The Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered one of the best of all time. The amount of work taken to adapt Tolkien’s books was astonishing. Back in 2001, Peter Jackson took what was considered an unfilmable novel and brought it to life. He took us on an epic 11 hour journey through Middle-earth that audiences wouldn’t forget. The film series became one of the highest-grossing of all time and received exceptional critical praise. The success of the series led to speculation of whether the prequel to Lord of the Rings was ever going to be made into a movie. Guillermo Del Toro was previously attached to the project until he left in 2010. Jackson then returned to direct The Hobbit. The 310 page novel was set to be adapted as two films, but then became three.
I am a huge fan of The Lord of The Rings series so I was very excited to watch this movie. I had the chance to watch it in theatres when it originally released. Martin Freeman is easily one of the best casting decisions for the film. He shines as Bilbo Baggins and is made for the role. I found his portrayal of Bilbo Baggins to be extremely likable. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is just as great as he was in Lord of the Rings. He’s just as reliable and wise as he was before. There are thirteen dwarves in the film and I found it difficult to remember the majority of them. They all had distinct personalities, but Thorin (Richard Armitage) stood out among the crowd. From the beginning, I found his story engrossing and I was always rooting for his character.
One thing I can say about The Hobbit is that it takes a while for the characters to actually leave the Shire. We get some backstory about the dwarves and learn of their mission to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is then recruited to aid them in their quest. About an hour of the runtime is dedicated to the backstory, the dwarves invading Bilbo’s house, and the introduction of each dwarf. Considering The Hobbit is a children’s novel, it’s no surprise that certain scenes are a bit more child-friendly. This film is missing the noticeable grit of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One character in particular seems to specifically cater to the adolescent audience members. Radagast The Brown (Sylvester McCoy) is a hate him or love him character. A lot of people named him the Jar Jar Binks of the Lord of the Rings universe, while others liked him. I don’t necessarily mind him, but for me, he is the weakest link in the film.
Once the film gains traction there are some incredible action sequences and spellbinding scenes. My absolute favorite scene is the riddles in the dark scene with Gollum (Andy Serkis). We don’t see Gollum for long, but when he’s on screen he steals the show. The interaction between Gollum and Bilbo is perfect. Gollum is intimidating and an absolute pleasure to watch. The film has some scenes that do feel like they run on a bit too long and could have been trimmed. However, I never minded the length of the original films, so it didn’t bother me as much as it probably bothered the more casual fans. The last major gripe I had with the film was the fact that the Orcs are no longer real people — they are now completely CGI. What made them so great in the original trilogy was that they were real people wearing make-up. They felt much more real and threatening than their CGI counterparts.
Essentially I enjoyed the film. It has its issues, but it still has a wonderful story to tell. It has a great set of characters, wonderful performances, beautiful music from Howard Shore, and it’s a lot of fun with plenty of epic moments. Those aspects of the film help make up for any of the issues I have with the film (except the Orcs being CGI). I expect as we watch the next installments, we will see the world of Middle-earth slowly transform into the dark place it is in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While I don’t think the film measures up to any of the original films, I feel that might be an unfair comparison due to tone differences. Overall, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a journey worth taking.