The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (a short review)
How did the Hobbit ruin the boxing match? He destroyed the ring!
And that, my friends, sums up the film by Peter Jackson. However, I cannot leave it at that. I, of course, have the unrelenting need to share my opinions and to convince you that they are gold. So, sit back while I wax poetic about this fine piece of cinematic art.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of three in a highly anticipated trilogy from director Peter Jackson. You remember him, don’t you? He’s the same Peter Jackson that crammed the unforgettable Lord of the Rings trilogy down our Tolkien hungry throats. The Lord of the Rings films won many awards and caused many debates. Every little ring bearing geek from here to the shire had an opinion on the films. Jackson was declared a master of the art by some and a heretic by others. He may be a little of both, but what Jackson is most definitely guilty of is being long winded. The Rings trilogy is looooooong. By the final film, I was crying uncle and I always thought that it was because they were so long. However, The Hobbit reminded me of the real reason.
I read The Hobbit, written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1937, when I was a teenager, maybe 13 or 14 years old. I naturally continued the journey and read the Lord of the Rings books. I remember really liking The Hobbit and grinding my way through Lord of the Rings. Twenty-five or so years later, the film The Hobbit brought those feelings back.
An Unexpected Journey is fun. That’s the bottom line. Whereas the Rings trilogy is dark and brooding, The Hobbit is filled with whimsical moments, inspirational adventure, intense danger, and heroic triumphs. Like the book, the film has a very different tone than the Rings trilogy and it is a breath of fresh air. It makes sense as the Lord of the Rings stories were written during horrific times for the people of Great Britain, Tolkien’s country of origin.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is about Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit living in the quiet comforts of the shire. He is a relaxed and content Hobbit that cares for doilies and dishes passed down to him from his mother and grandmother. All is well for Bilbo until Gandalf the Grey surprises him with an unwanted invite to join him and a band of dwarves on an adventure to win back a mountain full of gold guarded by a dragon named Smaug. The gold is just an excuse to reclaim the dwarf kingdom stolen from them long ago by the same dragon. At first, Bilbo doesn’t want anything to do with it, but seeing that his life is dull and wanting, he quickly joins the band of quirky brothers.
Martin Freeman stars as Biblo Baggins and he is wonderful. Martin was a last minute casting call from Jackson and we should be thankful that he was so picky. Freeman is charming, witty, physical, and as meek as a Hobbit should be. Fans of British television know him from two great shows: The Office and Sherlock. He is a fine actor and his Bilbo Baggins is perfect. His performance alone makes the film worth watching, but thankfully, we have more reasons.
Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey. This is a different Gandalf from the Rings trilogy. First, he’s 60 years younger in The Hobbit. Secondly, he’s not as secure in who he is. Though still powerful, Gandalf is really trying to find his place among the wizards of Middle Earth. He is still not sure whether his worldview is the right one or not, but he’s going to stick with it to the end regardless. This Gandalf is just realizing how powerful the heart truly is; a lesson he takes with him into the Rings trilogy. It’s fun to watch the beginning of a character’s deep rooted development. McKellen also delivers some of the most inspirational lines in the film.
Andy Serkis, once again, steals the show with his performance as Gollum. My favorite part of the book was the battle of wits between Gollum and Bilbo. The film has perfect pitch when delivering this classic scene. It is by far the best scene in the film. Gollum, of course, is CGI; however, technology allowed Jackson to incorporate Serkis’s performance 100 percent. Just because we never really see Serkis on screen, doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a nod from the Academy. This guy is great. What can I say? I love this character and you will, too.
Newcomer to the series is Richard Armitage as the would be dwarf king Thorin. Armitage, who is reported to be 6’5″, is regal as the leader of the dwarves. Try watching the film and picturing Thorin bigger than 4’8″. The special effects are excellent and the acting superb. Thorin’s booming voice carries the weight of authority and his face wears the lines of struggle for his people. When Thorin enters a room, all take notice, and they should. He’s a bad little dude with one thing on his mind and one thing only: revenge. I believe he’ll get it, too; one way or another. Armitage should get a nomination for his performance. We’ll wait and see. Another perfect casting call by Jackson.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes in at 189 minutes. That’s a long movie, but it never felt like it. This film surpasses the Rings trilogy in story, technology, cinematography and popcorn. I ate a bag of popcorn too fast and had a stomach cramp after.
For all the fans of the book out there, remember that this is a film. There are things that need to be added or changed for the sake of storytelling on the big screen. That being said, I think that Jackson has been as faithful and careful to preserve the Tolkien tales as anyone could imagine. But, it’s still a movie and movies are different than books. Go and be entertained. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fun ride and I’m looking forward to part two and three.
And now for your viewing pleasure: