The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a visually stunning and welcome return to the world brought to life by Peter Jackson. Helping the movie are the performances of Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. Hurting the movie is Peter Jackson’s incapability to edit effectively.
Here’s the trailer:
Released December 14, 2012
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro. Based on the book by JRR Tolkien
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, and Cate Blanchett
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If you don’t know the story of The Hobbit, go read it before you see the movie. In fact, you probably ought to read The Silmarillion so you know where all of the additional stuff and mythology is coming from.
But if you don’t know what’s in The Silmarillion, you can still follow what happens in the movie.
To sum up: Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) is a hobbit, or a halfling, who has grown from a curious boy into a more staid adult. Gandalf shows up, followed by 13 dwarves led by Thorin, and recruits Bilbo to join them on a journey to reclaim Thorin’s homeland from a dragon called Smaug. Bilbo is at first reticent, but finally consents to join and off they go, meeting up with elves, trolls, rock giants, goblins, and more during their journey.
The movie draws significantly from The Silmarillion to pad out the story. It also fabricates an orc antagonist for Thorin to have a vendetta against– all to help the increase conflict and provide a handy place to stop this first film.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be loved and adored by fans of the series who will soak up every moment they get to spend in a new story in their beloved and familiar world. It will receive criticism for waxing a little unnecessarily long and for struggling with pacing and lacking the punch that Lord of the Rings delivered.
The fact is that this is a solid initial foray into the Hobbit storyline and into the stories that led up to the events in Lord of the Rings. The production values are, once again, eye-poppingly amazing. (This reviewer did not see this movie in the higher frame rate version.) The story is a little uneven, but not distressingly so. The acting is great, enhanced by some extraordinarily perfect casting.
Martin Freeman is the most recognizable performer here, what with the majority of his makeup being on his feet. He nails Bilbo’s hesitance, goodness, intelligence, vanity, and courage. Richard Armitage provides nobility, pride, and determination to Thorin. The rest of the dwarves begin to make themselves into distinct beings by the end of the movie, but 13 is a lot to keep track of.
So combine a competent (if somewhat unevenly paced) story with great production values, solid acting, and an immersion into a much-loved world and you have a great, big, chubby hit. Add some very good humor, Andy Serkis at his sniveling best as Gollum, and an awesome, extended chase scene in a goblin cavern, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be breaking records for the rest of the year.
Content warnings: plenty of fantasy violence and intense scenes
Writing: 4.5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
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