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More in Arts & Entertainment
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line Cinema/MGM)
Long before The Lord of the Rings, author J.R.R. Tolkien introduced readers worldwide to the world of Middle-earth with his 1937 novel The Hobbit. The story of a little creature in a big adventure dazzled readers with a brilliant fantasy world, fascinating characters, and a uniquely different language that’s all it’s own.
Seventy-five years later, the story finally hits the big screen in the first of three movies based on the book from Peter Jackson, the director of the previously-produced Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey begins with young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) being visited by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) wanting to recruit him on a special journey.
Though he refused wishing to stay in his comfortable hobbit hole, Bilbo’s then visited by thirteen dwarfs led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Gandalf’s purpose for Bilbo is to help the dwarfs reclaim their kingdom of Erebor from the evil dragon Smaug.
Eventually, Bilbo agrees and the company is set off on their journey. Along the way, they will face goblins, trolls, orcs, wolves, and stone giants. But for Bilbo, he will face Gollum (Andy Serkis) in a game of riddles and discover the One Ring that will play a part in the journeys to come.
If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies but haven’t read the books, you may find the tone of this film to be quite different from the other movies. The film’s tone shifts from goofy comedy to swashbuckling action. This shift in tone may not work for everybody, so it’s best recommended for hardcore Tolkien fans.
But for those who enjoyed the other movies for its epic storytelling will have an easier time slipping back into the world of Middle-earth. From the opening scene of the older Bilbo (Ian Holm) writing down his memoirs for his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood), fans will be satisfied all the way through and will be begging for more films.
Fans will also be satisfied by the return of certain characters from the other movies including elven lords Elrond and Galadriel (Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchet), and the white wizard Saruman (horror legend and Tolkien expert Christopher Lee) who was good before he became evil.
Freeman is terrific as the young Bilbo carrying the same charm and wit that Holm brought to the role. He’s a little more anxious than Wood’s Frodo from the trilogy, but still remains a very likable character. McKellen slips back into the role of Gandalf by giving us his similar performance from 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring, while adding a little more pathos to his character.
Armitage is also good as does the other actors who played the dwarfs. The real highlight is the return of Gollum and his game of riddles with Bilbo that will have fans exhilarated.
There’s a healthy mix of action, comedy, drama, and epic storytelling that fans of the other movies will be highly entertained. The only problem some viewers will have is the runtime at two hours and forty five minutes. Even though the opening scenes in the Shire set up the story well, it can be a bit of a drag for those who just want to get into the action.
Despite the running time, the movie paces well and it’s highly entertaining. The next two movies will be The Desolation of Smaug (December 2013) and There and Back Again (July 2014). Considering how big the book is, it’s not known how the rest of the book can be adapted into two more movies, but it’s something that has to be addressed another time.
One more thing to recommend The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey besides for the fans is to see it in 3D. It’s well shot in the eye-popping format, and those who enjoyed 3D will find themselves immersed in the experience. It may not get as much awards coverage as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but its still has a lot to offer.
THE MOVIE’S RATING: PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy action/violence and frightening images)
THE CRITIC’S RATING: 3.75 Stars (Out of Four)