Anthony's Film Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit is definitely as much of a breathtaking epic as the Lord of the Rings trilogy...

With the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I thought I'd take a moment to look back on the three Lord of the Rings (LotR) film from 2001 to 2003, all directed by Peter Jackson. I can never forget how incredibly exciting those movies were. They depicted an unforgettable epic adventure featuring all sorts of memorable characters, all played by great actors dressed up by excellent costume designers and makeup artists. There was a lot of intense war action, thanks to the numerous extras and computer-generated imagery. All of the scenes were presented in a careful and drawn-out manner, not rushed in any way. And who can forget the gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand that doubled as the fictional Middle-earth? All in all, the three LotR films were so good that I could care less that each of them were nearly three hours in length.

The question now is whether The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a prequel to LotR, lives up to the same quality as that trilogy. In a word, yes. Even after nine years since the last LotR movie, The Return of the King, Peter Jackson hasn't lost his magical touch as a director. So if you really just want the bottom line about how good this movie is without reading the rest of this review, just know that, at least in my opinion, it's on par with the LotR films. But if you're interested in more details about it, keep reading.

The title character of this movie is Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman, plus Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo in the beginning). You may recall from LotR that he was the one who possessed the One Ring before his nephew Frodo (played by Elijah Wood, who does have a quick cameo in this Hobbit movie) had to carry it all the way across Middle-earth to destroy that powerful source of black magic. In The Hobbit, taking place 60 years earlier, Bilbo goes on a long quest with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a party of 13 dwarves, including its warrior leader Thorin (Richard Armitage). At first, the film is a bit comical, because the dwarves plus Gandalf first appear as uninvited house guests who storm into Bilbo's home and eat all of his food. Soon, it's clear that they are on a mission, for which Gandalf has asked Bilbo to join, given that hobbits can be more stealthy than dwarves.

As explained in the prologue, the dwarves had lived prosperously for years, so much that their king, whose love of wealth was insatiable, amassed gigantic piles of gold. But that brought a darkness to them, as the gold lured a dragon named Smaug. The great beast flew over their villages, destroying everything on the way with its fiery breath. Once it broke into the king's gold hoard, the dwarves had no choice but to flee and wander Middle-earth for a new home. Later, it is explained that the dwarves also had to deal with an army of orcs descending upon them, and it is this experience that makes Thorin despise the orcs. These two flashbacks explain the reason for the quest (to take back the dwarven homeland) and one of several threats that the party will soon face (the orcs).

Undoubtedly, the journey towards the mountain where the dragon resides is far from straightforward. The company of 15 faces great danger along the way. Besides orcs, they face big wolf-life creatures, trolls, and hordes upon hordes of goblins. There's also a very interesting scene where the group minus Gandalf is moving carefully along a dangerously narrow mountain path, facing the threat of both a thunderstorm and rocks being hurled their way by forces other than those of nature. (I'm being vague with the latter detail to keep it a surprise for people who haven't seen the movie yet.) If you loved LotR because of the action, The Hobbit will certainly not disappoint in that respect.

In order to link The Hobbit to LotR, the filmmakers included brief appearances by characters from that trilogy. Besides Frodo Baggins, The Hobbit features the elf leader Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and the wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), none of whom are actually in J.R.R. Tolkien's original Hobbit novel. But one familiar character from LotR does appear in the Hobbit novel as well as this movie: the hideous but sorrowful creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis), the one who has been corrupted by the One Ring to the point where it calls the Ring his "Precious." This is the important scene from the Hobbit novel that fans recognize, because this is when Bilbo takes the Ring with him while avoiding death at the hands of Gollum. The scene, in which the two characters are playing a deadly riddle game with each other, is done marvelously well.

At this point, you might wonder what parts of the Hobbit novel were adapted to film and what parts were not. Well, this is a good time to remind everyone that even though The Hobbit is a single novel, not three novels like LotR, the film adaptation is a planned trilogy, with The Unexpected Journey being the first part. Therefore, do not be surprised if the movie ends suddenly and unexpectedly. With that said, it looks as if the filmmakers have made this nearly three-hour movie out of roughly one third of the Hobbit book. Basically, they took a couple of chapters, expanded them greatly, and added a few new scenes to give us this epic movie. They also rearranged a few things, including the fact that the Gollum sequence that took place in the first half of the book actually appears in the second half of this movie.

Even if this is just the beginning of an epic, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still an incredible action fantasy adventure, with all the great things about LotR I already mentioned above. Will die-hard Tolkien fans love this movie? I'm sure many of them will. Does it make me look forward to the next entry in the Hobbit trilogy? Absolutely. It'll be another year before the next Hobbit movie is released in theaters, but once it arrives, I will watch it with great anticipation.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, visit the Internet Movie Database.

In addition, check out my reviews of the following:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy The Hobbit Trilogy


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