Movie Review: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Expectedly Pleasant

Written by Jesse Gelinas December 17, 2012

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit"

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.”

With “The Lord of the Rings” Peter Jackson  trilogy set a benchmark for epic fantasy. He managed to bring to life a truly awe-inspiring world that became a part of the public consciousness so quickly and fully that it brought to mind the original “Star Wars” releases. “The Return of the King” even garnered a record clean-sweep at the Academy awards. “The Hobbit” may not accomplish all of these feats, but it is not for lack of trying or quality. The film has a high bar to reach for, and it still impresses, and brings us another glimpse into that fantastical world of Middle-Earth.

“The Hobbit:” An Unexpected Journey” (the first of three films) is set sixty years before “The Lord of the Rings” and follows Bilbo Baggins on his life’s one great adventure. Hired as a burglar by a company of Dwarves, the Hobbit joins them on a quest to reclaim their mountain kingdom and treasure from the terrible dragon, Smaug. Along the way, the group encounters Orcs, Goblins, and various other dark creatures trying to kill them. On top of all this, a dark and familiar presence is taking up residence in a nearby forest. The film deals with the first leg of the dwarves’ journey.

“Home is now behind you; the world is ahead.”

I saw the film in IMAX 3D and it was something to behold. Jackson has managed to slip right back into the storyteller role of Middle-Earth and it‘s almost as if we never left. The landscapes and cities we’re shown are gorgeous, and so rich in character. Granted, “The Hobbit” is a much ‘smaller’ story than “LOTR”, and so much of the epic-ness is actually very localized. We only get glimpses of huge, bloody battles from the past. In the present, we only follow this small company as they battle small groups of monsters (and a seemingly endless “Goblin Town”), and have long discussions on the nature of their quest, and what the consequences may be.

A look at Rivendell in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

The pace is a bit slow and deliberate at times, but it is necessary in order to bring the viewers up to speed on what the world is like at this time, and to fully immerse us into the journey we’re about to embark on. “The Hobbit” is extremely faithful to the novel and also throws in a lot of appendix material that does not appear in the book itself, but occurred at the same time. Now don’t worry about being bored, there’s quite enough fighting and bloodshed for any epic fantasy fan, and the next two installments (if just as faithful) promise to be filled with heart-pumping excitement.

“A dark power has found its way back into the world.”

The returning cast are all a joy to watch on screen, slipping back into their beloved characters and giving the film a familiar feel. The new additions are just as enjoyable. Martin Freeman is a terrific young Bilbo, and brings a new energy to the film. I might say he is a better Bilbo than Elijah Wood was a Frodo. The Dwarf company are all distinct and characterized well. Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield obviously stands out as the brooding warrior and leader of the company. He really brings the necessary gravitas to the role and will certainly impress in the later installments of the journey.

Andy Serkis returns as Gollum in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

The Hobbit’s greatest accomplishment also happens to be the most crucial scene of the film, and the most beloved scene from the novel. When Bilbo meets Gollum in that watery cavern and engages him in a game of riddles, I got chills. You could almost feel the whole theater shudder at once. The scene plays just right between humour and terrifying dread. It is the high point of the movie.

“Far over the Misty Mountains cold, through dungeons deep, and caverns old…”

Overall, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a wonderful kickoff to what is sure to be another epic adventure from Peter Jackson. It may not have the running pace of its predecessors, but it is a walk worth taking and does not disappoint when it gives us glimpses of the excitement to come. It’s just fun, and will make you feel like a kid again, in all of the best ways. This trek into Middle-Earth is one not to miss, and I highly recommend it in IMAX 3D if you have the means.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Poster for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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