Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 169 minutes
Release Date: December 14, 2012
Directed by: Peter Jackson
OVERVIEW – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a fantasy film based on “The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is the first film in a trilogy, and the other two parts are scheduled for release in 2013 and 2014. Director Peter Jackson also wrote the screenplay in collaboration with Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Guillermo del Toro. Most of the events in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” take place sixty years before the occurrences in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which was also directed by Jackson. The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) hires Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to join thirteen dwarves on a quest to slay Smaug the dragon.
The film opens on Bilbo’s 111th birthday, shortly before the beginning of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Bilbo is writing the story of his adventures sixty years ago for his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). His story begins when the dwarf Thror is crowned king of Erebor, which begins a prosperous time in that kingdom. The dragon Smaug is attracted to the gold the dwarves have gathered and drives them out of Erebor. Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) beseeches the nearby wood elves for aid to no avail.
Thorin and twelve of his kinsmen begin recruiting allies to recover the treasure that Smaug has stolen from them. Gandalf recruits Bilbo as the party’s burglar, who reluctantly joins the dwarves on their quest. The party is captured by mountain trolls, but Gandalf exposes them to sunlight, which turns the trolls to stone. The team discovers the trolls’ cave and their treasure inside it, including the elvish blades Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting.
The party then encounters the wizard Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), who informs the group of a presence in Dol Guldur that is poisoning that area. The party eventually makes its way to Rivendell, where they meet with elven king Elrond (Hugo Weaving). The party continues traveling to the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo becomes separated from the group. Bilbo encounters the creature Gollum and steals his magic ring, which makes its wearer invisible. Bilbo rejoins the dwarves, and they are ambushed by orcs led by Azog, whose arm was cut off in a previous battle with Thorin. The final scene in the film shows the dragon Smaug awakening.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is extraordinarily detailed up and illustrates an all-encompassing reality. The large number of characters and slower plot development prevent this film from possessing the emotional content of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. However, the audience will be astonished by the authenticity and the extravagance of the set pieces in this movie.
The audience will find it easy to become drawn into the story regardless of whether they are familiar with Tolkien’s novels or not. Jackson’s film shows a world of extremes from the inviting green hills of Hobbiton to the treacherous caves of Lonely Mountain. The pace of the film is initially slow, with an extended dialogue, although it picks up once the party leaves Hobbiton.
The early scenes of the dwarves in Bilbo’s hobbit hole are the most humorous in the film. The one in which the dwarves devour all of Bilbo’s food and throw his plates around the room, much to Bilbo’s chagrin, is especially amusing. The oversized noses of the dwarves and their abundance of hair provide the dwarves with an air of physicality, especially within the small confines of Bilbo’s hobbit hole. The outdoor settings are vast and befitting of this classic fantasy story. The waterfalls in Rivendell serve as an unforgettable backdrop for the scene in which Elrond gives directions to the party.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” features several actors who reprise their roles from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, including Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaver, and Cate Blanchett. These characters appear unchanged in events taking place sixty years apart because wizards and elves are extremely long-lived creatures in Tolkien’s world. The most spectacular scenes in the film are the battles with the goblins, orcs, and trolls. The stone giants attacking the mountain side are also highly convincing.
Andy Serkis reprises his role as Gollum, and the scene between Gollum and Bilbo are among the most memorable in the film. Readers of “The Hobbit” will already be familiar with the riddle game Bilbo uses to steal the ring from Gollum. This is the same ring that proves to be so pivotal in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The pathos of Gollum’s corruption by the ring makes this character easy for the audience to relate to, and it also demonstrates the all-consuming power of the ring.
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