The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [2012] ★★★

THE-HOBBIT_510x743Here’s the buzz: “The Hobbit” is not a masterpiece and lacks the epic scale of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. But one thing’s for sure: “An Unexpected Journey”Episode One in Peter Jackson’s three-part screen version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book is a solid piece of entertainment. We’ll have to wait another year for “The Desolation of Smaug”, and still another for “There and Back Again”. But what a kickoff. “Journey” is pure fun, a movie  that pops your eyes out, piles on thrills and fun, and yet stays intimately attuned to character. Even when the film hits bumpy patches, it never flies off the rails. The movie opens with a framing sequence featuring the older version of hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm who reprises his role from LOTR) and his nephew,  Frodo (Elijah Wood). From there, Jackson flashes back to the original story, with a younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) receiving a surprise visit from wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen, as awesome as ever) and getting involved in a mission to help a group of dwarves reclaim their ancestral homeland from an evil dragon. What doesn’t work? Some characters are underdeveloped, notably the dwarves (don’t judge me if I can’t tell the difference between Fili, Kili or Oin for instance), with the exception of their leader, Thorin. It’s even more of a shock that the reliably excellent Cate Blanchett lacks magic (once again) as the elf queen Galadriel; ditto the scenes in the elf land of Rivendell which seem rushed and out of place. But still, Jackson keeps the action percolating, especially in the film’s second hour. The effects astonish, none more so than Gollum, the computer-generated creature, hauntingly voiced once again by Andy Serkis. Serkis is a wicked wonder, making Gollum a creature to haunt your dreams. Yes computers helped to create the effect, but it’s Serkis who gives Gollum life. Better yet, Martin Freeman, the English actor who was so good in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” gives the film’s strongest performance, nailing the humbleness in Bilbo without making him a character of dull virtue (his scenes with Gollum are priceless by the way). At the end, “The Hobbit” lacks the focus of “The Lord of the Rings”, not to mention that Oscar winner’s scrappy wit. But why complain when you’re having such a good time at the movies? Jackson deserves to revel in his success. He’s made a three-hour film that leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 3/4

9 replies »

  1. i thought it was a brilliant movie, it really does keep you wanting more. and gollum is absolutely frightening! but his scene was one my favorites. what i did not like was the 3d.. sure it was amazingly done and everything but it’s a really long movie, and it’s really tiring to watch with the glasses on for 3 hours. but other than that, i can’t wait to see the next 2!

  2. I’m going to watch it tonight, and I’m trying to go without too much expectations. At the risk of being pleasantly surprised 😉
    Just a quick question, was the pun intended when you called the dwarves “underdeveloped”? haha

  3. Don’t worry that you can’t tell the difference between Fili, Kili or Oin. The dwarves aren’t important. It is called The Hobbit after all. This is Bilbo’s story and to a lesser extent Gandalf and Thorin. I really enjoyed the film and it looks like you did as well. 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. Many people didn’t like it it seems. I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece to be honest and I guess this is why I enjoyed it.


  5. I consider Lord of the Rings to be among the finest cinematic achievements in motion picture history. As for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the closest approximation is The Phantom Menace. I liked The Phantom Menace back in May 1999 and I still do (in defense of… ). But I now know exactly how those who disliked or hated Episode One felt on that fateful evening 12.5 years ago. I feel your pain, for now it is my pain as well.^

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