Review: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson has returned to the directing chair and more importantly to Middle Earth for the fourth time in this fun adventure tale. His turn on the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy gave us an epic story filled with fantastic and fully realized environments and races that always felt real. So as we return to Middle Earth set with its familiar locations and Hobbits and Dwarves alike, it is nice to see the master of it all still in the directing chair. This tale, however, tones down the epic story of it's previous installments as it pulls back the "end of the world" type of scenario but delves deeper into character development and relations. However, that's not saying Lord of the Rings didn't have that, but The Hobbit as a book was designed for a younger audience and the film reflects that. However, with Peter Jackson's vision of Middle Earth and a great performance from Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage it still manages to be a fun experience.
The story of the Hobbit is an obvious prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and this film follows Frodo Baggins' uncle, Bilbo (Martin Freeman). Bilbo is an oddball, to say the least, but he comes across a familiar face one morning in Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). The two seem to have crossed paths at some point in their lives, but Gandalf tricks Bilbo into hosting a party for the leader of the Dwarven people, Thorin and his closest of friends. The arrival of Thorin's friends confuses Bilbo, as the dwarves go through his food quickly and much to his dismay they are going on an adventure and are looking to recruit him to be their "burglar." It is explained that Thorin's people were forced to flee their city of Erebor when the dragon Smaug invades to quench his undying thirst for the gold that the dwarves had acquired there. At first Bilbo is reluctant to agree as he would be leaving the comfort of the Shire and his home, but the idea of actually "living" and going on an adventure is too much for him to pass up. He catches up with Thorin and Gandalf to try to take back Erebor to give them a home to go back to, just like he has in the Shire.
The road to Erebor is not a quick one, or an easy trip as they first continue to come across an obstacle after another obstacle. They even use a title of a chapter from the book, "Out of the frying pan, and into the fire." to describe how bad things continued to get for them. Most of the dwarves, like Fili and Kili for instance, take a liking to the almost gutless Bilbo as they see a spark in him whereas Thorin sees nothing in him other then being a hindrance to their quest. As the journey goes on, Bilbo begins to change, at first he was in it for fun but as it became more and more dangerous he wanted to cut loose and head back to the Shire. It was up until a chance meeting with a fan favorite that he had a change of heart and realized that at least he has a home to go unlike the Dwarves.
I am glad I took a little longer to write this review. After first seeing it, I was a little underwhelmed. I saw it in 3D and mixed with the fact that it was shot in 48 frames per second, it was a bit jarring. However, the action sequences were terrific. As far as content goes for the film, it was very well done. It was also nice to see them taking a more conscious effort to tie in the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings trilogy with the mention of a rising "dark power." The film also does a terrific job in terms of developing these characters and fleshing out the history of Middle Earth. For instance, now we know how Bilbo came across that Elven sword that glows blue in proximity to any dangerous creature. It is nice to see these things, especially for those who had not read the books. Towards the end of the film, we see a familiar face in Gollum who is once again played by Andy Serkis through motion capture technology. The work he does with motion capture is phenomenal but his brief scene with Martin Freeman is truly the stand out moment of the film.
It is refreshing to see not only Jackson return to his duties on this new trilogy, but also Howard Shore who returns to compose the soundtrack to this film. His score is simply beautiful, especially considering how familiar it all sounds which helps further tie this film to the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well. As far as the acting goes, we already know that Ian McKellen is fantastic as Gandalf. He hits every single one of the notes of the character and truly has a great grasp over it. Martin Freeman, in his first big role on the big screen, does a terrific job as well. He does wonders going from playing the lighter side and the more humorous of parts of Bilbo to even the softer and more serious notes with no problems. Richard Armitage is mostly an unknown actor to most, but he turns in a heartfelt performance in the role of Thorin. Thorin can be a tough character to like at first, but it is understandable. Below the rough exterior, Armitage plays the character well enough to show that he has a heart of gold (is that the wrong expression here considering Erebor?).