The tale in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey begins with the titular Hobbit (a short, hairy-footed man) named Bilbo Baggins played by Martin Freeman (The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Sherlock, Hot Fuzz) who is content with his ordinary life in The Shire. This all changes when a wizard, Gandalf the Grey played by Ian McKellen (The Golden Compass, X-Men: The Last Stand), offers up an opportunity of adventure that he can’t refuse with a band of 13 Dwarves to reclaim their home.
The Hobbit tells the story of the Dwarven race driven out from their home in the mountain, Erebor, by the terrible dragon Smaug. They become nomads traveling from place to place taking odd jobs and looking for a place to call home but Thorin Oakenshield, grandson of Thror the Dwarven king, has had enough of wondering the wilderness and amasses a company of 12 other Dwarves, a wizard and a Hobbit to help him defeat Smaug then take back Erebor.
The Hobbit is a great film that definitely feels like part of the Lord of the Rings universe with its own unique twist on the action. As expected from Peter Jackson (King Kong, The Lord of the Rings series) the direction is amazing with the film taking you on a journey and drawing you in more and more with each scene. The acting was top class with especially brilliant performances from Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger, Frozen) as Thorin. Although you don’t spend enough time with the band of Dwarves to know all of their characters individually, it’s easy to tell that they have their own personalities that differentiate them.
The Hobbit is only based on the first third of the novel but it does a good job of keeping things interesting and it doesn’t feel like just an introduction. I didn’t watch this in 48 frames per second but the visuals were great with stunning vistas and brilliant CGI animations (apart from one or two weak links) that really tie the film together and make Middle Earth a believable world. The musical score for The Hobbit was spectacular, Howard Shore (Hugo, The Departed, The Lord of the Rings series) brings the song Misty Mountains Cold to life in the main theme, using some tones from The Lord of the Rings to give an atmosphere of adventure with a Middle Earth mood. The music really brings the film together and sets a mood that immerses you in the film further and completes the whole experience. The Hobbit is a great movie to watch even though it seems like there’s something missing that’s keeping it from being a complete film. Comparisons will be made between it and The Lord of the Rings and they do share quite a few characters, but they’re two different sides of a coin. The Lord of the Rings is about stopping a incoming invasion and the personal struggles of desperation to destroy the ring while The Hobbit is about a journey to recapture the Dwarven home and about Bilbo’s adventure opening his eyes to the wider world and shaping his character.
For those of you who are more familiar with Tolkien’s novels, you’ll be glad to know it does a great job of converting the first third of the book onto the big screen and does add a bit of The Silmarilion back story to pad out the length, but it fits in perfectly and doesn’t feel out of place at all.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great film with top class acting, brilliant visuals and an interesting story but it feels like there’s something missing as a standalone movie. Fans of fantasy folklore and of films will really enjoy the experience but because nothing is resolved might feel a little short-handed. Fans of Tolkien will be pleased with the result but, as I’m wondering, will think that they could’ve compiled The Hobbit into one movie to make it a more fulfilling experience.
In Theaters: UK 13th December 2012/US 14th December 2012
Runtime: 2 hours 46 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening)
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow and Adam Brown
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Official Site: http://www.thehobbit.com
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