilbo's house, the battle of Nandhuirion, the meeting with the Trolls Berto, Maso and Guglielmo, and then Radagast the Brown (how good Sylvester McCoy was). Even just the scene of the escape from the city of Goblins in the Misty Mountains was worth the price of admission, and is still a great homage to the action comedies of the East à la Jackie Chan. There we also had the opportunity to reunite with the mythical Gollum of Andy Serkis, together with old traveling companions such as Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman.

But contrary to what would have happened with the Star Wars sequel trilogy, the heart beat not only in the old protagonists, because the new ones entered our imagination in a natural way, they were the engine for that new journey into Middle-earth, of which we discovered sides and characteristics that we did not know. Although the continuation of the saga has undergone a fairly evident qualitative decline, with the third film that still cries out for revenge and the second that was sacrificed for incoherent purposes, at least the beginning of Bilbo's adventures gave us something that still today deserves to be remembered. An Unexpected Journey is actually an entertainment product as in the last decade we would have liked to have more.

One can certainly be irritated by other defects of that saga, as well as by the variations wanted by Jackson, who however managed to make us very entertained. Something not easy considering the difficulties I will encounter, but you know, excessive expectations are sometimes even more insidious enemies than orcs, just ask Amazon Prime for information on the matter.

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