The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The first installment in The Hobbit trilogy is a fun, thoroughly enjoyable romp through Middle-earth. It's the start of a new epic quest through the Misty Mountains to reclaim the legendary dwarf kingdom of Erebor, under the Lonely Mountain, which is filled with jeweled treasure and guarded by the great golden red, flying, fire-breathing dragon Smaug.

After nine years since the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with his expanded version of the classic Tolkien children’s tale that started it all. Using Tolkien’s appendices, backstories and revisions to further connect The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories with more contexts, Peter Jackson is able to make direct references to his earlier trilogy and allow for richer character development while giving voice to Tolkien’s unpublished work.

Due to some mischievous scheming by the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire is visited one evening by a group of disgruntled but talented dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield, dwarf king-in-exile, under the false impression that Bilbo is a famous burglar who can help them break into the impenetrable dragon’s lair.

Filmed once again in breathtaking scenic locations around New Zealand, we get to revisit many of the well-known settings that were introduced in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The journey starts once more in the peaceful rolling hills of Hobbiton village in the Shire, where Bilbo has his unexpected encounter.  We are also welcomed back to the elven refuge of Rivendell, where we meet the half elven prince Elrond, played a new by Hugo Weaving and the angelic elven queen Galadriel, played by the returning Cate Blanchett.

Unimpressed and disappointed by the Hobbit’s lack of enthusiasm for adventure, the dwarves leave him behind in his Hobbit hole at dawn, convinced that he isn’t the cunning burglar they were lead to believe and definitely not up for the challenge of what will certainly be a long and very dangerous, life threatening journey. 

Using the same facial motion capture technique used in Avatar (2009), which they perfected for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), the New Zealand effects company Weta Digital was able to make many of the new and familiar characters in Tolkien’s world look even better here.

After the initial relief of settling back into his quiet uneventful life, Bilbo’s curiosity and a strange craving for an exciting new adventure get the better of him. But Bilbo must now prove that he’s up to the task at hand, which won’t be easy for a Hobbit who has never set foot out of his comfort zone.

In addition to the merry band of courageous dwarves, we get to meet some interesting new characters; a new Wizard called Radagast the Brown, a lover of birds, and flora and fauna, who discovers a strange evil force brewing in Middle-earth. The Great Goblin, lord of the goblin hoards that capture our dwarf heroes and live in a deep network of caves where Bilbo first meets Gollum, who looks even more realistic here, and discovers the magical One Ring that is featured in the later adventures of Frodo and company. And a vengeful white Orc chieftain named Azog, who was long thought to be killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar by Thorin Oakenshield. 

As the journey continues, our Hobbit hero eventually proves to be quite resourceful when put in a tight spot during a run in with several large Stone-trolls and again when on the run from a slew of menacing Warg riding Orcs.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be followed by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Dec. 13, 2013, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again on July 18, 2014.



Anonymous said...

I liked that they included some of the songs that are part of the history of the Middle Earth story lines. This felt lacking in the later stories (original movie trilogy).

JP said...

Yes exactly. There is an opportunity here for Peter Jackson to add many things that he couldn't in his first LOTR series.

Susan Cooper said...

I am an avid reader of Tolkien. I very much enjoyed the last movie for all the things you mentioned. But, as it is with all things written and converted to movies, it still lacks some the nuances i enjoyed. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the movie a great deal. The inclusion of the songs was wonderful, but I was less of a fan of Radagast the Brown, there was just something a touch too comical about him for me.

KWade said...

I always really enjoy your reviews, especially because they are mostly movies I haven't seen yet. I heard that this movie was awesome in theaters because it used that special technology and it was incredibly life-like, like you were there. Doesn't sound like a movie I'd usually gravitate toward but interesting none the less.

Rynessa said...

Can't wait to see this. I'm still trying to figure out if Lord of the Rings is better than Harry Potter.

Anita said...

I was worried about this one because a couple of my friends had seen it before me and said they didn't like it. I'm a big fan of the book so was bummed at the idea that the movies might turn out badly.

But I don't know why I worried, the Lord Of The Rings movies were great overall and after seeing the first of The Hobbit trilogy I can see that they will turn out good as well. Looking forward to seeing the second one now :).

Sally DeSmet said...

Thank you for the review - I am now anxious to see the movie!