Peter Jackson brings us all back to Middle Earth for another trilogy in The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, with a great cast including the returning Ian Mckellen as Gandalf and Elijah Wood as Frodo, while Richard Armitage, Martin Freeman, James Nesbitt and Aiden Turner among a host of others also star.
The film was somewhat new territory, being filmed and shopped in 40FPS and being the first true full HD Lord Of The Rings film and understandably it looks great, from the costumes in the film to elemental effects to the various locations in the film, The Hobbit is a bit of a visual feast, everything looks very bright, colourful and vibrant for the most part. Which falls nicely in line with the brighter, lighter tone of the film and book itself, being a childs novel and significantly shorter than the Lord Of the Rings novels.
The story this time around takes place in another part of middle earth and focuses on Bilbo and his adventure decades before the Lord Of The Rings story as he reluctantly joins a company of dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) as they seek to reclaim their home of Erebor, which has been taken by the menacing dragon, Smaug. And for a LOTR fan, you’ll probably be right at home, exploring a different side of middle earth, still occupied by orcs, goblins and elves but with a quite different feel, a lot of this differing tone is brought on by the cast of Dwarves who bring a bantering, jovial nature to The Hobbit. Though in essence, following a group of characters (in the Dwarves) with no sense of belonging and home is quite a tragic, dark story and the loss of Erebor was to Smaug was pretty calamitous and An Unexpected Journey sets you up to empathise with the Dwarves and their plight.
Ian Mckellen as Gandalf is again in his element and great to see in the role, 10 years after the end of The Lord Of the Rings, while the new addition of Martin Freeman as Bilbo is a great chasting choice, playing the straight, cautious character of Bilbo, wholly unprepared for a journey a few minutes away, let alone outside of the shire itself. While Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield is fantastic, bringing a darker, more sombre mood to the film, helping to balance the often childish humor which may throw some long time Lord Of The Rings off initially. That being said, the tone wasn’t really a huge issue for me, as it fits the quirky, jovial nature of the Dwarves. The pacing however may be a broader issue, with the first third of the film being a bit of a slog, the film takes a while to really get going but gets progressively more interesting as it goes on. The set pieces are quite large in scale but great spectacle, often full of CGI which may take you out of them a bit as scenes look a bit cartoony, but the action is still pretty solid enough.
And some more on the tone, the film has a brilliant soundtrack, well tempered to each scene and fitting of a Lord Of The Rings film, from the more sombre, ominous music in scenes with the orcs to the more triumphant, uplifting music when things are going well. There are darker moments in the film nearer the end, with characters in danger and while the solutions may seem a bit predictable, the darker moments temper events and make the story all the more engaging, with the Orc Azog, Thorins’ arch enemy being a formidable foe for the travelling company. And for a film that’s over 2 and a half hours long, the plot certainly flies along once it’s in its stride, with well done dramatic moments and a particularly fun scene with Bilbo and Gollum playing riddles in a cave, An Unexpected Journey is a fun start to The Hobbit trilogy, lighter in tone but well balanced, with some pacing issues but overall good flow to it, it’s a good introduction to story of The Hobbit.
. Film looks great visually, albeit a bit CGI heavy
. Great great performances from Richard Armitage, Ian Mckellen, Martin Freeman
. Brilliant use of costumes, locations, re-imagining Middle-Earth