The Lord of the Rings trilogy was one of the highest grossing, not to mention the best reviewed, series of movies in the early 2000′s. Each edition of Peter Jackson’s trilogy received a best picture nomination at the Academy Awards, and Return of the King won it. Each movie was so loved that special, extended edition were released on DVD and fans begged the director to finish the job by making the first book in the Middle Earth series, The Hobbit, into a movie as well. After a series of delays, and several directors attached to the project, Jackson finally decided to return. An Unexpected Journey is the first of three movies adapting the J.R.R. Tolkien novel.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a Hobbit, a creature more interested in staying at home and living a comfortable life than he is with going out and seeing the world. All of that changes however when he is visited by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), a wizard who enlists him as the 14th member of a group setting out to reclaim the lost dwarven kingdom. At first Bilbo doesn’t want to go, but after he decides to join them he finds himself battling trolls, orcs and goblins, meeting Gollum (Andy Serkis) and obtaining a magic ring. In the end he finds himself looking at the Lonely Mountain from afar, knowing that further adventure awaits as they continue their journey.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn’t quite reach the heights of Lord of the Rings. It tries, and succeeds at times, but at other times it feels overblown and boring. It feels like the original source material was purposely drawn out so that the book could be made into a trilogy. They add scenes that don’t appear anywhere in the novel, and characters that don’t appear until Lord of the Rings. The movie only covers the first 100 pages or so of the novel, which really doesn’t account for a near 3 hour run time. There is also too much talking about things characters will do in the future, for instance Frodo’s cameo is awkward as he explains things he is going to do, and then does in Fellowship of the Ring. The chase through the Goblin tunnels also feels like Peter Jackson decided to redo the Mines of Moria scene from Fellowship instead of trying something new. That being said, The Hobbit still has its moments, and Martin Freeman does an incredible job playing Bilbo. It’s also amusing to see Bilbo and Gollum’s encounter and their playing a game of riddles with one another. It’s also nice to see Ian McKellen return as Gandalf. The landscape is beautiful, but at times it does look fake thanks to the 48 frames per second the movie was filmed in. Returning to Middle Earth was fun, just not as good as it could have been.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is worth seeing at the theatre, but it ends up floundering the most by spending too much time foreshadowing the previous movies as it plays the nostalgia card. It really needed to focus more on its own story instead of the movies that had all ready been made and released. It also needed to be cut down a little bit to tighten up the story. Still fans of the original movies won’t want to miss it.