The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Review

The legacy Peter Jackson left behind with The Lord of the Rings was massive. Jackson had successfully adapted 3 of the most cherished and beloved fantasy epics of all time to the big screen, and suddenly the world of Tolkien had opened up to an entirely new generation. The films were huge box office-successes; they were all nominated for many awards (with the last one winning 11 Oscars) and really pushed the boundaries of what was capable of being captured on film.

Now, nearly 10 years since TLOTR’s conclusion, we are being introduced to a new trilogy that will serve as the prequel. This trilogy has long been in-development, with numerous changes and setbacks taking place. Guillermo Del Toro was originally set to direct before dropping out, which resulted in Jackson taking the reigns once again. Then we have the fact that Jackson has split this one book into 3 films, whereas TLOTR was 3 separate books that got 3 separate films. Was Jackson pushing this too far?

Thankfully, the man still knows his way around Middle-Earth exceptionally well. Just within the first few minutes, all of the feelings and memories that I had when viewing TLOTR came flooding back. The setting, dialogue and characters are as rich as they were 10 years ago, and it honestly seemed like nothing had changed at all. We get some very awesome cameos and returns of characters from TLOTR (I’ll leave those out so you can be surprised like me) and we get to travel to many of the same locales, such as The Shire and Rivendell.

However, this obviously is an entirely different beast compared to TLOTR. As you may or may not know, TLOTR was written later on in Tolkien’s life, and was a much more serious undertaking, which results in a much more dark, complex and compelling adventure. The Hobbit, by comparison is more lighthearted, with more childish humor and whimsical sensibilities. However, that same sense of scope and grandeur is still hugely present, and makes this seem far more than just a light-hearted adventure.

The story tells of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) who never went on any adventures or did anything unexpected. This all gets flipped on its head when a wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen) comes along looking for someone to join him in an adventure. Bilbo obviously wants nothing to do with it, and kindly (mostly) tells Gandalf, “Good Morning!” and goes back inside his hobbit hole. Gandalf leaves and Bilbo thinks that just maybe he has gotten rid of him, but alas, you can’t get rid of Gandalf.

Bilbo and his unexpected visitors

Bilbo receives a knock on his door that night, and in comes a dwarf. Shocked, he awkwardly lets him in and the dwarf helps himself to food. Then another dwarf knocks on the door, and then another, and then another, and then ANOTHER. Bilbo soon finds himself in the company of 13 dwarves, followed by Gandalf. They are embarking on a quest to take back their treasure from the dragon, Smaug, and they need Bilbo –whom they hope to enlist as a burglar- to help sneak their way in.

Unadventurous Bilbo Baggins of The Shire is shell-shocked by all of these sudden prospects of adventures and dragons and wars, but before long he finds himself on an unexpected journey.

The acting of this film is just as it was in TLOTR, phenomenal. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was the perfect choice for the role. He is very innocent and stern but he has a wry sense of humor that makes the character very funny. Watching him transform from a shy and reserved hobbit to a warrior among warriors is one of the most compelling things I have seen a character undergo. There is so much inner struggle from how he used to be and what he needs to be, and you really feel every doubt and struggle he has as the movie goes on.

Richard Armitage as Thorin

The other major addition to the cast is Thorin, played by Richard Armitage. He is the leader of the dwarves, so he is very war-hardened and fierce. The only thing that occupies his mind is the hope of killing Smaug and taking back the treasure of his people. Armitage plays him wonderfully, being a very tough character that is hesitant to trust Bilbo in such a vital role in their mission. You sympathize with him a lot when you learn his back-story and what he witnessed happen to his home and people, so any scorn he conveys never seems overbearing or misunderstood.

The vast beauty of Middle-Earth is one that is unmatched by any other movie. While watching this movie, I was constantly thinking, “This might be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” The landscapes are so lush and vivid, and they are so masterfully brought to life by Jackson’s WETA team. This enormously gorgeous world seems 100% authentic, and continuously had my jaw dropping to the floor.

The big complaint people are having about the film is the fact that Jackson split the book into 3 parts, and that there isn’t enough story to warrant 3 movies. What those same people fail to realize is how close he is staying to the source material, whereas with TLOTR there was so much material that many things ended up being left out. He is also utilizing the appendices from TLOTR, which have additions and revisions to The Hobbit that Tolkien himself meant to one day implement into the book, but unfortunately never was able to. There is a surplus of material at Jackson’s hands, and there probably won’t be another adaptation of these stories for a long time, so whatever worthwhile material that’s available to be adapted should be adapted.

Rivendell

What Jackson has given us is another glorious adventure within the realms of Middle-Earth, one that gives several nods to his now classic TLOTR trilogy while also treading new territory that enriches everything we know about hobbits, wizards and orcs. These films have a distinct feel to them that is completely different compared to other fantasy epics, and it’s nearly impossible to not be swept away by the enormity of it all. It’s been a decade, but Peter Jackson proves here that he is still a master at bringing Tolkien’s world to life. Fortunately, we all get to witness such a classic story unfold on the big screen in magnificent fashion.

Release Date: December 14, 2012

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Epic

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