The trilogy of Lord of the Rings films was a commercial and critical bonanza, earning almost $3 billion at the box office and winning a Best Picture Oscar.
Now along comes another planned trilogy, a prequel trilogy as a matter of fact, beginning today with “The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey.”
Been there, done that, or as my Tolkien fan friends of mine would prefer me to say, Been There and Back Again. That best sums up my reaction to this fourth three hour installment of J.R.R Tolkein’s Middle Earth saga, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Unfortunately, there’s nothing very “unexpected” in this go-round at all. The wizard Gandalf? Check! The hobbits Bilbo Baggins and Frodo? Check. Lots of dwarfs and elves? Check. And that conniving, desperate, and vulnerable CGI creation Gollum? But of course! Sound familiar? Of course it does.
And that troublesome ring shows up – all slow-motion shiny – just like it does in all those other Ring movies.
And yes, there’s a quest at the heart of The Hobbit – this time, not a quest for that particular ring but for a restored homeland for the displaced dwarfs.
This quest necessitates countless battles with all manner of evil creatures like goblins and orcs. And indeed these battle scenes are spectacular to behold – again, just like in the original trilogy.
In fact, there are a couple of great set pieces, including a fight between two giants who are quite literally “mountain men,” and an elaborate underground world that rivals Hieronymous Bosch or Dante’s circles of hell for intricately detailed particulars.
But even the spectacular can get tiresome when it’s spectacular in the same way over and over. Given its 2 hour and 46 minute running time, there’s plenty of time to do “spectacular” over and over and over. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
Both Tolkein fans and Peter Jackson’s Ring Trilogy fans will no doubt gorge themselves on this overkill, the undeniably exuberant excess of The Hobbit. But the rest of us might be better off pushing ourselves away from the Tolkien table before that bloated feeling sets in.