There are a lot of firsts in this movie. It’s the first film to be shot at 48 frames per second. It’s the first movie in the new Middle Earth trilogy. It’s the first Peter Jackson film in 3D. And it’s the first disappointment of the LOTR franchise.
Yes, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a disappointment. Now before I go any further into this review I want to clarify a few things:
1) I loved this movie.
2) Most people will like this movie.
Those who are expecting it to be exactly like the book will be disappointed. Those who are expecting the same epic proportions of The Lord of the Rings will be disappointed. Whereas the original trilogy was epic and dramatic, The Hobbit is lighthearted and fun. The Hobbit is a build-up, a prequel, a set up, what-have-you. It’s the story of an dwarven king on a quest for revenge and shows viewers Sauron before he “became the all-seeing eye.” It’s the brewing of the pot that starts a great war that we already know about. The beginning of the end, literally.
That being said, I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and Jackson; and I thought this movie was awesome in its own right. So, without further ado, I will delve into what happens and what was so great about it.
The film starts off with our reluctant hero, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), in his tidy and comfortable hobbit-hole minding his own business. The quirky Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellan) changes everything by leaving a strange mark on Bilbo’s door. That night, a strange visitor appears at the shaken hobbit’s door and asks if “the others” are already there. Well, 13 companions and a few short hours later, Bilbo’s pantry is empty and his home is full…Of dwarves.
They plan to leave the next morning, to take back the dwarven kingdom under The Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. This leaves the supposed burglar (Bilbo) with a life-altering decision of staying safe or going on an adventure of a lifetime. Needless to say, our hero chooses the latter and has the worst luck throughout most of this gorgeous film. The crew of dwarves, led by the Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), is constantly thrown into worst possible situations yet continues joking, fighting and laughing its way through Middle Earth. The ragged band of adventurers must pass through orc-ridden fields, a haunted forest and a goblin kingdom before they can even get close to their ultimate destination.
The visuals carry this film. Even the camera pauses at times to just take in the awe and beauty of the backdrops for the massive New Zealand/Middle Earth project. From the Shire to Rivendell and from Green Wood to Erebor, everything is incredibly bright and captivating in its immensity and detail. The opening scenes with The King Under the Mountain Thror (Thorin’s grandpa) and his son (Thorin’s dad) and all of The Lonely Mountain’s piles of gold, caverns and passages.
This movie was made for 3D. See it in 3D. Seriously.*
On the acting side, Sir Ian McKellan is stupendous as always and his opening dialogue with Bilbo is hysterical. Freeman gave a solid performance in his portrayal of Bilbo Baggins of Bag End. Likewise, Armitage (a familiar British face) is near perfect as the solemn, brooding and badass Thorin Oakenshield. My favorite actor was surprisingly Sylvester McCoy though, who played the “odd” wizard, Radagast the Brown. Covered in what can only be animal droppings of some sort, Saruman the White states that his mind is weakened because of the mushrooms he consumes in his magical forest… If he is crazy or not, you decide.
As usual, the music is fluid and right on in setting the tone for the scenes. When we were in the midst of a battle or the goblin kingdom, there was horns and war drums. When we were in the Shire it was like coming home after a long vacation, comforting and relaxing. Hats off to Howard Shore for continuing his incredible work on the sounds and songs of Middle Earth. (He also composed the soundtrack for the LOTR trilogy. You may have heard of him, he won like 3 Oscars for FOTR and ROTK, no big deal.)
I would highly recommend that everyone who sees this film, watch it in 3D and with 48 fps.*
*If you are pregnant or suffer from epilepsy, don’t watch it in 48 fps. Just in case.