I Saw A Film Today… The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

thehobbitPeter Jackson has a tinge of George Lucas in him, both good and bad. They both have a skill for making fantastical and epic films. Jackson also has a new-found way of annoying fans of a series. Or at least me. I genuinely believe the director could have condensed J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic tale into two films. Possibly one. Hey, with the Lord of the Rings he completed the series with 1:1 book/film ratio. And The Hobbit is quite shorter than those three books. Is it attention to detail or greed? You be the judge.

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). And like any well-rounded Hobbit, Bilbo is reserved and never goes on adventures. Then, one seemingly ordinary day, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) comes to The Shire in search of Bilbo to go on a dangerous adventure with him.

Quickly, Bilbo shrugs off Gandalf’s offer but the old wizard won’t take no for an answer easily. Later in the evening, Bilbo’s house unexpectedly begins to fill with brutish and hungry Dwarfs, led by the brave Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their mission:  To reclaim their home in The Lonely Mountains, and their vast amounts of gold to boot, from a terrible dragon named Smaug.

For this worthy quest, the thirteen Dwarfs need a burglar, which they believe poor Bilbo to be. As stated many times before, Bildo wants nothing to do with these adventurous shenanigans. But like most adventures in life, on the spur of a moment in the morning, Bilbo is dashing away towards danger with the company of Dwarfs. Along the way the group will encounter Trolls, Stone Giants, and a ragged but sinister creature with a love for riddles and rings.

In my youth, when LOTR mania was at its height and I was deep down the rabbit hole (in some ways I still am), I read J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic tale of Bilbo multiple times. I’m happy to say that Peter Jackson has made a faithfully exciting and visually stimulating adaptation of that book. Although I may need to go back over said book to remind myself of certain aspects.

But that doesn’t make this film flawless. This film sags more than once. Some scenes just seems to drag on for no reason. Especially the council meeting in Rivendell, in comparison to the one in The Fellowship of the Ring. And while on the subject of the previous films in this Middle Earth series, An Unexpected Journey doesn’t seems to stack up to those films in a lot of ways. Visually, for the most part, which is surprising considering the advances in CGI since the release of The Return of the King. Maybe this can be attributed to Jackson himself.

I don’t want you to think that An Unexpected Journey is not an enjoyable film, because it is. But it all is a little too late. The magic seems to be slightly tarnished with greed, more so than the Lord of the Rings. There is no reason this series of films couldn’t be squeezed into two films. Actually, squeezed is not the appropriate word, because squeezing implies it would be a difficult task. I understand that Jackson supposedly wants to include as much as he can in these films, but including everything is not always a good idea.

Martin Freeman shines as a young Bilbo. Freeman is a talented British comedian who just recently has caught the attention of American audiences. His reserved English demeanor is perfection for the equally reserved Hobbit.  As for Gandalf, Ian McKellan is just as effective and strong as he was in LOTR. And so are all the dwarfs, who you really get to know as “the old one” or “the two brothers” than by names for the most part. The brief appearance of other past characters is a welcome site as well, like Elijah Wood as Frodo, Ian Holm as old Bilbo, and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel (although I don’t remember her from the novel The Hobbit). And of course, And Andy Serkis is pure brilliance as Gollum, as if that was unexpected.

An Unexpected Journey is ultimately a very entertaining and fun adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Or part of an adaptation at least.

Verdict: SEE IT!

*Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images. 169 minutes.

**Poster by unknown.

*** Thanks to Marla “The Hobbit” Joy for sharing this cinematic adventure with me.

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