From themes that awash me in vivid recollection of characters and sweeping Middle Earth scenery, to melodies that haunt and entertain, Howard Shore has produced a fantastic return to Tolkien’s universe. Songs that once possessed only vague tunes in my head as a young child now reverberate strongly and playfully with melodies wonderfully sung by the Dwarf Cast, (such as Blunt the Knives),and serve as gems amongst diamonds.
Now, having sincerely and lovingly said that, I must also report that this score is lighter than LOTR (but not flimsy). The Hobbit score’s overall feel has a less haunting emotion backing it, but embraces the book’s lightness. As for individual themes…
Some themes that are fresh to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, (such as Gandalf’s short, Six Gnossiennes reminiscent theme and the epic Misty Mountains melody) are memorable and stir my very soul with delight. Other favorites of mine include The Adventure Begins, The Trollshaws, Thunder Battle, and Riddles in the Dark. Others, such as Bilbo’s hesitant string theme (An Unexpected Party) are perhaps more forgettable than previous LOTR Hobbit selections, despite being an effective scene supporter. Meanwhile, Radagast’s panic stricken danger tune (Radagast the Brown) in which violins rasp with foreboding threat works well in the film, but frays my nerves when heard solely in my head-phones. But the only cringe-worthy track is Neil Finn’s rendition of the Song of the Lonely Mountain, which wouldn’t be half so horrible if only the lyrics were from the book, and not a re-telling of the movie script with a rhyme scheme. Then again, have I ever enjoyed a movie’s credits music, even with Annie Lennox’s tones reaching my ear? I must say that I found Finn’s voice pleasant and clear, and really can’t complain….that much.
But I’ve negatively digressed–the score is deep and, more importantly, fun to listen to. Themes from previous LOTR films, like that of Rivendell, are predominantly featured…in my web searching, I’ve found that many complain about this fact. But this reality seems only natural, seeing as we’re still in Middle Earth, and many familiar locations are revisited. Shore has composed a great work, with few cons weighing down the many pros in my viewpoint.
Firstly, the casting is phenomenal. Having read Tolkien’s first work so many times, I had a definite and absolute mental picture of what Bilbo Baggins should look like. I was not disappointed. Martin Freeman‘s performance was absolutely perfect; his portrayal of a homebody Baggins trying to tap into his inner Took side was phenomenal. Standing out from amongst their dwarven brethren in both number of lines, facial zoom-ins, and character were Richard Armitage (Thorin), Ken Scott (Balin), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Dean O’Gorman (Fili), Aidan Turner (Kili), and James Nesbitt (Bofur). However, Ian McKellan‘s return as Gandalf was the clincher. We can’t have Middle Earth without the timeless Gandalf.
As for the LOTR appendices “add-ins”…such as, Radagast the Brown and Azog, the one armed, hook fisted villain, I can only applaud. As extremely silly as the animal loving Radagast is, I couldn’t help but desire a bunny sleigh to ride into town on. Azog’s presence also adds more danger to the dwarves’ homeless plight. Seeing as An Unexpected Journey only used about 100 pages of the original Hobbit story, the two upcoming sequels have 170 pages of Hobbit to work with, along with a sure mixing of other Tolkien tidbits.
The only tiring thing about the movie lies at its beautiful source: The Hobbit is a children’s book. This fact leads to a much lighter plot, which involves sometimes “silly” occurrences in what LOTR fans might expect to be dark. However, having always known and loved The Hobbit’s tone, the only distraction I experienced while attempting to reach full movie immersion was my recognition of the movie’s recurring battle theme. Step 1) Fight begins 2) Characters fight valiantly but are soon overcome by foes 3) The rest of the party rushes in and saves the day, while booming Misty Mountains themes foreshadow their victory. But this isn’t really a complaint. No group of warriors–however ardent or lucky–can survive on their own without backup. And so, even this I can brush off.
In other words, I’m such a fan of the original material and of director Peter Jackson’s respect of Tolkien’s work, that both add-ins and recurring last minute “saves” were delightful and caused uncontrollable joy. Anything that prolongs my time in Middle Earth is a welcome friend.
But what really seals these excellent movies lies beyond seamless CG and breath-taking locations. These movies show that a film can be completely clean and still retain excellent quality. No curse words or illaudable content material mar this film.
I highly recommend this fantastic adventure.