DISPROVING Gandalf’s twinkly-eyed assertion that “All good stories deserve embellishment,” this first instalment of Peter Jackson’s planned three-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s slender single-volume children’s adventure can’t help but seem like a self-indulgent folly.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Warner Home Video, £21.99
Boasting the same epic treatment that Jackson brought to bear on his mammoth adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy a decade ago, An Unexpected Journey barely gets going as a mythological quest, despite a running time of nearly three hours. Instead it spends eons setting up characters and plots in needlessly intricate detail and loses focus on both the story at hand and, more worryingly, its hobbit hero: Bilbo Baggins. That’s a shame, because while Martin Freeman is perfect, the character isn’t very present – to the point where it feels as if Freeman has himself slipped on the One Ring and disappeared into the darkest depths of Mordor. A late appearance from Andy Serkis’s still-magnificent Gollum remind us of how magical this could be, but in the end, The Hobbit feels like the cinematic equivalent of taking a long walk off a short pier.
Mission to Lars - Clear Vision, £16.99
There’s more quest action – though of a very different sort – in the documentary Mission to Lars, which follows British siblings Kate and Will Spicer in their efforts to fulfil their brother Tom’s dream of meeting his hero: Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. The kicker is that the Lars-obsessed Tom also suffers from Fragile X, a form of autism “with bells on” that not only makes it difficult for him to communicate with others, but hard for him to deal with crowds or, ahem, loud noise. What follows is a rather touching and informative, albeit slightly contrived, documentary detailing not just the Spicers’ efforts to track down Metallica on their US tour, but also Kate and Will’s evolving relationship with their brother as their understanding of his condition deepens. True, the combination of these elements does initially seem slightly contentious, with the entire concept feeling like a needlessly complicated and narcissistic way for journalist Kate and filmmaker Will to assuage some of their own guilt for not always being there for their brother (as someone asks in the film: don’t Metallica tour the UK?). Stick with it, though, and it’s hard not to warm to all involved – with Ulrich himself proving a bit of a sweetie.
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