After I saw the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring way back in 2001, I rushed out and read all J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, starting with The Hobbit. I continued to enjoy the LOTR trilogy over the next two years, and I must admit, I am excited for The Hobbit Trilogy a decade later. Granted, three movies may be too much and a ploy by the Peter Jackson moneymaking machine, but I really don’t mind—it’s more to enjoy.
Here is a lengthy description of the first in the new trilogy, The Hobbit: An UnexpectedJourney, courtesy of IMDb: “Bilbo Baggins is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever ... Gollum.”
Let me start by saying how refreshing it was to see some familiar face in The Hobbit. Ian McKellan’s portrayal of Gandalf in LOTR is the stuff of legends, and he picked up right where he left off—which is amazing considering he's a decade older. Likewise, it was nice seeing Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee reprise their roles, albeit limitedly, as Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman respectively; meanwhile, seeing Ian Holm and Elijah Wood in cameo spots gave the film true LOTR authenticity.
In addition to the familiar faces, there were a bevy of new characters introduced in the film including the dragon Smaug, Martin Freeman as a young Bilbo Baggins, and a fellowship of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield, played brilliantly by Richard Armitage. The dragon really won’t become a factor until The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in December 2013, which brings me to Freeman.
I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Freeman prior to his casting other than the fact that he was on the BBC’s The Office. Even so, I wasn’t worried as all of Jackson’s LOTR casting choices have been spot on. Freeman not only handled the role of Bilbo admirably, he knocked it out of the park. He perfectly balanced the steadfast contentment and cautious wanderlust that characterizes Bilbo, and he also did a great job building the character’s confidence. Watching Bilbo’s progression turned out to be an unexpected journey of its own, one the culminated in a memorable interaction with Gollum, once again brilliantly played by Andy Serkis (Can someone please get that guy an Oscar?).
|Ben Robertson & Dan Almerli were the buddies for this movie.|
As far as the dwarves were concerned, they were entertaining, though a bit hard to keep track of. Thorin was properly fleshed out and is the Strider/Aragorn of the film, but the others were hard to distinguish from one another. With that said, there are still two full-length films to go, so I’m sure that problem will resolve itself.
In regards to the story, I loved how the focus was on the dwarves’ journey but there were also side stories that feed into the LOTR lore. For instance, the necromancer living in the abandoned castle—that’s Sauron; likewise, Radagast the Brown, played by Sylvester McCoy, provided a sneak peek into the wider world of wizards. The story had me entertained throughout, so in that regard it did it’s job well.
While I liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as a whole, I had one major qualm—some of the visuals were overwhelming. At times there was so much going on that it was near impossible to process it all. This usually occurred in the action-packed, CGI-generated scenes, like when the dwarves were running through the Orc kingdom. Granted, I didn’t see it in 3D (I wish I had but my friend’s eyes don’t allow him to see 3D movies), so it’s possible such scenes look better in the third dimension.
For me, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a great installment in the LOTR saga. It uses the same formula, a wise decision as it’s a proven success, and the consistency of the actors and filmmakers makes the film authentic—by that I mean it doesn’t feel as if it was thrown together to make a quick buck; instead, it’s been made in such a way as to do justice to both the source material and the fans. It’s a little more whimsical than its predecessors, but keep in mind that’s the way the book wass written (for children as opposed to young adults). To put it simply... if you liked LOTR, you should like The Hobbit—I know I did.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 90%