The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

December 15, 2012 12:06 pm

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

The opening passages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit introduced us to Bilbo Baggins, a middle-aged hobbit from the Shire. Most people watching Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey have probably seen the Lord of the Rings films, and so have met Bilbo before. But I guarantee you have never seen him like this. Entangled in a quest for dwarven glory, Bilbo must use all of his cunning to survive as he faces a cast of increasingly monstrous creatures.

The H Its finally hereobbit has been broken down into three movies, of which this is the first. I was a little sceptical about this decision; given the short length of the book, I was concerned that telling this story in three parts would give it too slow a pace. Fortunately, I was wrong. The film was very well paced, and although the story occasionally took a break from the action, the film flew by with perfect fluidity. Until the end that is. It may be because I’m so familiar with the story, but the ending underwhelmed me, it just didn’t feel right. I was left sat there thinking, is this really it, is the movie over? But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave me hungry to see the next installation.

One potential issue is that the film is very long. I enjoyed every minute, but I think the length may test the attention span of a few viewers, not to mention their bladder size – every child in the screening took at least one toilet break. But the film is shorter than each of the Lord of the Rings movies, so if you made it through them you should have no problem.

Although The Hobbit was written for children, this film definitely wasn’t. Jackson took Tolkien’s children’s book and aged it, producing something that is a delicate balance between the childish whimsy of the book, and the very adult violence of the Lord of the Rings films (there’s an awful lot of dismemberment). However, this balance occasionally falters and plunges the movie into the downright silly (look out for ailing hedgehogs and well-choreographed dwarven musical numbers).martin freeman is the hobbit

The acting was fantastic all round. Martin Freeman had a difficult job, stepping into the role of Bilbo, but he was a natural fit for it. He carried off the role with an easy charm and a believable air of reluctant heroism. The dwarves (of which there are obviously many) were generally good, and Richard Armitage was a perfect Thorin, providing just the right amount of brooding. A few of the dwarves I found annoying, one in particular, though I lost track of his name. I could name you all 13 dwarves, but even during the film I could only put a face to eight of them.

Riddles in the dark (Gollum’s appearance), one of my favourite sections of the book, is handled fantastically, and is probably the defining moment of the film. Andy Serkis cements his claim as the king of motion-capture; his performance as Gollum is as impressive as ever, and really helps convey the sense of menace that defines that passage in the novel, whilst still maintaining an air of humour.

In fact, all of the returning cast did a great job, as if they had stepped straight from the set of The Return of the King and onto that of The Hobbit. This is particularly true for Ian McKellan, whose scene-stealing Gandalf is as awesome as ever, and is awarded a much bigger role in the film than he had in the book.

The action sequences were thrilling, as you would expect from the people that made the Lord of the Rings, and there are plenty of them. Fast paced, violent and exceedingly grand in scale, they really whet the appetite for the epic fights to come in the next two instalments. The set pieces are equally impressive, particularly the dwaven city of Ereborn, which makes the mines of Moria look small.Bilbo baggins

All in all, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an entertaining, enjoyable and visually beautiful film. Fantastic performances from all the major players, thrilling fights and stunning set pieces, all laced with an edge of humour that rarely misses the mark, make this a film that will satisfy most audiences. My only complaint (other than the occasional lapse into silliness) is the fact that this film ends so soon in the story, but on the bright side, that means there are almost six more hours of Middle-earth  and hobbit action to look forward to.

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