The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

Let’s just get this out there – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fantastic movie. If one expected any differently, especially after looking back at the Lord of the Rings motion picture trilogy, then clearly you just have a different taste. Because the first in a new motion picture trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is phenomenal, and one should use this review to gauge just how much of an event it is.

Peter Jackson returns at the helm of the movie, taking the reins once again in his vision of Middle-Earth after collaborator Guillermo del Toro stepped down as director, and to be frank, Jackson always seemed like the best person for the job.

For the uninitiated, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of three movies based before The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Using Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Jackson and company have somehow created three movies from a book smaller than just one of the Lord of the Rings books. And, it works. It works very, very well.

It follows the exploits of a younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) 60 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo is recruited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as a “burglar”, joining a company of 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to help them in their efforts to reclaim their homeland from Smaug the Dragon, who has driven the dwarfs away in order to claim their masses of gold.

What follows is the beginning of an adventure that juggles jovial fun with heated conflict, encounters with all manner of creatures and enemies, and traversing plains, mountains and forests.

From the first scene to the credits, it’s 169-minutes that will capture established fans and new ones throughout the duration. It looks stunning (especially in IMAX 3D, the version I watched) and it’s available to watch in many different formats, so whether you’re a fan of 2D or 3D (including the brand-new 48 frames per second version available) there’s an option for you.

It is visually breathtaking, and even effects similar to that seen in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy have been given a new breath of life. It is a very beautiful flick that will keep you hooked into this vision of Middle-Earth.

What is probably the best thing about The Hobbit however is while fans of the original book will be pleased with the adaptation (there’s a scene involving riddles that definitely delivered – a personal favourite part from the book), fans of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy will be absolutely overjoyed.

There is just so much detail, big and small, that gels so well with the previous trilogy. From the very start fans will be most pleased, and it just gets better and better. Similarities will be seen, locations will be wonderfully revisited, even the use of many musical motifs will instantly harken back memories to the first time people saw the Lord of the Rings movies.

And what music. Whether it’s the musical call-backs to the trilogy or the brand-new music composed for The Hobbit, every track is spot-on. It is definitely another soundtrack people should own. A few of the best moments in the film involve good use of music and singing.

The film contains probably some of the best sequences out of all of the Middle-Earth movies so far. When the dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf fight, you’ll see moves that rival that of even Legolas’ single-handed takedown of a Mumakil in Return of the King.

All of this is even without mentioning the cast, which is also just perfect. Each of the actors playing dwarves brings something different to the stage, showing a nice range of characters who all have their own moments to enjoy. Armitage shines as Thorin, McKellen steps right back into Gandalf’s shoes effortlessly, and best of all Freeman is just the perfect young Bilbo Baggins. His performance and development throughout the film is a brilliant transition from stay at home Hobbit to full-time adventurer.

The key players aren’t the only ones that shine of course, there are many other faces, new and old, to look for, and any time the movie allows a trip down memory lane it is met with gleeful acceptance.

A wonderful movie overall, one could sing the praises for The Hobbit all day. Even longer if spoilers were no issue. What can be said is that it is brilliant on so many levels. As an adaptation, it is one of the best, treating the source material with care and attention, while also appropriating it for the world of Middle Earth Jackson has helped to create. As a prequel, it is successful. There are no cringe-worthy callbacks to the Lord of the Rings, everything is dealt naturally and with subtlety that fans will appreciate. But most importantly as a stand-alone movie, The Hobbit is the start of a very promising adventure.

When it was first confirmed that The Hobbit would be turned into not just two, but three films, there was much apprehension. As previously mentioned the book is even shorter than just The Fellowship of the Ring. Yet after watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, one need not fear. This movie ends at a very nice point, and I’m sure that the next two will be brilliant instalments to both finish the trilogy and finish creating the ultimate cinematic universe of Middle-Earth so far.

Bring on 2013. Bring on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I for one am all in.

Plus, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch on screen opposite each other again.

And one of them is a dragon.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is out in cinemas now. It’s available in 2D, 3D and IMAX, and can be watched in 24 or 48 frames per second. It stars, among many, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage. Peter Jackson directs the film, itself based on the book The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. The adapted screenplay is written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro.

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