Review of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

1st film in the 'The Hobbit' series

the_hobbit_an_unexpected_journey.jpg After years of wrangling and waiting the first of the Hobbit trilogy is now with us. Peter Jackson once again brings his magic to the world of Tolkien to film the un-filmable.

The Hobbit is a small novel by Tolkien that comes before the events of The Lord of the Rings and tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (played here by Martin Freeman) as he is persuaded to join a group of dwarves to reclaim their lost kingdom of Erebor which is now occupied by the dragon Smaug. The movie begins with Bilbo receiving unexpected visitors in the form of a gang of dwarves as well as a certain wizard, Gandalf (played again by Ian McKellen) who want him on their quest as a “thief”. He denies their advances but eventually relents and chases after their party. A number of adventures befall the group from pretty much the beginning with gangs of orcs, goblins, trolls, and, believe it or not, battling mountains (!). While attempting to escape from the goblins Bilbo comes across Gollum (played by Andy Serkis) in his wet lair beneath a mountain, accidentally coming across the “precious” (the one ring, of course) and stealing it away.

We saw The Hobbit in IMAX 3-D late at night and were blown away by the scale of the movie. The action is incredibly realistic but also headache-inducing in it's complexity meaning it was often difficult to follow what was happening (ok, maybe five rows from the front of an IMAX screen is not the best place to view, neither was the late night thing…). The set pieces are unrelenting sequences of unbelievable action (in the “yeah, right” as well as the “wow” sense) and that is basically what this film is composed of: Set up, a few scenes of climbing mountains (seemingly almost an advertisement for New Zealand, where this film was shot), then action, action, action all the way to the end of the movie. The effects are amazing showing how much they have moved on in the few years since Lord of the Rings making it impossible to tell reality from illusion (if you thought Lord of the Rings was hyper-realistic…). The acting is adequate and enjoyable with a few lighthearted moments thrown into the middle of the bloody carnage on the screen. Freeman does appear to be in a perpetual state of shock (perhaps appropriately enough) but his blank face does wear a bit after a while…even when he is a hero he denies it perhaps a bit TOO much - very much over the top.

Having said all of this, I did enjoy the film. The story does not lend itself to the length to which is has been portrayed in these three films so the material is a bit thin on the ground meaning the slack is picked up by massively unbelievable fight sequences that, yes, get a bit tiring after a while (“who are they fighting now?” - you seem to often lose track). Yes, I was a bit disappointed after the Lord of the Rings movies but it was never going to have the depth of story and wonder of these initial films.

An Unexpected Journey is a spectacular movie to behold and I know I will be there for the remaining two.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2012-12-27

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Studio: New Line Cinema

Year: 2012

Length: 169 minutes

Genre: Fantasy

Other reviewed films in the 'The Hobbit' series:

Other reviewed films by Peter Jackson: