The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a 2012 fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson. It is the first of a three-part film adaptation of the 1937 novel The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, to be followed by The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, due for theatrical release in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The film premiered in New Zealand on 28 November 2012 and was released internationally on 13 December 2012, where it has since received mixed to positive critical reaction.
I saw this movie with my wife at the local Flix Brewhouse in Round Rock, TX. I will preface this review to state that I have read the novel (a bit it was a good while ago) as well as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I went into this movie expecting it to be a more light hearted movie than the LotR movies because at its heart, The Hobbit was written as a children’s book. Sure it has some more adult moments and themes, but at its core, it is a standard hero’s journey of an unassuming main character. Did I get what I was looking for? Scroll down to find out.
First off I will mention the actors who I thought did a wonderful job all the way around. Martin Freeman did a good job of portraying an unsure hobbit that has suddenly been thrust into a grand adventure. He played the part with wide eyed wonder and showed character growth for Bilbo. Richard Armitage as Thorin was a grim but regal character who is determined to recover his homeland at any cost. There is a point near the end of the movie where the script has the character make some odd choices in order to progress character development between him and Bilbo. The whole thing felt forced and not needed. Ian McKellen was his usual awesome self as Gandalf. The rest of the cast did well with what they had, nothing felt badly acted or out of place. Gollum was just as good if not better this time around. I’m certainly find myself agreeing with those who want Serkis to get a supporting actor nod.
Now for the movie. I thought it was great overall. Sure, there were problems here and there with Peter Jackson’s attempt at expanding the scope and depth of the movie in order to turn the short novel into three movies. Was part of that decision about money knowing that the fan base is going to see all three movies regardless? Absolutely. Part of it, however, I think is that Peter Jackson was presented an opportunity to create a series of movies that could complement and complete his LotR trilogy. Jackson has a unique position that Tolkien did not, he knows how the whole story plays out with the novels and the appendices. The Hobbit was written prior to The Lord of the Rings and so some odd references to add depth and ambience were only connected back to the first novel via the appendices. By writing the script the way he did, Jackson was able to expand the movie by pulling in the appendices to tie into his other movies. I thought he did a great job overall, though some of the added scenes were unnecessary in my opinion.
What I found interesting about the movie was how much it really resembled the format and flow of The Fellowship of the Ring. Both movies start out in the Shire to start the journey of our main character who is a Hobbit. After a lot of traveling the characters as well as a bunch of character development scenes, end up in Rivendale for information from the elves. They then leave to start the main leg of their journey and encounter hardship along the way. Both groups end up underground against goblins and forced to run across ledges and bridges for their lives. The group them finally finds themselves fighting more bad guys in a forest to close out the movie. I don’t really fault Jackson for the similarities between the two movies because that is how the novels played out. I still found it interesting nonetheless.
As a movie goer, I think the most important thing to remember when going in to see this movie is that it is a more light hearted movie geared towards kids with just enough serious Middle Earth fan fare to appease everyone. I’m certainly looking forward to the other two movies as I believe that they will finally delve into the heart of the Hobbit novel.
I think 3 out of 5 geeks will like the movie.
(Edit: It’s Martin Freeman not Morgan Freeman. Gah, -10 geek points for me)