About a decade ago, we had Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The movies debuted to critical acclaim, moving past our expectations of the fantasy genre. Now Jackson has returned to Middle-earth with a new trilogy based upon Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
An Unexpected Journey, which is the 1st part of a 3 part trilogy begins with a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) being introduced by an old wizard (Sir Ian McKellen) to 13 Dwarves who hope to reclaim their kingdom taken hostage by Smaug the Dragon. Bilbo with a bit of persuading, decides to join them on their quest.
The plot is close to the source material, with a few changes added in to help the story along. The film although technically well done, seems to lack something that was present in the Lord of the Rings. Perhaps it is because we never really get a sense who Bilbo really is, or why embarking on this dangerous journey with the Dwarves is such an important task. With the exception of some really cool flashbacks of Battles with Orcs and Dwarves, it just doesn’t give us a sense of urgency or crisis like there was in Lord of the Rings. It’s has a surprising lack of charm, and although that almost can be overlooked, it does eventually take its toll.
McKellen is still wonderful as Gandalf the grey, and the acting from the rest of the cast is superb. But there is simply not much to work with. Maybe it’s because The Hobbit was a small book in comparison to Lord of the Rings, and not long enough to be stretched to the movie into a nine hour epic.
An Unexpected Journey is an adrenaline boost, but it’s nothing new. That’s not to say the film is without its pleasures. It’s expertly done on a technical level, and the creature effects are amazing. From Trolls to Goblin, these are some of the most expressive digital creatures ever created since Gollum (Andy Serkis). It’s also technically stunning and clear (probably because it was filmed in 48 fps) which is supposed to render the movement in a life like, crisper, cleaner, viewing experience. Should you go see it? If you’re a fan of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, then absolutely. Don’t expect it to be better though. But if you’re a fan of the genre it’s definitely something worth watching when you get the chance.